On the five year anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake that claimed 185 souls, we caught up with artist Yulia Potts. She tells her story of how amongst the tragedy she created a beautiful imaginary world as an escape from the shaking and crumbling city around her, which lead to her career as a children's book illustrator.
Cancer, I suppose. 22 June. However I do not believe in stars, I believe in people.
This is a tricky one. I could write an essay here. I love colours, I live colours, I eat colours, I feel colours. It is all about colours. I love them in groups and favourites come and go many times a day: It can be shades of pink with a bit of green in the morning, lilac, sunshine yellow and lime at lunch and chocolate brownie with a bit of cream and a tiny raspberry on the top in the afternoon. (I am talking colours here).
Where did you grow up?
In my Nana’s garden which was in a far away Russian village. With all possible flowers, strawberry patch, ripe plums and chipmunks visiting in summer and giant snowflakes, winds, and “dig your way out to the big road” after the snowstorms.
Did your childhood nurture your creativity?
When did you start drawing?/why?
I was always drawing when I was a child like everyone else I suppose. My favourite was always little picture stories as well as princesses in their night gowns. Then I was drawing the dresses to cut out and dress them up. When I grew up I was too busy with life. No drawings.
However after the earthquake in 2011 I started drawing again. The big beautiful fireplace in our home was ruined and replaced by an ugly piece of plywood. I painted a fairy forest with berries, toadstools and little folks on it. I was doing this while my 4 week old baby girl was asleep (next to me) as I could not even think about leaving her in the bedroom in case it shakes again. Then I just could not stop creating all these happy cute scenes from imaginary stories. The more terrified I was the happier my drawings looked. I had a 4 week old baby girl and a scared 9 year old big daughter. I guess I was trying to create the safe happy world for them in my little pictures instead of shaking unstable reality.
At some stage I wrote a fairy tale and of cause it was a picture story. I was trying to publish it but it was rejected but one publisher said they liked my art and they would like to keep me on as a freelancer. I made an online portfolio on the website for freelancers from all over the world and one day someone from another country hired me to illustrate their book and i loved the process. Funny enough it all started from that book. I can say my dream and great luck met there.
How do you select your subject matter? Where do the ideas come from?
I do not know. I do not choose them. They do. It just feels good to sit down in a quiet place or in the noisy cafe, stop thinking and start drawing. I am always curious about the result.
What are your creative goals?
I would love to complete the project which I started this year, creating a series of picture books based on Maori myths .I'd also like to travel more around New Zealand as nothing sparks my creativity more than exploring various nooks of our beautiful country and meeting beautiful people, big and small.
To see more of Yulia's work check out her profile on Freelanced.