From the water to the mountains to the air, Andrea Popyordanova finds inspiration in the unknown, in the new. Popyordanova, who spends her time between both Scotland and Bulgaria, begins her work by first opening her mind and then reaching for a pen. Her images, a mix of hand drawn marks and printed images, tell narratives as bold and vibrant as their subject matter.
The works of contemporary writers, such as Murakami and Marquez, cultural anthropology, environmental studies, psychology, and her far-reaching travels are all fair game for Popyordanova to dig into and seek out meaning in her work. We had the chance to speak with this cultural explorer about her artistic processes and her infinite influences.
First, can you tell me about yourself: how did you become an artist?
When I was younger I was collecting encyclopedias and wanted to become a marine explorer. That’s when I started drawing as well, underwater was my favorite theme. I was reading about marine life, watching documentaries and looking through photos and books, and then reproducing them in my own images. When I was at school, I often had to spend a lot of time in the office where my parents were working, having nothing else to do apart from inventing stories and drawing princesses with huge dresses. Over the years, drawing slowly took precedent over other things I loved to do, and became my main interest and passion. It was also very related to reading and intuitively making images based on my favorite books.
What did you do as artist-in-residence at the Edinburgh College of Art?
The residency in the college of art where I did my degree in illustration was a very good chance to stay within a safe environment, and not worry about where to make my work. During my years as a student, having a studio space and access to workshops (for printmaking) and a library with a lot of books about art and other subjects, was vital. A studio is a place where you can talk about your work with people doing the same, and in conversation a lot of ideas are born. It’s something I will always want to have. This year I also had to give a talk about my work, which made me realize a lot of things about what I’ve done and what my work is about. I’ve always made work under the impact of my moods, or things I’ve read, or noticed, and realizing what is unifying between all of them was interesting.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I work really quickly, without planning too much, sometimes without knowing where I am going at all. Even if I work in an improvisational way, I do think about the essential things that compose my images, such as the shapes, colors, or composition I am going to go for. This is so that I show what I want to say with that image. The materials I have at hand always guide me in the process. Often I rework the images, through printmaking processes, or digitally, to make finished work. I have periods of using one and the same color, it’s been blue recently, now it’s pink; often it’s because I find a specific pencil or ink which I really love using, or because I notice an object in a fascinating color and I want to use it everywhere in my images.
You mentioned you often experiment with different printmaking processes, can you tell me more about that?
I love printmaking because the process of preparing an image requires a bit of planning. I always have to refine my initial images, which I almost never do in other circumstances. I really like the idea of reducing colors as well, it gives a certain simplicity and readability of the images, which my hand-drawn work often doesn’t have. I have found it interesting to try to keep the “dynamic”, and free aspect of my hand-drawn work throughout printmaking. For screen prints I usually hand-draw the screens. However, there’s always a surprise moment; I almost never plan the colors I am going to use. This often gives results I’d never be able to imagine. Such discoveries are quite important for me.
How do you think travel impacts your work?
I take a lot of photos when I travel, and they are the largest resource I use for creating my work, alongside observations. All the travels I have made have been important for me in different moments, or have left traces in my memory. Certain places have been striking, with regard their colors or patterns or vegetation, or atmosphere. During travels I always notice things, often new to me or surprising, which make me ask questions, or which I just remember so much that I need to represent somehow later. I remember more things I see than things I hear or talk about. So often times I can talk a lot about the colors or sights during a journey more so than the history of a place or any facts about it.
How have you seen your style develop?
My work has changed towards a work that is more aware of its impact. I am trying to learn to consider every image as a sentence in my own language, and choose more carefully the elements I use, so that they convey what I want.
Is there a certain travel experience or place that has been transformative to your artistic style?
Places that attract me the most are beaches, harbors, mountains, deserts, valleys and rivers, and they’re all present throughout my illustrations. I’ve always lived very far from the sea, in Bulgaria the sea is a 7-hour drive and we used to go there only in summer. So I’ve always been sea-sick. Countries like Portugal and Iceland, both of which I visited very recently, with cultures and landscapes intertwined with the sea, are amongst the most impressive places I’ve been to.
You mentioned literature also drives your work, what are some authors or texts that you are especially inspired by?
I am really inspired by the exotic and the unknown, even as a child I loved reading tales like A Thousand and One Nights. In the past years I read a lot from Ray Bradbury, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Italo Calvino, and Boris Vian, all contemporary (20th century) writers. They all have something in common, a certain magic realism, their characters and events they’re involved with always initially sound plausible, but there’s always something quite irrational about what happens to them, or how it happens. They describe superstitions and dreams and weird, unexplainable phenomena. In their texts sometimes people can fly, but in a way which has made me question whether that’s not actually possible. They are quite far from the science-fiction genre, which I really love about them, it’s almost as if all those things can happen to anyone, if they open their eyes wide and notice the magic around.
Who are some of your favorite artists or illustrators?
My favorite artists are the ones that aren’t categorized or over-specialized — I admire people that are able to work across media. I think all of those different areas can impact each other in a positive way. I love artists such as Paul Klee, who was quite into philosophy and biology as well as painting. Morandi, who loves painting in white, and grey. Rousseau, who painted jungles in Paris, even though he’d never seen one. Also Christo, who wraps buildings and builds ephemeral monuments with his amazingly drawn preparatory sketches and plans. My recent favorites are a design studio called Studio Swine, who make design related to the places they visit and the needs of people there, with materials they find. They have a beautiful visual language.
Could you tell me what your workspace is like while your working. Are you listening to any music? Do you like to eat while you work?
My desk is full of books and magazines and found or bought pieces of paper. It has to be next to a window, as I can’t work without daylight (or if I am lucky, sunlight), watching the weather can be quite inspiring, mostly if it’s really bad (storms are the best). I have a lot of energy and power for work early in the mornings, and after walks, and if it’s raining.
I’ve always made work under the impact of my moods, or things I’ve read, or noticed, and realizing what is unifying between all of them was interesting.