“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work”- Colin Powell. For Anna Abola, 21-year-old digital illustrator and artist from Latvia – a small country in Northern Europe, her passion for art started at the tender age of 3 and she practiced hard to get every detail right. This love for art blossomed as she got older and at just 8 years old, she joined her first art school.
Born with a disability, but with her ever so cheerful outlook on life, she uses art as a healing mechanism to voice out her ideas, thoughts and emotions. Anna and her art is a true inspiration for us, the world over. We chat with Anna to know more about her and her artistic journey.
We had an intimate talk with artist Anna Abola from Latvia about her life as an illustrator, her passion for art, her main source of inspiration for her beautiful illustrations and more.
Hello Anna. Tell us a bit about yourself.
Hi! My name is Anna Abola and I am 21 years old. I was born in Spain, but my family and I moved to a small city called Jurmala in Latvia when I was a baby. After graduating from Janis Rozentals Art High-School with a major in Graphic Design in 2017, I’m currently studying Visual Communications at the Art Academy of Latvia. I also work as an illustrator and a graphic designer.
“I love writing too and a few days ago my first article got published along with my illustrations, which is a small step towards my dream of becoming an author-illustrator.”
Anna’s story and illustrations featured in I’mperfekt Magazine.
How did you get started? What are the early memories of you starting this journey?
I’ve always loved stories, especially fairytale books, as a kid. Having illustrations next to these stories always made everything so much more beautiful and realistic for me. I remember flipping through the pages, seeing those beautifully drawn castles and gardens, princesses in sparkling dresses… I’ve always wished to create something like that one day.
“I’ve been drawing ever since I could hold a crayon. I have a very vivid memory from when I was around 3 years old, of me walking up to my mum who was doing the dishes in the kitchen and asking her if she could draw me a duck. I tried to recreate what she did all evening and finally at 8 years old, I enrolled in my first serious art school and haven’t stopped learning since.”
An illustration of a girl in her creative corner with her tea and books by Anna
“I became interested in digital illustration particularly only in my final year of high-school. My graduation project got me to make 10 illustrations for a novel that I had spent 2 years writing but never finished. I spent a lot of time studying 19th-century book illustrations and Japanese old prints, which inspired me immensely.”
Anna at her high school library researching Japanese illustrations and anime.
How have your roots influenced your work?
Good literature has always been something that my family values. I grew up with this mindset and a lot of things opened up through this.I read all genres of books and try to balance both classics & modern day books while trying to educate myself as well as navigate the right way between them. Art was something my parents always appreciated and perhaps that motivated me even more to pursue this dream.
“Growing up, me and my brother taught ourselves to read even before the teachers had the chance to teach us. My parents read us bedtime stories and my mother always encouraged me to read the classics. A stubborn 12-year old that I was, reading the Twilight series was equally important for me.”
Anna with her mom and brother at Venice, Italy.
Anna jamming with her dad and brother.
From Jane Austen to K-pop music, how have your inspirations changed your perspective on creating your art?
It came as a shock to my family and friends at first… They all asked how a girl goes from quoting Jane Austen to watching guys with dyed hair sing and dance to something we don’t understand the lyrics to in a week? But the thing is, I can still quote Jane Austen and I am constantly learning how to navigate my way through art better after getting a taste of both these sides.
“I believe that you should never be ashamed of what your heart is drawn to at any point in your life… Falling in love with the K-Pop and Korean culture has a huge impact on my work. I enjoy making fan art of my favorite idol groups and singers.
I never allowed myself to like pop music as a teenager. Because of the way I was brought up, I was under the impression that it’s shallow, empty and good for nothing. So, discovering that there are other people like me, gave me the courage that I needed to start an Instagram account to publish my work for the world to see.”
There is a reason why you love the things you love, pushing it away won’t change anything and maybe a part of that unlived experience keeps returning to me now. Exploring drastically different fields might be confusing to some people but it makes life a lot more interesting and widens your way of thinking so you don’t get stuck in one bubble.
Anna and her friends at a K-Pop inspired photoshoot.
Fan art by Anna for one of her favorite Korean bands called ‘The Rose’
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Speedpaint for the last fanart I posted 💓 I usually do speedpaints of art that takes me around 5-8 hours to finish since then the video is usually all smooth and understandable. But this took me longer than I expected, I did it over a period of 2 days and because of that, it lags a bit. But I hope it still is ok enough to understand the process ❤ Realtime: ~ 15 hours Music: Yoon Mirae – Always #myart #art #speedpaint #artistsoninstagram #dots #descendantsofthesun #illustration #fanart #songsong #songjoongki #songhyekyo #adobephotoshop #lines #digitalart #digitaldrawing #night #artprocess #wip #kdrama #artwork #originalartwork #video #artistsofinstagram #그림 #드로잉 #annaabolaart #annaabola
Do you have a full-time job? How do you manage to give time to your hobby?
I currently have two jobs – I work as a graphic designer in a spa center and as an illustrator for a magazine which is published 4 times a year. I am lucky enough to be able to work from home so it’s easier to combine my work with studying. As for my hobby, I try to spend some time drawing in between lectures or late at night when classes and work are done. But since it takes up a lot of time, my social life sometimes suffers. When I feel that happening, I take a break from illustrating to regain my strength and inspiration to keep going.
Anna with her classmates at their graduation ceremony.
Where or who do you take inspiration from?
The two artists who caught my attention the most when I was developing my own style were Guy Shield and Takato Yamamoto. The first, in my eyes, is the master of light and atmosphere, and the other is one of incredibly detailed line art. I feel like my style of illustrating was born by trying to combine those two qualities in my own way and adding my story behind it.
My teacher was also very encouraging and I could feel that he believed in me. That really pushed me forward and made me want to do my best as well. I could say during those last months of high-school I realized what my real dream is – to publish a book one day with my own illustrations, words and story.
Illustration of a couple “The Gift” by Anna Abola
What is your creative philosophy and how do you visualize your work?
My illustrations often come to me as visions. Sometimes they come to me as feelings or emotions too. I’ve created some of my best work when I was hurt and heartbroken. Drawing inspiration directly from certain not-so-pleasant events in my life has made me look at illustrating as a wonderful healing mechanism too.
“Aesthetic beauty has been one of the most important things to me for as long as I remember and adding stories to them makes it even more powerful for me. I draw things I have lived through myself, things I would love to experience and something I maybe never will. It’s a form of self-expression when words are too weak, but there is always a story I want to tell.”
“…I stood at the edge of the pavement next to you, avoiding all eye contact and trying to forget that a few seconds ago you had held my hand and helped me to cross the street. The yellow lamp flickered. …” An excerpt from Anna’s diary translated into a beautiful illustration
Anna’s shares her personal story with her artwork and captions-
“When was the last time you saw a disabled strong female character in a blockbuster movie? Nothing comes to mind? Yeah. Me too. And this is where our society is doing something wrong.
As messed up as it sounds, idols in media can have the strongest impact on our minds. It did on me. I always looked for idols. Someone I’d like to be like. I still do. But none of them looked like me.”
What do you hope people take away from your Art?
When I was a kid, reading fairytales made me want to live in them and now to hear people often say, “I wish I could live in your illustrations ” is the best feeling ever.
“I feel the happiest when people say my artwork inspires them, that it made them want to draw or write a poem or start a story, or even if it just made them feel warm and comforted. So, I hope people would continue to see and feel my art as if they would want to live in it and be a part of it. Also, I hope I can inspire people in any little way to help them laugh, cry or feel warm when they need it.”
Blue Nights by Anna Abola.
Tell us about your latest artwork and the inspiration behind it?
My last piece was dedicated to the time I spent in a hospital this summer. I was born with a disability which has affected a lot of things in my life and I recently found out that there is a possible way to “fix” or cure me…Maybe not completely, but in some way. I chose to have the surgery but I was not expecting the recovery period to be so hard. I can honestly say that those days spent in recovery in the hospital were the hardest ones I have ever lived through – both physically and emotionally. Thankfully I was blessed to have my family with me as well as a very professional and encouraging medical staff.
“I wanted to draw my piece, ‘A Tribute’, to remind myself that the pain was all for the best and to turn this experience into what it should be – Something beautiful and something worth remembering since it was a huge leap for me and in a way, a chance to live a new life.”
‘A Tribute’ by Anna Abola.
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