Artist Interviews 2023

Karolina Skórka  
By Julia Siedenburg

Karolina Skórka is an amazingly versatile artist. Her gorgeous illustrations range from portraits and landscapes to fashion-focused imagery. Her nature images showcase a very cinematic scenery with the human silhouettes accenting. She has a true talent for details, the way that she plays with structure, colors, and themes.

Her subject focus lies on portraying women with hidden faces which makes you wonder: Who are these women? And that is only one of the many reasons why Karolina's beautiful mysterious illustrations caught my attention and that is why I had to share her work with you, dear readers. I hope you enjoy learning more about her as much as I did!

First of all, I absolutely love your work! As a self-taught artist, how long did it take for you to get to this level of drawing and how did you find your style?

Thank you so much! It’s always nice to hear that your work is valued. Like most of us I started to draw in kindergarten and I’ve never stopped creating since then so I had a lot of time to find my style. There are actually two completely different styles I developed. One, I’m mostly known for, is a minimalistic one and a second one – polychromatic- which I consider as a color therapy and my tribute to impressionism. I spent my late teenage years painting large scale, vibrant artworks, mostly female portraits. There were over 100 pieces I sold and I took a break from creating to start a family at the age of 21 with my teenage friend and the love of my life. When I was 24 I had a full time job in veterinary pharmaceutical business, two children to look after, pets, a home to run and less time than ever to draw so I had to develop a style that is less time consuming and simple but still reflecting my personality and sensitivity. Those times and spaces were for my children’s development and activities, not for my large scale paintings. I’m very grateful for that path I could step on and for wisdom on how to walk on it. Less is really more. So if you ask how I found my style, in fact it found me. It is really hard to say how long it will take to get to this level of drawing… 6-7 years… and there is still so much to learn!

What are some of your artistic influences?

There are so, so many! Artists and everyday events. Life itself is a great influencer, its diversity is. But if it comes to my first great influence, besides fashion and interiors, there were art albums of my parents. My first drawings were Van Gogh’s, Cézanne’s, Toulouse-Lautrec’s and Modigliani’s inspired. When I was 7 my parents bought Hieronymus Bosh’s monograph by Wilhelm Fraenger. I was fascinated by the colors, shapes and composition of those paintings! I still am. At the same time on the walls of our hallway minimalistic Ukiyo-e graphics were hanging. I am torn between minimalist compositions and sumptuous forms. Each of them evoke unique emotions, so different, but equally necessary. When I create colorful projects, I already miss the simplicity and frugality of minimalism. And conversely. I am full of aesthetic contradictions. I couldn't give up any of these forms of expression.

Your work is so exciting to look at. You have an exceptional eye for details, especially when it comes to fabric. What interests you so much about fashion and interior that it has become the main focus of your work?

Interiors and fashion were the first art forms that gave me such strong positive emotions. I was a highly sensitive child and my first memories are related to colors of garment and interior details. When I was 2, my sister was born and my father took me to the hospital to meet her. I remember that I loved yellow rain shoes, the violet tights I was wearing and the big, white space of an old hospital. I also often visited my aunt’s big apartment in an old tenement house at that time. All those details of 100 year old interiors and furniture created a space field with light and an energy I was soaking into. Pure magic! I still have that feeling for old spaces. I will not say anything new about fashion and interior designs. These are great modes of expression and have a major impact on our state of being. I’m very sensitive to that. I choose to draw outfits and interiors that move me the same way I felt in my childhood. It is the identical pervasive wave of happiness and an urge to create when I see magnificent forms. I could not live in an unaesthetic space, wearing clothes I don’t feel comfortable with. It’s always about the emotions fashion and interiors give me. The only way to stand all this beauty is to draw it.

Every image, every subject tells a story to the viewers. How do you approach the storytelling aspect of your subjects and what are some tips that you would give new artists who do not know where to start?

I just create a space, or a point to start, maybe end a story. It’s up to the viewers how the narrative will develop. My illustrations are only doors to the imagination and to the soul of the observer. Each artwork tells as many stories as there are viewers. Frankly, I don’t know what to advise new artists about storytelling. To be honest with yourself is always a good start for building a tale.

What else stands out when looking at your work is your color pallet. Besides earth tones, you seem to feel comfortable in the grays, and blacks with occasional elements of color bursts. Do you choose the colors based on preference or feeling?

I choose colors based on preference to evoke a feeling or a mood. The tones I use are mostly grays, browns and blacks that create the mood of melancholy and reverie. With such a color palette I create simple compositions that calm an overstimulated mind and give it time to rest. It’s easier to focus on your emotions and hear your soul’s needs when your mind fades away for a while.

Besides your clothing and human focus piece, you create occasional landscape pieces that are just as captivating. Do you paint known places, people, and dogs or is everything based on imaginary images?

Mostly I paint known places and animals but people are mainly imaginary. I like to draw places I have seen during journeys around Europe, especially Danish and North France beaches. All those wild spaces when you can feel you are a part of nature. I pass by villages on my way to work and I love to observe mongrels walking alone, busy with their affairs. You can find them in my illustrations. I adore animals. We have two dogs and a cat. I can’t imagine my life without pets.

Most of your human drawings hide their faces. Why is that?

Hidden faces leave more space for interpretation and allow the viewers to identify with the image. Specific facial features define the work and they impose a narrative. Hidden countenance of the figures also create a more meditative nature of the illustration. In my opinion facial features are distracting and do not allow you to perceive the artwork in its entirety.

Please tell us a bit about your childhood and upbringing.

I spent my early childhood living in the countryside, upstairs at the vet clinic my father worked in as a veterinarian. We had a big garden. I regularly escaped from making my mother despair. I was only 2-3 years old but my confidence was much older than me. I had so many crazy ideas and there was no place I wouldn’t go if it was in my interest. When I was 4 we moved to town but we still lived close to nature. I used to spend most of the time on walks in the woods with my family and friends. It was a magical place in every season of the year. I loved to sit on an old oak and observe or just stay in the quiet. Those were times when children were very self-reliant and being a Polish 6 year old in 1984 was one great adventure. We were free and unplugged. I’m grateful for that experience. My own children also were given some way. When I was 10 we moved to the city. I started a new school and my confidence just disappeared. Making new friends wasn’t as easy as it used to be. I missed my forest and old friends… One day, my mum bought me a beautiful set of dry pastels. I was allowed to draw on my room’s walls and I felt happy again. I grew up in a home full of love and acceptance of my sensitivity. My parents and grandparents have always supported me in every decision I’d ever made. I had a wonderful, wild childhood. My teenage years were difficult for me but with the help of my relatives and my passion for creating along with reading, I was able to take this experience as a gift, learn from it and use it as a source of inspiration.

One question that I do have to ask is: Have you ever thought about creating a book with your drawings or even better, your own clothing line?

Yes, I have thought about creating a book with my drawings but not as a story because I’m a bad storyteller, rather as a picture book or mood board. As for the clothing line, I have never thought about it. There are many talented fashion creators I had a privilege to work with and be inspired by. I will leave it to them and stay on my path.

What are your plans for the future? Are any shows or art fairs coming up?

I have no plans. I will not stop creating and we will see what the future holds for me. I have no expectations. I was stunned by a lot of interesting challenges and wonderful opportunities that have occurred on my artistic path so far. I’m very grateful for each of them and very excited for the coming time and its surprises.

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