Nina Štajner is a freelance illustrator with 194,000 followers on Instagram. She is also an online shop owner, and a nature admirer. She lives in the beautiful Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital. She has been collaborating with brands and companies worldwide. She loves to work on different kinds of products, such as, creating patterns, prints, greeting cards, postcards, stationery, and enamel pins. She is known for her illustrations of tender, whimsical and furry cute animals in soft and delicate manners. Although she loves to paint different kinds of things, little furry animals are her favorite. She loves using soft, limited pallets and exploring different mediums. Because Ljubljana is surrounded by green spaces and forest, she got her art inspiration by hiking and observing the nature and amazing animal world.
When she is not busy making art, she enjoys traveling, wandering and exploring nature, daydreaming, baking, riding her bike, doing yoga, making dreamcatchers, and appreciating beauty in simple things.
J.J. Gow: Nina, I absolutely love your artwork. They are so beautiful. What is your current work in progress?
Nina Štajner: I am currently working on many things. Wallpapers and stickers for kids rooms, doing a new collection of illustrations for Lake coloring (an amazing new adult coloring book app with featured Instagram artists), working on my own Coloring Book, illustrating a greeting card for a company I am very excited to work with. I am planning to start doing a premium paper craft collection. Besides that I am developing things for my Etsy shop, new pins, new notebooks, washi tapes with my designs. How exciting. And yes, I work a lot these days.
J.J. Gow: What is your favorite medium for your art work (such as, watercolor, oil painting, etc.)? Why?
Nina Štajner: I love watercolors, gouache and colored pencils. I usually mix – it depends on what I want, or which shade I want. I have everything on my desk and than I just pick something that feels good at the moment. But I prefer water based colors to pastels or acrylics. I have them on little ceramic plates – and when the color dries I just add a bit of water on it and continue painting. I think gouache and watercolors allow a lot of different effects – more/less opaque, light, strong, the line can be loose or detailed. It can be anything you want. I love the freedom of these two mediums. And colored pencils are good for doodling, textures, enhancing details.
J.J. Gow: What is/ are your favorite colors?
Nina Štajner: The watercolors – Winsor and Newton. If you are referring to the shades I like… currently : mint, peachy, brown, ochre, red-brown.
J.J. Gow: How long (in average) does it take you to finish an art piece?
Nina Štajner: It depends on complexity. If there is only 1 character a few hours. If the composition is more complex than it takes more time. I do it step by step, layer by layer. But I prefer to work on simple drawings so I can finish in one take. It also depends if it is a subject matter I am familiar with, like a fox (I have painted a few foxes)…if there is a new animal I need more preparation, more sketches, studies,..
J.J. Gow: Do you do digital illustration? If so, which is your favorite app or program to use?
Nina Štajner: Not really often. I have to do it when I create pins, washi tapes, patterns.. I work a lot with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I also design my products with InDesign. I work with computer more than anyone would think of but not to create artwork. I make my artwork traditionally in most cases. Everything else is done on computer.
J.J. Gow: For the aspired illustrators or illustrators who just starting out, what are you three top advices for them?
Nina Štajner: It is a bit hard giving advice to people because I don’t consider myself very successful and well known yet. I am still learning a lot. I am trying to find my voice and develop my style all the time – even if people think I have found it it. As I am growing and changing my style is never “found” – at least that is what I think. I don’t want to have the same “style” over the years. I want to change, grow, experiment. But for people that want to get into illustration business I would advise to draw a lot, improve as much as you can and never give up. Even when you had a rough day and you didn’t create anything just keep on going. Patience and practice are the key. My advice would also be – work A LOT, be honest, modest and nice to your clients. And last but not least have fun with it and learn how to handle the occasional stress (I do yoga, take a shower, hike, pick flowers, drink chamomile and talk with people that support me).
J.J. Gow: How do you network with follow artists?
Nina Štajner: We sometimes chat on Instagram. I love how artist that I admire are very open and nice and willing to exchange a few words. With the local artists I meet sometimes, have a sketch session, participate in a local illustration fair and so on.
J.J. Gow: How do you advertise your work? Do you work with an agent?
Nina Štajner: I try to work on projects that inspire me, follow my instincts, post them regulary on many platforms (Behance, Instagram, Website, Facebook) and everything else just follows. I don’t want to be only a “children book illustrator” or a “surface pattern designer” – so I just draw what I like and share that with the world. It is very simple and it works (for me). People contact me for many different projects, and when I feel we make a good team, I agree on working together. So I mostly advertise on social media. But I don’t pay for any ads – the reach is purely organic. For now I am on my own and am not signed with anyone. It is hard to say, because I never had an agent. I have never been represented so I have no actual experience.
J.J. Gow: Do you go to conferences or festival for illustrators/ artists? If so, which one is your favorite one?
Nina Štajner: Not as much as I would like. I have been to OFFF in Barcelona a few times. I have to go to these things more often for sure. Thank you for giving me something to think about.
J.J. Gow: How do you keep yourself challenge?
Nina Štajner: Working on different things would be the answer : working on notebooks, washi tape designs, enamel pins, patterns for cotton blankets, T-shirts,.. You can do a lot of different and interesting things using your illustration. I keep it interesting with new challenges. I just feel I have so much to share and I am motivated 90% of the time. I really feel blessed to be doing this. I am grateful every single day. When I am working on something I always have 10 other ideas that need to be executed. So that really keeps me going. The more I draw the more ideas I get.
J.J. Gow: What is your favorite snack/ drink?
Nina Štajner: I love popcorn! Haha. And I like to drink cocoa. But in general I eat a lot of fruits and veggies, drink a lot of tea, water and of course coffee. But in general I am trying to stay healthy.
J.J. Gow: If you have a chance to work on a painting with your favorite artist (dead or alive), who would that be? What qualities of this artist you admire the most?
Nina Štajner: Huh, that is such a hard question. I don’t have 1 role model or one artist I would prefer over the others. So I would have to list a few of them. I am inspired by Beatrix Potter and a lot of other artists: Teagan White, Rebecca Green, Liekeland, Kelli Murray, Dinara Mirtalipova, Brigitte May, Julia Sarda, Carson Ellis, Isabelle Arsenault,..and many more. I don’t try to draw or paint like them, but I really like their work. I still think you have to find your own visual voice and not copy anyone.
Maybe be inspired by one’s characters, others palette,… But if I had to choose one I would say Beatrix Potter – her attention to detail, her animal illustrations are remarkable. I think until the end of the day I will not be able to paint them as well as she did. I love how the animals almost appear real and have their own little personality. I feel like Peter the Rabbit and Squirrel Nutkin exist somewhere. I am sure they do!
J.J. Gow: Thank you, Nina for chatting with me and share your beautiful artwork!