The Art Academy of Latvia graduate switched specialism mid-way through her studies and never looked back
Liāna Mihailova made a bold decision mid-way through her visual communication degree at the Art Academy of Latvia and it’s a decision that is working out brilliantly from where we’re stood. The multidisciplinary nature of the course was both inspiring and expansive. Liaāna found that over time, her focus and interest was shifting further away from the graphic design path that she’d intended to take. So, she elected to transfer to the illustration and animation pathway and as soon as she began to concentrate her efforts into this focussed craft, things really started to click.
Initially, Liāna didn’t expect to spend too much time animating, as her prior experience of it hadn’t been fun, but the more she researched, the more she practised with the techniques and software, the more expressive her moving image work became. Her graduation film ‘Vertigo’ is a beautiful, immersive study, influenced by her own experiences of the condition. Collaborating with award-winning composer Ģirts Bišs, the film comes draws you in, conjuring a suffocating sensation as the protagonist becomes unexpectedly paralysed, becoming separated from his friends as a result.
‘Vertigo’ shows a natural and effortless extension of Liāna’s gently expressive style. Her muted colour palettes and use of waxy textures make for rich, engaging images which are alive with movement, expression and action. Each project begins with research as Liāna searches for visual stimuli across a range of disciplines and outputs. That process helps her to uncover “small triggers that draw out memories, certain feelings, sounds, smells, anything actually” that can set the mood for a piece. A rough sketch “that really looks like a four-year-old drew them” follows in order to mark and establish composition before she completes the work digitally.
Currently working freelance ahead of starting her MA in next month, Liāna is now feeling comfortable and confident to experiment across a range of disciplines, fusing together her skills in design, illustration, animation and beyond. She’s enjoyed and learned a lot from working with local clients, on a range of editorial projects and festival identities at a time when the creative scene in Latvia is gaining more and more traction overseas. “It’s really inspiring to see more and more Latvian creatives reach an audience abroad,” she tells us, noting that local independent publishers like kuš! are key to the expansion, helping the community to connect and grow through a range of workshops and exhibitions.
Her advice to fellow young illustrators is to “trust the process and be patient”. “It’s something I struggle with myself. Every project is an opportunity to learn and could bring a shift that maybe the viewer doesn’t notice, but is really significant for your creative practice”. If, as Liāna assures us, there’s a lot of room left for her to develop further, then we can’t wait to see how she takes her brilliant work to an even higher level.