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Illustrator Yulia Drobova on the Role of Collage in Her Work

“I’m happy that collage finds its well-deserved place among digital illustrations and hope that it is only the beginning of something beautiful.“

Brush Up Club, an initiative for artists and illustrators who want to brush up their skills on a regular basis, was launched in September 2020. One of the general ideas of it was to dedicate every month to exploration of a certain art and drawing related topic. In September it was paper collage. And since it turned out to be such a fun technique to explore, we interviewed different contemporary illustrators who work in this technique and asked them about their approaches. Yulia Drobova (one of the co-organizers of Brush Up Club) will be the first to share her insights. 

Originally from Uzbekistan, Yulia moved to Berlin in 2018 where she continued to develop her graphic language, and created several collage series. Now she considers this technique to be one of her favorites.

Yulia, how did you get into working with collage? How did you start using collage for editorial illustration?

I had heard about collage before, but didn't actually try make collages until 2017, when I came back home after an illustration workshop at BHSAD in Moscow, where teachers and students use this medium a lot. I remember that we did an exercise, where the task was to cut out random shapes from magazines and color paper, glue them onto a piece of paper also randomly and then create an illustration out of this abstract composition.

I was really impressed by the results of this workshop, and since that time I haven't stopped making collages.  

I did some personal collage projects, one of them, for example, was a series of collages dedicated to German tongue-twisters, which I found funny and quirky. I posted these works on my Behance and Instagram. And soon I started to even use collages for my commercial work. I was really happy when I was commissioned to create a collage illustration for Süddeutsche Zeitung this summer. I'm happy that collage finds its well-deserved place among digital illustrations and hope that it is only the beginning of something beautiful.

What do you think are the benefits of using collage in your art practice?

I think I'm quite impatient when it comes, for example, to hatching. And collage is one of those techniques, when you can get an impressive result very quickly. You can just cut the needed piece with a gradient or a hatch, and this is it. It is also quite unpredictable. It is like a play, where you don't see the clear result in the beginning. Also, I need to mention that this is a really cheap technique. All you need is a glue stick, a couple of free catalogs (like the ones from IKEA) and some paper. You can create collages with your own painted textures or choose some bits in magazines, there is a huge field for experiments.

Do you use collage in your experimental sketchbook practice?

Yes, I do it quite consistently, and this is the type of my personal creative process that I do at home at my desk. I also have other sketchbooks for drawing, but collage for me is something special, I think that I have a special, really personal feeling about it. 

Do you do preliminary sketches?

No, usually I imagine something, and just go with a flow. No sketches. I often start with gluing a piece of paper and it literally gives me a cue where to go. 

Tell me a bit more about your elephant series, when you started working on it, did you have a general idea of what you wanted to do or did you just go with the flow? Can you elaborate?

I bought myself another sketchbook, it is quite big (A3 spreadsheet size) and has black paper. I had a very rough idea, I just had a thought that maybe I'd do something about animals. As usual, it all started with a random shape.

I didn't want it to be an elephant, but the first piece of paper reminded me of elephant skin with wrinkles.

Then I decided that it was an elephant, the story began and I just followed the rules, I set up for myself. I mean, the style, the colour palette, the shapes.

Now I have only 4 collages. They are quite big and it takes longer to make them. 

When doing collages for editorial, how do you approach illustrations then? Tell us a bit about your process.

I read the task and try to relax and not to be too serious. When it comes to commission, I always have this sense of special responsibility, that doesn't let me be free. For me, this is the most important thing, to feel free, to enjoy myself. And then just to play with these coloured paper pieces. As for ideas, I try not to be too literal, to create a special metaphor in every case.

Thank you, Yulia! We hope to see more of your work soon!

Portrait photography by Musashi Shimamura


Yulia Drobova

Yuliya Drobova is an artist and illustrator from Uzbekistan currently living in Berlin. Yulia creates editorial and commercial illustrations using a variety of techniques. She experiments a lot with digital and analog approaches to illustration.

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