Alexia Udriște-OlteanuFrom: Craiova Born on: 3 February 1996 Occupation: Illustrator
I arrived there two minutes earlier. I left my bag in the high walls tea room and went out to wait for her in the garden – a green space with fences dressed by climbing plants in a central area of the city. Children’s voices were heard, laughter or short comments, behind the courtyard among the young trees. There was nothing to see. Only dishes that collided lightly and the specific noise of the cutlery, traded their activity. At 5 o’clock in the afternoon, the family eats in that corner of nature, shielding from the sun that hit with force even at the end of the day.
“I’m very close, in 1 minute I’m there!” my phone announced.
Alexia Udriste – Olteanu is a young illustrator, born in Craiova, raised near Danube in the Calafat city and established (temporarily she would say) in Bucharest. She always felt that the places were not enough for her from a certain point of view: As I was in Calafat, I wanted to go to a bigger city, because everybody knew everyone there. I arrived in Craiova and spent four years at high school, but I left because everyone knows everyone. And I arrived in Bucharest where I realized after half a year that everyone knows everyone.
She had been working for three years when she moved, right after high school in the capital. She always felt the need to be on his own, and because in Romania, a serious job and a faculty do not go hand in hand, she chose to work. Easily determined by the situation she learned to take decisions and to maintain herself. Although she sometimes wants a safety backup, the rational defeats and thinks: “Thanks to God that I passed that stage!” – in which the parents supported her financially.
When Alexia arrived, a child, perhaps one of the owner’s daughters, smiled innocent at us and said,
- Hi! Do you want to sit outside?
- Hello! No, it’s too sunny. It can be inside; it’s open, right?
I look at them; they are talking like two kids.
- If the gate is open, normally it’s open! The girl answered with a disarming sincerity.
And we look at each other smiling as if an invisible gate is slamming and making us startle at impact, like two adults blocked by the naturalness of a child.
She is a professional and lucid freelancer, which clarify the superficiality with which I also have chosen to look at her results. For me the illustration and painting are a job. If I thought it would be a hobby, I would not work anymore, because you do not do a hobby at 4am when the client calls you and says he wants it now. Everyone thinks that my life is a paradise.
But I’m not hypocrite, I realize that I often do not appreciate what I have.
You know, I never felt anywhere home because I often moved and somehow when I came to Bucharest I wanted a home to feels like home. I realized that I needed that space to be exactly as I wanted and to give me everything I needed. That’s why there are enjoyable habits: preparing the coffee, cooking, reading, to maintain your mental health. Because you otherwise associate that space with the work only. And you have to live. Only recently I have learned to live my life not just work. There have been months when I did not have a free weekend and my kidneys and my brain finally said: “Stop!”
She still struggles with a balance and tells slightly amused by her posts on the media channels: I write them having the caps lock button activated with the hope that the problems I face will reach the audience. But people filter and choose what they want to see. Many people looked at the pictures and ignored her message. Laughing she tells me: Sometimes I write how difficult it is to me and then comes their only reaction: “Wow, how beautiful you paint!”
Although her projects are diverse, from the book for children to the commercial ones, as brand identity, she confesses that her heart is in the book illustration because she found herself there and discovered the barriers that school defined it. She gradually figured out that she was a restrain illustrator. This approach was based on the mentality of offering only simple things to a child. And so she learned to challenge herself, and when she feels the urge to do something trivial, she immediately stops looking for a twist, something that will make the children think. I do not know if I managed to do so, but I know clearly that I’m starting to control that.
She is currently working on Istoria povestită copiilor (History presented for children), a series of volumes written by Simona Antonescu for the Nemira publishing house. And although 20 titles are planned, she now deals with three volumes. It’s the biggest project she has and with so much work involved she has given up on anything else. It also has a black and white style, completely different from what it has done so far. And in winter, she will work on another book made in collaboration with Iulian Tanase, one of Radio Guerrilla’s voices.
She is now immersed on a large sofa with a glass of fruit tea in her hand, facing the windows with a view to the yard. Dissolve honey, and ice breaks against the bottle walls. On the condensation of the glass, her small fingers left a trace, as if in the first years of your life you pressed hard into a cement unstained to leave your footprint.
Children, two girls, have run past our front and started the air conditioning and instrumental background music.
MS: Alexia, do you like kids?
Yeah, I’m crazy about them. But they scare me a lot. When you interact with children, you realize how honest and devoid of embarrassment they are to tell you absolutely everything. You also noticed the earlier response related to the gate. And that’s just an example. I remember a dialogue that once I had with a child:
- Do you want me to draw you a donkey? I asked.
- Yes, Yes, Yes…!!! he said enthusiastically. And when he saw the final result gave the most honest reply: Oh, but this is so ugly!
I want very much a child, but not after 30 years old because I realize that I become more restrained by every day that pass. You know, it depends on the people, because there are people who want to have children to grow together and people who want to give the children absolutely everything. I am part of the first category. And of course this decision comes from the family, where my parents were very young and I liked to grow in the same time with them.
The Hero Of The Big House by Álvaro Pombo – book illustration
MS: How were you as a child?
By the time I got to school, my grandparents grew me up and they were the ones who put the books in my arms and taught me to read so much. My grandfather knew dozens of stories and poems. It was enough to tell him a word and he immediately told you a poem. If I was interested in a topic, I was getting study material the next day. There are great moments for me – the ones when my grandfather told me stories. These memories are mine and essential. I mention them with every occasion I have, because it is the point from which my interests have started so clearly.
They opened this door and although they did not know parenting techniques, they did more than I could ever hope for.
And to answer the exact question; I was like now: I stayed in the house. My parents didn’t let me go out to play. My mother had and has a small dose of hypocrisy, thinking that her child must stay in the house reading and having educational interests. I didn’t fit outside where the children spoke bad words, in my mother’s perception. Only in high school I realized that it was a disadvantage for me. I didn’t know how to be sociable. It has always been hard for me to make friends because I really don’t know what a friendship means. I didn’t have the opportunity to learn. I mean, it seems to me that I can be friend with a person even if we do not call three months. “If you want to tell me something, you call me and you tell me, we do not have to sit all day on the phone or side by side.” My mother is still convinced she did a good thing for me. So my time was spent either with her or alone. I stood there drawing. Maybe that explains why I never get bored in the house, I find something to do always.
Look, it’s really hard to be an adult and have no friends. For example, I buy together with my husband a lot of board games and all involve 4 or more people. And we have a single couple with whom we are friends and we meet for recreational activities like this. They went to different events throughout the year, and we stayed and waited for them to come back with the games ready. We were so amused about this subject.
MS: You said at some point in past: Reality is more difficult to assimilate, I difficulties to translate it into images. I prefer the fantasy and the naivety of the happenings. Do you think your current style is somewhat related to your age and that in time will you go to something else? Or how do you view your evolution as an artist?
Wow, I was so relaxed then …
If we refer to style, all people working in this field are trying to form their own style. And it is imperative to have a style, because anyone who sees the work associates it with you. That’s what I wanted and I was careful to form until the diversity of projects grew. Then the style dissipated, because is impossible to apply the same principles in both the technique of illustration and the technique of painting. I realized that what really matters is to be malleable and to remain as recognizable as possible. It is achievable. Just as someone has their own, native or built during time way, to write for example, so is the style of illustration. You are also there, but using other instruments.
And in terms of my evolution as an artist, I can only say I like the book illustration and I do not think I will ever be bored by it, but who knows what the future reserve for me.
MS: “Making art is about the balance between something very personal and very social.” What do you think of these words?
It has always been hard for me to consider that what I’m doing is art. It took me a long time to introduce myself as an illustrator. I thought I didn’t win my status and wanted to deserve this position before I associate with it. I think it depends a lot on what kind of artist you are because there are people who only make personal projects or just commercial projects. I went in many directions, initially because I was embarrassed to refuse and then with the mentality “But I can learn, no?” I think 70% of my projects were accepted although I didn’t know exactly how to get the desired result. I have learned constantly. And when projects have become more and more numerous, the personal style has been diluted a lot. So, it depends on how you decide to work.
MS: How would you look for a perfect work day for you?
Ha ha; today I wanted to make a story before I go out with this idea: A perfect day is when your appointments are cancelled. But I thought you were going to see and get upset, because you had no idea that this was not related to you at all. So, I postponed it. 🙂
I generally enjoy a home day, in quiet, where I can do everything I have in the program, label with label. I think it’s a quiet day when I do not have to answer the phone and I’m very productive. The truth is, I have not had a perfect day for a long time.
MS: When do you realize that a work is ready and doesn’t need anything else?
Never! Generally, when I feel like I’m tired and the work has a certain form, I stop. If I insist, there is a risk of damaging it, and if I do not work digitally, it can mean a lot of wasted work. When I still want to add something and I’m not sure if I have to, I think I stop. Or I ask, my husband, Cătalin, and if he says Do it!, and if I feel that would not look good when he speaks the words, I don’t do it.
MS: So, do you ask your husband’s opinion?
Yes, it helps me a lot to figure out what I do not want to do. Hearing his opinion, I realize that – what I do not want to do. We have completely different visions of what we do. He’s generally critical and practical, and I’m more chaotic. That’s how I moved away from photography. Being very well prepared in this area, Cătalin explained to me what light I could have used better in a particular picture or how the angle is not a good choice. And so, gradually I went to the area that really interested me, the illustration.
Take me by the hand – theater
MS: What impact do you want your work to have?
I want to deliver her message, because that illustration is – more a form of delivering a message than painting or drawing. It is a great responsibility and the fact that I deliver content for children. I have to take care of maintaining my principles, especially because I want to support beautiful and constructive texts and projects.
I am glad when people find pleasure in looking at my portfolio, but I have recently realized one thing: in my community people react positive if they see beautiful pictures and then read something where they find themselves in. If you have a group of people reading you, you feel obliged to appear with content that really makes sense to them.
For a while I was afraid to write (on Facebook or on my personal website), and when I said I got courage another fear appeared – not to disappoint the community. There are many topics I would like to address, there are many issues we are dealing with, but we are equally afraid to bring them into discussion.
Or, I don’t think I can ever differentiate Alexa Udriște, the human beeing from Alexia Udriște, the illustrator. And that’s why the human is going further then the illustrator and wants to talk about the things that matter for Alexia, the human. After all, the illustrator has become what it is because of the human. I am very proud of one thing: I have learned to appreciate people at various levels. For example, I can admire the artists, but not adhere to their principles or lifestyle. I have been able to appreciate a professional as a professional and a human as a human.
MS: Do you feel at home in Bucharest?
* The whole body froze at the hearing of the question. She raised his eyes and looked at me directly, saying:
I hate this city. I hate it. I’m not leaving the house, because my neck is bothering me every time I go out. And whenever we have the opportunity, we leave Bucharest on free days. It seems to me that I will never get along with this town.
MS: And then where do you like if in Bucharest not?
In a very small town. If some years ago I run away from small towns, now I think that I could live very well in a small town. I was last week in Timisoara and everyone was complaining about the city crowd. “At least you can breathe in the center!” I said. We cannot move for the moment, because Cătalin has clients here and it’s more difficult. We also have inherited a house in the plain, somewhere with a lot of nothing, and we have to be brave and to visit it.
MS: If life forces you to live in a story in what skin character you choose to live your life with? And why?
Alice Through the Looking-Glass. I read it for the first time last year and I loved it enormously. It is a must, but the original version, the others have less charm. It seems to me that the character here is more curious and wise than Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. She learned.
Although the illustrator is a paradox woman-child combination, the mentality is definitely one of an adult. Everything she lived is seen in her reactions. Just as Alice learned and Alexia learned. She realizes why she is reacting in a certain way or why she relates in a certain way to a particular situation. I can put my finger in the past. I analysed myself very much until I reached this clarity. And I do not want to change anything. We all have wounds that we sometimes clean with alcohol and we say it doesn’t hurt us.
She now wishes to build something of her. She has collaborated on various projects and wants to take control in the future. She is ambitious, but she knows that she has to grow bigger for the time being. It has to be prepared to cope with the independence, but also with the lack of security that industry in the country transmits.
She is obsessed with cups and likes the porcelain, whether Italian, English, Polish or Chinese. When it comes to it she has no limits. To quote her husband: “It’s like a jay, she is attracted by everything that shines.” One more reason to live in the Looking-Glass.
The Courage Book – book illustration