A Conversation with Yulia Sokolova (Yuzach)

Name: Yulia Sokolova
Location: Valencia, Spain
Designation: Illustrator & 2D/3D Character Artist
Associated with: Disney, Envato, Ask.fm

Yulia has been creating beautiful art pieces for quite a few years now. Her adorable, humble & cute persona can be clearly reflected in her designs. Besides being an awesome Illustrator, she’s also a good teacher. She holds a Teachers’ degree and shares her design expertise with the millions of aspiring designers on Tuts+.

Hey Yulia, how are you doing? Tell us something about you.

Yuzach: Hey! My name is Yulia Sokolova, I’m also known as Yuzach. I’m a designer and illustrator, working mostly with computer graphics.

Most of all I like to create whimsy patterns and textures, unique characters, fancy app stickers, and various floral illustrations. I also write tutorials about computer graphics and drawing.

What’s the story behind the name ‘Yuzach’?

Yuzach: There is no mystery behind that nickname, as somebody may think. ‘Yu’ is for the first letters of my name Yulia. And ‘Zach’ is short for Zacharia, a name of a character from a book. I just like how it sounds.

Spring Girl by Yuzach
Spring Girl by Yuzach

When did you make your first digital design?

Yuzach: It was in early 2005, as far as I remember. I’ve bought my Wacom Intuos 3 and made my first picture in Adobe Photoshop. It seemed inconvenient to keep looking at the screen, not at the tablet, while drawing. But I got used to that rather quickly.

By the way, I’m still using the same tablet, it works perfectly fine and looks flawless. What quality!

When did you realize that you should be making a career in designing?

Yuzach: Honestly speaking, I haven’t thought about that until I finished university and realized that I don’t like my profession (I have a teacher’s diploma and I thought I’d be a school teacher by then). I loved drawing ever since I was a small kid since I could hold a pencil in my hand and scribble on any piece of paper or any other surface that can be scribbled on.

When I started thinking about finding a job, by a happy chance I was invited to a game-developing studio by a friend of mine who knew that I was fond of computer graphics (it was in the middle of 2010). I thought that was a good sign to start my design career.

What technologies, gadgets & tools do you use for creating those awesome vector graphics

Yuzach: I’m using Wacom Intuos 3 tablet of A5 size, which I’ve bought in early 2005 and have been using since then. I work at Imac 21’5”. Sometimes I also use iPad and Wacom Creative Stylus to make some doodles when I’m away from my computer.

Yuzach's Workspace
Yuzach’s Workspace

You’ve been working closely both in Adobe Photoshop & Illustrator. I understand that both have their own advantages, but which is your personal favorite?

Yuzach: These programs are different. Adobe Photoshop is used for raster graphics, which is closer to traditional drawing and painting, while Adobe Illustrator is for vector graphics, which more like making applications (pictures made of separate shapes).

I prefer the second one because vector graphics are more flexible. Such pictures are very easy to edit and they can be scaled to any size, whether you want to print it on a matchbox or on a huge billboard.

Tell us about the thought process that goes behind making those masterpieces.

Yuzach: It depends on what I am going to make. But all in all, my pre-work phase is usually very short. I know some people spend days or even weeks on gathering materials, looking for inspiration, thinking… And this is really great! This process is so inspiring and it really brings pleasure and fills our minds with some new thoughts, fresh ideas.

However, most of the time it turns out that a client has very tough deadlines, so a designer needs to work really fast. There is not so much time to think, to search and to try many options.

As for me, it usually works like this: I have some basic idea or a task from ьн client, I make a list of keywords and associations and at this step, I already have some pictures in my head, so I can start working.

Of course, sometimes there are moments when I have no ideas at all. It happens when I stumble upon some new, unknown or complicated theme and I really don’t know what to draw. In this case, I surf through the web, browsing Google, Pinterest, Dribbble & Behance. It really helps to find the right trend, to understand in what way you should be moving.

Yuzach's Workflow
Yuzach’s Workflow
Work In Progress
Work In Progress

You’ve worked with some huge names like Disney & Ask.fm, how was your experience with them?

Yuzach: This was a very interesting experience indeed. I’m still working with these companies and I’m happy that I have a lucky chance to know such professional people. I’ve learned a lot of new skills while working on the projects and can’t wait when they are published so that I could showcase them.

What do you consider your best design so far?

Yuzach: It is hard to tell. I’m overly self-critical, so I always feel like I could do more and better even after the project is approved and given thumbs up. However, I have a picture, which I’ve made as a “thank you gift” for my friend’s sister. It depicts Chief Lion.

Chief Lion by Yuzach
Chief Lion by Yuzach

It wasn’t a work project or some special task. I was just drawing what I wanted, without thinking about the concept too much, so it was such a relaxing and meditative process. And in my opinion, it is very noticeable when you put your soul into your artwork. This picture won several contests just because it was made with deep gratitude to a friend.

And I also have another picture, which is significant to me, because it was made with love for a dear person for Christmas 🙂

Bear hug by Yuzach
Bear hug by Yuzach

Tell us about one big moment in your Design Career so far.

Yuzach: The biggest moment in my design career is working with Disney and Tuts+. However, I’m also happy that I had a chance of working with iJet Media at the very beginning of my career. They’ve forced me to dig into vector graphics and given me tons of experience. This was the moment when I understood what do I want to do my entire life.

Where do you seek inspiration from?

Yuzach: My biggest source of inspiration is the world around me. I always try to make photos when I see something inspiring: autumn foliage, frost patterns on my windows in winter, early spring blossoms, butterflies and birds in summer, stone and wood textures.

I also like traveling, and I try to notice all the tiny details around me in different countries – some national ornaments, traditional decorative elements, unique architecture, extraordinary people, their appearance, their clothes.

Internet is a great source of information and inspiration too. As I already mentioned, Pinterest, Dribbble & Behance are full of trendy things. They are overwhelmingly inspirational, so it is very hard to stop scrolling the pages.

You write for Tuts+ & help fellow creatives by sharing your design tips & tricks. Your articles there have been doing a splendid job. How did your journey with Tuts+ begin?

Yuzach: I’m so happy when people say that my tutorials are helpful, that they’ve learned something new. This is the best praise for the author indeed! It makes me feel that the knowledge I share with people is not useless. I’ve started working with Tuts+ in April 2013. My first tutorial was about drawing a cartoon worm.

I was actually drawing this worm for ESET Nod32 contest and later decided to use it for the tutorial as well because I was making a lot of screenshots while drawing. I wrote a test article and sent it to Tuts+. Then I received a positive reply from the Tuts+ editor, Sharon Milne, who is a great vector artist and is also known for her book Adobe Illustrator Master Class, which I’ve bought right after it was released and since then I had an idea of writing tutorials.

I was literally on seventh heaven when I finally got this opportunity. And so I started writing tutorials for Tuts+ each month. Many things changed during these 2.5 years, the website became more convenient and much bigger, there are so many talented artists and authors sharing their knowledge and experience. I’m working on my first video course at the moment and I hope people will find it useful as well.

Are you available for freelance work? On what basis do you charge your clients?

Yuzach: Yes, I work at freelance projects when I have spare time on my schedule. I’m often asked to draw funny stickers or flat app icons. Such a job is not very time-consuming and brings me a lot of pleasure.

We usually negotiate on the price with clients or the clients offer their own prices, depending on their budget. There is always an opportunity to find a compromise and to make both sides happy with the result.

Rainy Girl by Yuzach
Rainy Girl by Yuzach

What is your idea of chilling out?

Yuzach: I’m not a party person at all, to be honest J I’m a total introvert, however, I like to spend my weekends with a couple of close friends, going to the cinema, playing board games and eating ice-cream.

I spend most of my time at the computer, drawing, reading, watching series and learning foreign languages. Sitting in front of the screen for hours is not very good for my health, I know. So I try to include some activities in my daily life, such as walking, running, cycling, yoga & gym.

Especially I like yoga, it brings a lot of pleasure to my body, my mind & my soul. Oh, and by the way, I like computer games a lot, especially RPGs, MMORPGs & various quests. I hope someday I’ll have more time for this hobby.

Your artwork is adorable & inspirational. How would you advise the upcoming designers to make such a beautiful piece of art?

Yuzach: Many thanks for your kind words! I’m really happy that you like my art. I think it is true that practice makes perfect. I remember my first pictures and they were really bad. Bad shapes, bad colors, but I was at the very beginning of my journey, making the first steps. I was only starting learning.

So don’t be afraid of drawing bad pictures. Draw as much as you can, practice every day, watch other people’s creative artworks and learn from them.

I don’t really like when a person says, “I can’t draw because I don’t have a talent for that”. It sounds like an excuse for laziness. The result doesn’t come at once and you need to work hard. But it will come one day or the other.

Rapid Fire Round

Art is ____.
The reflection of the artist’s mind and soul.

Love is ____.
The greatest happiness, which sometimes makes you behave in a stupid way.

Life is _____.
An exciting journey with quests, missions, skills, stats and experience bar.

Creativity is _____.
The ability to think outside the box.

Life without art would be ____.
Dull and grey.

Favorite Designer?
Too many! Here are my random favorites: Teagan White, Mike Creative Mints, Rafael Mayani.

I wish I could visit ____.

If not Designer, I would be ____.
A translator or language tutor or book editor.

Darshan is ____.
Future celebrity 🙂

This has been a great and fruitful conversation. Thanks a million for being such an inspirational and adorable artist, Yuzach. I’m sure my readers would love to follow your lead.

You can follow her work on Behance, like her page on Facebook, tweet her on Twitter and have a look at her pins on Pinterest. She also has her portfolio up on Daportfolio.

More insightful Conversations

• Sebastien Gabriel of Google
• Nguyen Le of Verse
• Paul Jarvis
• Spencer Fry of Podia
• Award Winning Art Director – Lorenzo Bocchi


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