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Illustrator Spotlight: Natalia Pawlak

Process, style, color and influences: get to know the talents behind the illustrations we love

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you found your way to a creative career.

My name is Natalia Pawlak, I'm from Poznań, Poland, currently live in Warsaw. Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated with comics, animations, and all sorts of illustrations. I spent hours redrawing characters from random 90s comics and books—and of course, I was obsessed with Disney. Because of my interest in illustration, I started studying Graphic Design at the University of Fine Arts in Poznań. I didn’t originally have a particular goal in mind but as time went by, I started getting more into other design directions, mostly branding and typography. I spend most of my time in university trying to figure out what it is I actually like doing, researching different styles and working methods. In between partying (a lot), I was able to meet all sorts of different people who opened my eyes to different perspectives on design and life in general. As I’m a very extroverted person, all these interactions really helped me gather a huge amount of creative energy to unleash my work. I think it wasn't until my last year that I really started understanding which design directions gave me the biggest thrills. After I finished school I worked as a graphic designer in a few different places where I learned a lot. For the past few years, I’ve been spending my time working as a freelancer.

How did you find your medium and style, and who and what influenced you? I love pop culture—shiny and bright things, kitschy and tacky stuff, pop music, fashion, etc. and I think that has a huge impact on my style. I also watch a healthy dose of the 90s and 00s anime and read manga regularly, which has an influence on how I perceive colors, gradients, and textures. I still love more modern anime, but sometimes I’m just looking for that nostalgic, heartwarming feeling that only exists for me in the older series. Fuushigi Yuugi and Sailor Moon are one of my all-time favorites, as is everything ever made by Ai Yazawa. Most of my regular inspiration comes from researching old comic books, animations, the 90s, and 80s posters and album covers.

What subjects are you most fascinated with? I'm really into things like fantasy worlds and fairies. I love work that has a magical, mystical atmosphere—both serious as well as fantastical cartoonish characters. Witches, ghosts, magic portals, cursed mirrors, I vibe with them all!

How do you create characters, what inspires them, and how do you use color? I find old things very inspiring, so usually, before starting sketches on paper I look up illustrations from old children's books, vintage toys, cool photographs, that sort of thing. When I have an idea in mind I sketch it on paper, scan it and then redraw it digitally. My work with color is very intuitive, I usually have a good idea of which colors I want to use once I have my character ready. There are times when I see some dreamy landscape or something similar and it also gives me an idea of which color palette I could use for my project.

If you had to pick a favorite project, which one are you most proud of and why? The project I like the most is usually my most recent one. I get bored easily and generally get most excited about the newest thing I'm working on. At the moment it’s a t-shirt design I'm currently making—a 3D dark fairy creature. I'm really happy with how it's turning out and with the whole process. I'm just starting with 3D design, so learning totally new tools and getting better at it gives me a sense of fulfillment and a nice boost of dopamine. Even when I come across some frustrating errors—which I later find out can be solved with two mouse clicks—it's still really satisfying.

What’s next for you? I’m not sure yet, but I really want to get more into 3d design and maybe move abroad for a few months. I’d love to have some new adventures in new places.

Rapid Fire Round - Choose one answer! you can add a few words if you like :) Weekend - lounge in bed / go out and party?

Go out and party. Though I must confess the older I get, the more I might go into an old lady mode and want to stay in.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee—always and forever!

Cats or dogs? Cats Favorite season? Spring Cinema or Netflix? Netflix, mostly anime shows or some comfort shows like Gilmore Girls <3 Pool or beach?

Beach, I hate pools with my entire being

Computer or sketchbook?


Text or voice note?


City or countryside?


Getting dressed: colorful or monochromatic?

Monochromatic, kind of going through my goth phase right now :')



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