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Illustrator Spotlight with Irina Selaru

Process, style, color and influences: Get to know the talent behind the illustrations we love

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

I can’t remember my life before drawing, and it feels like it’s always been there with me. My dad was a musician, and he instilled this passion for art and creativity within me. As a child, I was always drawing, and everyone around me was amazed by my talent. Thinking back about it, the supportive people around me helped me a lot throughout my journey, which was an important factor in keeping me motivated and wanting to create so much more.


Long enough, I didn’t know much about art and how the industry works, but funny enough, I remember selling my drawings in school when I was around 10 years old. I always had a thick portfolio of drawings in my backpack, and children would come to me to purchase their favorites. Fast forward, after years of studying art, I applied for a BA Erasmus project in Granada. Fascinated by my teacher’s passion for illustration, I knew I wanted illustration to become my lifelong career. This teacher was Sergio García Sánchez, who is a brilliant illustrator I still admire to this day.

How did you find your medium and style, and who and what influenced you?

My style kept transforming throughout the years, and it still does! For me, this is a sign that I keep learning and discovering what best represents me, that I grow as a person, and my style must grow with me. For many years, I’ve been using traditional techniques, but at some point, I became  curious about drawing digitally. I bought an iPad, and I was initially using an analogue technique where I would take pictures of my drawings and add color and textures digitally. After a while, I switched to working completely digitally, learned what I liked, and shaped my style to represent who I am or was at different stages of my life.

In the beginning, when I decided I wanted a more refined style, I was very strict about the colors, brushes and subjects I was drawing. I now give myself more freedom to try new ideas without thinking them through all the time. Some things work, some are complete failures, but they are all part of the process.

For me, it was critical to analyze what I loved about other artists’ work and what I didn’t, add my ideas or things I’d see or feel. I believe that the hardest thing to discover and accomplish as an artist is to develop a style that feels close to who you are, but it's also the most empowering feeling.

What subjects are you most fascinated with?

When I work on personal projects, I usually like to draw my memories or feelings that I would like to express through images rather than words. My work is highly influenced by personal experiences, and I love drawing portraits, people, hands, nature, dogs and everything in between. I can’t think of something I wouldn’t love drawing!

What illustration trend are you either loving or hating at the moment?

What I currently love in an illustration is its simplicity and use of colors and textures. I would like to incorporate simplicity a bit more in my work in the future, and I especially love the naivety, childish and cute work of illustrators like Jay Daniel Wright.

How do you create characters, what inspires them, how do you use color?

If it’s a personal project, I would usually draw myself most of the time since it’s related to something I felt or lived. Otherwise, I improvise and roughly sketch the character I want to draw, try out different ideas to see what works best, and then refine it to a final outline. When I’m adding the colors, I have a main palette I built over time, but I sometimes like adjusting it slightly by adding or changing some of the colors. I like to keep my colors vibrant and contrasting, and a trick I learned to ensure that is to turn the saturation of the artwork down until it’s black and white. This way, I can easily notice if two apparently different colors are in fact the same in black and white.

If you had to pick a favorite project, which one are you most proud of and why?

I had so many lovely projects that I loved working on, and one of my favorites was the ‘Nudging Cards’ project I worked on with the HelloDesign agency. I was fascinated by the idea – combining psychological effects with design and marketing, but I was also very excited to be working on this with 24 other illustrators around the world whom I admire. The project turned out great! It was very easy to work with the agency, and I was proud of the illustration I created.

Describe your dream project.

I would love to get more long-term advertising projects, as I find this industry extremely versatile and impossible to get bored of. I would love to see my work used more on a wider range of products, such as printed ads, packaging, websites, and branding. I want my illustrations to add an extra element of beauty to the products they’re used for. I want more people to see them and feel happy and excited.

What’s next for you?

Continue to be curious and develop my style, work on more advertising projects, learn and integrate new skills into my work (animation, graphic design), get that dream job and continue to grow from there. Maybe participate in art markets again, so get some exciting products ready. 

Rapid Fire Round!

Morning person or night owl?

As much as I enjoy the stillness of late nights, I try as much as possible to be a morning person.

Favorite word

‘Dor’ is a Romanian word that doesn’t exist in English but it’s a noun for missing something or someone.

Lunch or dinner?

I could skip dinner for lunch, but dinners are cool too.A celebrity you’d like to have a drink with

Olivia Dean – I’ve currently been listening to her music a lot, and it’s been very inspiring.

If you could time travel, would you go to the past or the future?

I wouldn’t want to see the future, but there are some memories in the past that I would love to see again.

Sweet or savory?

Sometimes sweet, sometimes savory, sometimes sweet and savory, but I would never say no to chocolate!

Are you a thinker or doer?

Definitely an overthinker, although sometimes I do things without thinking about them.

Go-to karaoke song

Right now, Paolo Nutini - Million Faces

City break or beach holiday?

Definitely a beach holiday!

What superpower would you like to have?

Super speed to create more!

Thank you Irina!



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