Doodles and cult surrealism: An interview with Liana Mavronanou
By CREAM ATHENS | July 2, 2020 12:00 BST
Liana is an Art Director and Illustrator, currently based in the UK. She has created a varied portfolio having worked with creatives such as Katie Eary and artists like Groove Armada. With a vibrant, cult surreal visual identity, she has described herself as a ' doodler' with a unique and playful illustration style that extends itself through the worlds of advertising, art and fashion. Recently collaborated with Pitch clothing store based in Athens launching 5 Limited Edition Pieces.
Tell us a bit about yourself, body of work and influences.
I’m Liana, I am an Illustrator-Art Director and my ideas are being translated mostly through illustrations based on surrealism and various symbolisms. I have been drawing since I was a kid but I never really took it seriously in order to develop my skills. While I was studying physical education at the university, a friend of mine saw my doodles/graphics and out of sudden got my first paid commissions designing posters for gigs. Meanwhile I started helping few photographers on shoots by creating concepts and really liked the process of putting an idea into practice. Soon I decided to drop university and move to London where I took a few courses in fashion/art directing and then went to Brighton to attend a Graphic design course. London has been by far the best 'school' I have ever been to and of course offering me opportunities showcasing my work in different exhibitions.
In regards to my visual stimulation, I try to be quite selective about it. I don’t follow tons of instagram accounts and I really look outside of design/fashion for inspiration. I prefer doing something more narrative led, or like building characters and stories. I love to be present and observe a lot through my everyday life, people and behaviors. In terms of influences by other art forms I have to say definitely sci-fi and old horror movies as well as photography and electronic music.
Having a diverse background in drawing illustration and working in fashion, I find the latter involves a collaborative effort as it’s not really just my vision; it’s the photographers and it’s the subject. As is the case with most editorial projects. Whereas, drawing is completely personal and allows me to communicate my ideas to the fullest as I please.
Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?
I believe, during the project in China while working alongside Katie Eary and creating the main illustrations for the rebrand project of Boy London. Having completed the project and coming back to the UK with such positive vibes and after pushing myself to draw pretty much every day, I took the time to work exclusively on ideas that I had In my head and never had the time nor the confidence to do it earlier. After a few months, I was scouted for 2 exhibitions unexpectedly and this is where I actually started considering that drawing and painting could be something really special for me.
What is your daily routine when working?
I work a lot with my gut reaction towards any project. Most of the ideas come while I am talking on the phone with the client and then depending on feedback I am adjusting as much as possible by listening carefully to the clients’ opinion. Otherwise when I am making my own projects most of the time I already know what I want to do where it is just me observing things constantly and writing down or doodling on my notepad any ideas I get anytime. I do a very bad doodle sketch which I redo on my sketchpad. When I am pleased with the outcome I am coming back to the canvas where the fun begins. I found working with canvases quite therapeutic and satisfying.
Which is your favourite piece of work and why?
I would say the asian doodles I did for the collaboration with Pitch Athens. I drew them just after I returned from a 3 month design project in Shanghai, China. The images I had in my head were so fresh, vibrant and honest and I had to put them down on a paper adding my personal twist in it. I loved that there was a reason behind all those doodles. I was fascinated watching everyday lifestyle culture moments such as elder couples dancing in the park, other people practicing tai chi early in the morning, poodles everywhere all the time as well as traditional style cookers and angry bosses. It was so honest and surreal.
Can you tell us a bit more about the design project in Shanghai, China? Do you believe this was a fundamental moment for your career?
It was a project for Boy London led by Katie Eary who selected 5 designers in order to work on the rebrand of the company for 3-4 months in Shanghai. I was mainly doing the illustrations for the drop we were designing, introducing concepts and graphics that would represent to the company in a future stage. It was a crazy experience putting together ideas for completely different target groups (at least for the UK team) and executing on super tight deadlines definitely equipped us with more flexible skills and adaptivity. Additionally, it broadened our culture knowledge and took us (in a very constructive way) out of our comfort zone.
Except for being an illustrator, we’ve seen that you also design garments. How do you connect art and fashion in your practice?
In the beginning I really liked the idea of making a print or an illustration and instead of putting into a canvas you get it printed on a simple t-shirt. Suddenly it becomes the canvas that advertises your idea. I was lucky enough to work with a client that really trusts my vision and this was the reason I got to do the rest. Once I finished all the doodles I felt that I would love to see these drawings as tattoos. This is how I got one of my ideas to make a mesh bodysuit with doodles printed looking like tattoos. For personal interest, I want to create simple pieces to combine with my doodles and also fit me well. So selfish; i kinda do it for me and my wardrobe.
What have you been working on at the moment? What’s next?
At the moment I am preparing drop no.2 with Pitch Athens showing some more of the asian vibes and introducing new garments and new cult illustrations. Meanwhile I am processing some new ideas on paintings based on 50’s horror and surrealism.
Name 3 books and songs that inspire you at the moment.
At the moment I am reading again Bruno Munari 's 'Design as Art'. All time classic favorite is 'Animal Farm' from George Orwell and last but not least is a magazine that I read religiously and called 'New Philosopher'. I also have a big music playlist which is a mix of different genres. It’s been a few months and I keep listening on replay to Kim Oki’s album 'Fucking Madness', then Yussef Kamaal with the killer tune 'Calligraphy' at Brownswood Basement Session, my absolute favorite song/video clip Busta Rhymes - 'Gimme Some More' and of course Aphex Twin which is pretty much every single set he has done.
How do you seek out opportunities?
Through networking, masterclasses and after a while I believe that is more of an organic proccess where probably your client is going to advertise you if he/she is happy with your work results and collaboration you have had.
What is your dream project?
There is no particular dream project but there are some dream conditions that I would love to work with. It would be amazing to work on a single project that includes people from various backgrounds such as architecture, music, fashion, psychology, photography and cinema. This collaboration would show how different form of arts work under the same idea.