Intuition and Analysis: Interviewing Guest Artist Andrea Popyordanova

Sometimes the texts that impress me the most are the most difficult to work on.

Illustrator Andrea Popyordanova is Asymptote’s guest artist for the July 2016 issue. Her beautiful collages reimagined scenes from thirteen texts in our Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama, Writers on Writers, and Multilingual Writing Feature sections. Guest Artist Liaison Berny Tan interviewed her about contributing to Asymptote and how she develops her unique imagery.

Berny Tan (BT): The illustrations you created for Asymptote have this wonderful effortlessness about them, even when they’re composed of so many elements within a single frame. Could you take us through your process of conceiving and executing each piece?

Andrea Popyordanova (AP): I usually look at the most powerful descriptions in each text. I trust my intuition—if I vividly remember a particular expression or moment in a text, I visualize that. I start by composing the image in color, and then lay down the details that complete the whole. It’s all very quick, all about recreating a feeling or a striking image in my head. There isn’t really a process; it’s more of trying things until there is an image that works.


BT: You have a great way of visually setting a scene that feels almost like a memory of the narrative itself. In your editorial work, what are the challenges of balancing image and text, especially when you have to capture the text in a static image?

AP: I try to be slightly more analytical. I focus on the point of the text, and emphasize or extend it with my piece. An illustration in a magazine functions as a highlight of what the illustrator thinks is important in the text. I also try to figure out what’s appropriate for the readers of the article, and to match the style of my work to the publication.

BT: I really enjoyed your illustrations for “The Dive,”
 “Love in the Footnotes,” and “Spanglish.” Which text did you most enjoy reading, and which image did you most enjoy creating?

AP: Sometimes the texts that impress me the most are the most difficult to work on. The fascination with the way something is said can make it a difficult idea to render visually, because words are powerful on their own.

I really enjoyed “The Confessions of A”: I found its language and descriptions of situations very childlike. There’s something really fresh in the writer’s point of view. It’s about blending myth and reality in the way only children can. I wanted to portray this fascination and symbiosis between the logical and the illogical.



BT: What I love the most about your work is the instinctive way you create collages using different media, including line drawings, painted patterns, and even photography. How did you come to develop this particular style?

AP: What I draw with is always related to my lifestyle—where I live, what I have at hand, and often, what is the most convenient. While I was in art school I had a lot of materials at hand, a lot of space, and access to printmaking facilities. I had stayed within the same city, so I had accumulated materials over the years. Recently, I’ve started to move around quite a lot. This has forced me to decide what I really need and what is compact and easy to transport. I’ve started working with pencils, pastels, pens, and collage, as well as digital manipulation. In some ways I don’t like my lifestyle to define my work, but in other ways I do, because it allows me to explore different ways of creating. I adapt according to whatever is most practical.


BT: Who—or what—inspires you creatively?

AP: People I love and who are around me are what I find the most inspiring. On the other hand, I often find strangers interesting because of how they behave, what they talk about, and how they look. I have friends in the fields of anthropology and psychology, and I’ve always found other people’s worlds intensely fascinating. I’m a good listener in conversations; they help me generate ideas which I then develop further in my own ways.

Films and photography inspire me too. I love seeing the freshness of images created in another medium. Even if it doesn’t directly impact my work, it gives me visual ideas.

BT: You recently created a deck of cards
 with art therapy exercises for children. How did this project come about and how did you approach it?

AP: It was commissioned by a Bulgarian art therapy center. It’s a place I’ve never been to, but someone who knows my work recommended me to one of the senior therapists. The brief was quite well-defined and challenging—I had to create a deck of cards for children’s art therapy exercises using very simple and pleasant imagery. I also had to make sure these images wouldn’t influence drawings that the children would make in response to the exercises. It’s an amazing project, and luckily I was given a lot of creative freedom.



BT: Finally, what other projects do you have lined up?

AP: At the moment I am trying to create my own briefs, as well as work on collaborative projects. I think it’s important to keep making and strengthening your own work. I am also interning at a branding agency, and the work there is very different from my impulsive and emotional creative process. I find it very stimulating to learn from designers, and create bold work that is meant to communicate a message to a target audience.



Andrea Popyordanova is an illustrator based in Scotland and Bulgaria. She is currently developing her visual language with a mixture of composition versus color, and techniques such as collage, drawing, and quick forms of printmaking. She is always on the lookout for places around water and loves finding and documenting interesting places and funny characters near where she lives or in unexplored areas of the city. Andrea enjoys recording people’s stories in drawing and works to make her imagery stand for itself. Her website can be found here.

Berny Tan is Asymptote’s Guest Artist Liaison. An artist, curator, and writer, she graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York with a BFA (Hons) in Visual & Critical Studies. Berny was born and raised in Singapore, and currently works as Assistant Curator for OH! Open House, a non-profit that explores Singapore’s cultural geography through art. Her website can be found here.


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