For our January 2021 Artist Interview, we sat down with Monika Jurczyk, a nomadic freelance illustrator, to talk about travel, illustration, and developing your own artistic style.

Monika has traveled a lot over the course of her career. In Tokyo, she earned her professional moniker and personal nickname – Monsie. She loves working with bold colors, playful lines, and strong shapes to create vivid characters from more or less imaginary worlds (mostly women). She’s worked with many famous clients, including Adobe, Bravery Magazine, Like the Wind Magazine, PBS, The Guardian, The Telegraph, and Vans.

Hi Monsie! You’ve lived in a lot of different places! What are some of your favorite cities you’ve lived in, and how have they impacted your art?

After all of those move-ins and move-outs, I miss Tokyo the most. But if I had the chance, I would be ready to go back to Porto, San Francisco, or Madrid even tomorrow.

I feel that traveling and making art have a lot in common. They both are never-ending processes of learning.

When I lived in Spain and then in Japan, my main focus was photography and the concept of the decisive moment. Street photography made me very attentive and receptive to the world around me. It also helped me to explore and understand the city.

I picked up drawing again around that time to help myself keep up with my travel diary by making visual notes. I guess that was the moment when it all started coming back to me.

Vietnam was an overwhelming experience for me. I closed myself off and dove deeper into illustration to process the everyday madness. And by doing it more and more, I realized that this was what I had been searching for; something that, ironically, I had found ages ago.

You have a very distinct and bold style? How did you develop it? Could you share some of your inspirations?

I developed my style by trying everything. I experimented with many types of drawing; using different mediums and materials. I focused on paying attention to what I found captivating and why, and drawing my inspiration from all of it. Developing my style is an ongoing journey.

My favorite contemporary illustrators are Owen Davey, Petra Eriksson, Lisk Feng, and Jade Purple Brown. I love Miro’s sculptures, Modigliani’s portraits, and Picasso’s paintings. I’m also really inspired by Art Deco, Memphis Group, and Freddy Mamani style.

In your illustration, collage work, and photography, there’s a strong emphasis on color. What does color mean to you, and how do you go about choosing a color palette for a piece?

I would say that color is one of my main tools for expressing myself and conveying a story. I prefer to go with a limited color palette to keep my work clean and consistent. I have my go-to color palette, but it really depends on the project.

If there is a certain feeling around a piece I'm starting, I'll begin with a key color that reflects that emotion and then add two or three more that complement it.

Why did you decide to pursue a career as an illustrator and graphic designer?

I didn’t decide to pursue this career, I realized it.

It took me some time and lots of experiments, mistakes, and relocations to figure out what I want to do and how to make it work. I’ve tried so many things in my life that it's a bit ridiculous.

Did you go to school for graphic design and illustration?

I’m self-taught with basically everything. Yeah, ok, so I have an MA degree in Sociology and Journalism and BA in Film Studies, but other than that I’m a 100% self-directed learner. I'm a knowledge-seeker with too many tabs open (literally and metaphorically).

For some reason, I learn the best by digging the topic on my own and then processing the knowledge at my own pace. As I have a lot of varied interests, one always leads to another. I love to keep my eyes and mind open to improve myself as a person and professional.

What challenges have you faced in your career, and how have you overcome them?

I think that the most challenging thing for me was starting out. Because I didn’t finish art school, it was difficult for me to even call myself an illustrator in the beginning.

And then I had to figure out how to build my own website, and try to learn about the business side of freelancing. You have to learn how to answer questions like, “but what do you really do?”. In this type of career, you kind of learn as you go. So I did.

What's your favorite tool in Vectornator?

I love the Pencil and Shape tool. I like to keep my work clean and minimal also in terms of color, which is a lot easier when you're working with vectored shapes.

What other tools do you use in your process?

For the creative part of my process, I need a pencil, paper, my faithful iPad, and a drawing app.

To organize my time, I use a calendar and notebook to keep track of what needs to be done.

For my website, I use WordPress and a couple of plug-ins. For handling payment as a freelancer, I use Revolut.

What’s next for you? Any big projects or changes we should look out for?

I really enjoyed the project in collaboration with Vans. It’s the largest piece I’ve ever done and it made me realize I would love to go even bigger with my illustrations in the future.

To see my characters on a larger scale and to give them life; that's really exciting to me. That leads into another thing that has been following me for some time now - motion design. I would love to do more with that in the future.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to develop their own style of graphic design or illustration?

Just do your thing, keep learning, and have fun along the way. You will eventually find your own style; just trust your gut and don't give up.

You can find Monika's work and support her here:

Portfolio & Website | Email

Instagram | Pinterest

Dribbble | Behance

Be sure to check out our new blog article about watercolor clipart.