August 14, 2012

Oleg Tishenkov was born in Smolensk,lived and worked in Moscow and Kaliningrad and about three years ago he and his family moved to Toronto. There he keeps on publishing his comics about philosocat that made him widely known, draw illustrations for magazines, advertising and non-commercial projects, raise his daughter and miss the sea.

How did you get here?
It’s been a long way. This is what is called professional immigration. And it’s my deliberate decision. In early 2000s, when we got a daughter, I no longer wanted to bring up the child here, but Tema Lebedev’s offer to work for the studio made me postpone the removal. Then there was Kaliningrad and later Toronto.

The choice that is not obvious for an illustrator. Why not Berlin or London?
Berlin is not interesting to me. And London is ok, but too expensive and  fussy — and I was fed up with it in Moscow. All this rock’n’roll is for single people.

What did you lack in Russia that you have now?
When you have children you somehow reappraise your environment. Personally, I didn’t like the idea of going somewhere by subway much after the acts of terrorism. But I could do it. And it troubled me much to think that my daughter would have to feel anxiety about her daily subway trips. And there are more of these fears. That was, I couldn’t imagine that my child would ever stay alone at the playground — and here she goes downtown by subway and I don’t care a straw! All the other things like friends or work is just the sort of self-deception. Parental instinct make you take the pink glasses off.

Do you work with the local clients or the Russian ones?
I work with both.

Is there a difference in the work organization, requirements of the employers between them? Who pays more?
It’s more comfortable to work with foreign companies. The worst thing is to work with Russian advertising agencies that are subordinate to a foreign company.

Where is it more interesting and better to live?
I am always interested. I can entertain myself. Frankly, Kaliningrad is the most comfortable place to live in and to work for me.

Do you communicate with other illustrators and designers or do you live in isolation? What local illustrators do you like?
Mostly I deal with comicmakers. I live and work at home, so it can be called isolation. But Skype makes my privacy very public. I have friends who also moved here from Russia, have some people I know from my daughter’s school, and I don’t have a great desire to deal with the native. They are too exact and careful in communication… But that’s good.

Does the local culture, trends influence your style? Do you go to exhibitions, take part in projects?
It influences my life, not my style. That’s why people move. I can say it’s easier to find something really interesting on the net that at the art exhibition. But here it’s too obvious how derivative Russian art is. However, some local nuance makes it wonderful. It’s all too universal here. A sort of cultural Babylon.

Is it difficult to compete with the local illustrators? Why do the employers choose you?
It’s not easy to say. I haven’t had this problem. I think there’s enough work for everyone.

Have you attended any local special courses or master classes for illustrators? What do they teach and how?
No, I haven’t. What and how they teach — I’ve seen it in England. And I wish I had studied there.

What do you miss?
I miss my parents, my friends and Kaliningrad with its wonderful sea. Eastern Prussia is the best place for me.

Oleg Tishenkov's portfolio