Wonderful profession

December 20, 2012

One person we know thinks that Russian illustrators are too lazy to think what and how to draw. So they want from an art director both sketches and ideas. We’ve been debating ourselves hoarse that he’s wrong. People are never given enough time in the business so it’s too long and out of place to guess the vision of art directors and clients. 

Illustration by Fedor Pallinsky

There’s been hundreds of failures to understand each other between illustrators and art directors, so finallythey’ve decided on the variant when an art director draws sketches and comments on what and how to draw. But it all leads to misconception: the illustrators seem to degrade as professionals. And everything becomes a matter of likes and dislikes.

Our critic says that a cool illustrator will draw a great picture from the very first time. And sometimes they really do! But the projects is usually full of references just to be on the safe side.

In fact, illustration making process is a sort of joint authorship. But in real life the illustrator and the art director hardly ever know and distrust each other.


We ask what art directors think of trust and subordination.

Sergey Marinichev
McCann Erickson art-director

There are no rules in reality and every illustrator behaves in his/her own way. It depends on the task, the schedule, the money and the understanding with the agency. Sometimes Russian illustrators tend to imagine even more than needed or not to follow the art director/s sketches. So it’s just the question of art directors and producers’ expertise to decide whether the task suits the illustrator or not.

98% of advertising briefs are just for sale and they lack creation space but there are illustrators who do such work perfectly.
Not every art director in Russian art industry has a degree in Arts or knows the basic rules of composition. So those of them who understand that an illustrator is not just hands and time but the head of the project do their job better.
I don’t think there are any fools in advertising industry. There are some people who aren’t just the right ones for the job, but this hardly ever happens in the sphere of illustration.

Unfortunately the illustration making process in Russia is by no means a dialogue but a perverted form of dictatorship. It’s all about the lack of inner etiquette and the immaturity of the whole industry.

Personal contact with an illustrator is essential for an art director but the illustrators aren’t always likely to contact as soon as most of them are visuals. However, a detailed brief with references and minute description is always more useful than an hour and a half conf-call to the client.


Ludwig Bystronovsky
Art Lebedev Studio’s  art director

It’s not about the accurate brief but the understanding of the task. And sometimes an illustrator is afraid to draw an extra sketch just to come to realize what they need. You should draw fast, snow the client under sketches in order to hit the mark.

Why can’t an illustrator choose what and how to do?

Sometimes they say: we don’t know exactly what to do, so just impress us, do whatever you want. And he/she can do it. But if the task is quite different you shouldn’t impress anyone. Just do it.



Nikita Veprikov
and Andrey Flakonkishochki, illustrators

Is it true that art directors in Russia don’t trust illustrators, squeeze out a picture?

Nikita: Some people tend to control everything, some hardly ever interfere in the process. Ever art director chooses his/her own way of cooperation, and the illustrator’s task is to take it and get a good result. Some illustrators prefer to be instructed in details, some of them like to be more independent. The process is better when an art director and an illustrator have the same vision of it, but this is not the guarantee of success.

Andrew: There is the difference. Most of the foreign clients are more experienced so they understand better what they ask to do and what artist they need. They never ask you to copy any famous artist’s style.

Is there a difference between Russian briefs and foreign ones?

N: Foreign ones are in English

Does it often happen that you make a good picture but then they ruin it, change it out of all recognition?

N: It hasn’t happened. Why changing a good one?

A: Sometimes it happens. It’s recently happened, but I won’t show it to anyone.

Is illustration making process a dialogue? Do you need to be in touch with an art director?

A: It’s optional. But a working meeting is better than a broken phone anyway.

N: Yes to the two questions. They both need to be on the same wavelength and love what they do. It’s a rare chance, like Tim Burton and Johnny Depp.

Illustration by Fedor Pallinsky