INTERVIEW: Igor Lazarevic on Blending Creepy and Cute in his Artwork

A self-proclaimed Slytherin with a love of Halloween, Igor Lazarevic plays with the concept of horror in his wealth of creepy-cute artwork. Taking some of the most famously scary themes and monsters, he weaves their essences into his adorable characters, resulting in some uncannily heart-melting little terrors.

As well as giving a host of pop culture characters his own personal twist, he also creates characters and stories of his own, with plans in the near future to bring them more fully to life.

We spoke to Igor to find out more about the inspiration behind his creations.

Kirstie: How did you get into art?

Igor: I started drawing when I was just a kid, and I did so by copying images from Disney colouring books. I also obsessively watched cartoons so I was always trying to draw my favourite characters. However, I quit drawing few years later and I completely pushed it aside until I was in my mid twenties. During that period I was dedicated to school and more immersed in writing, and reading books and comics, which probably later influenced my strives to combine storytelling and drawing. Couple of years back, I rediscovered drawing as I was going through some shitty period in life, and the rest is history.

Kirstie: Who were your earliest influences?

Igor: Probably one of the earliest influences that is still noticeable is that of Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm with their dark storytelling. I loved those gloomy, depressing and often bloody children’s stories. I mean, of course, the original versions of well know fairytales. They are seriously brilliantly gory and weird. I think that sparked my fascination about darker stories and how they look contrasted to something that’s supposed to be meant for kids. One of the earliest influencers are definitely Dylan Dog comic books, which I read religiously. I think those were my first contact with comics as an art form and a way of telling a story. Anime had and still has a big influence on me. But unlike most artists who love anime, I never drew anything in anime style, haha. I always get strange looks when I say that. Oh, and I almost forgot – Alice in Wonderland.

Kirstie: Who are your predominant influences now?

Igor: The list is long haha. I would probably say modern animation and gems like Adventure Time, Over The Garden Wall and Gravity Falls. They all have this theme of kids being faced with “adult” situations with complex moral conflicts and “seriousness” hidden behind colourful and seemingly naïve façade. I think that comic books as well have a big influence, maybe not in terms of style (even though I’ve been more and more experimenting with it), but definitely when it comes to storytelling and creating characters.

Halloween is a big influence, probably because we don’t celebrate it as kids in this part of the world, so now I’m overcompensating. Of course, I’m inspired everyday by many favourite artists I follow on social media who allow me to feed of their creativity. There’s just too many of them to count and I’m lucky to have a lot of them as personal friends as well.

Kirstie: What is your favourite material to work with?

Igor: Definitely ink and paper. I basically run on caffeine and India ink. My house is full of fine liners, brush pens and black stains. So just a simple brush pen and Moleskine sketchbook do the trick. I have recently transferred to digital art though, and I’m hooked. It does make my life much easier and house cleaner. But even with digital I try to keep that ink and paper vibe.

Kirstie: If you could design the poster for any movie, what would it be? What would your design be like?

Igor: It would definitely be Carrie. And of course, it has to be that prom scene. I would draw her covered in blood and surrounded by dead bodies while she smiles and waves as a prom queen she is. Or I would go with something cleaner. Just a bucket of spilled blood and ‘Carrie’ written in it, while we see the glimpses of trashed prom as the reflection in the red puddle. I’m a simple chap, after all.

Kirstie: What is the first piece of work you were really proud of?

Igor: I was really proud of my Edward Scissorhands drawing from almost the very beginning of my return to the drawing. I gave it to my best friend and I cringe every time I see it hanging on the wall. But at the same time I’m happy because it’s a reminder of how much I have actually improved. It’s important to look at your early work, especially if you feel bad about your skills and current state of abilities. You can easily see the progress you’ve made and that can be a good motivation to keep working and improving.

Kirstie: How have you changed as an artist since then?

Igor: Well, I grew a decent stubble, got a few wrinkles and I tossed my coloured pencils into the bin. I slowly but surely ditched colour and started focusing on line work and ink work, I minimised my style and took a big step away from my “Burtonesque” aesthetic. I think I’ve improved on anatomy, proportion and composition.

Kirstie: Your work blends the cute and the creepy, with very simple designs. How did you develop this style?

Igor: As it usually goes, I didn’t find my style, my style found me. It happened naturally and organically. It’s difficult to force things like that, you have to let them happen on their own. I always gravitate toward that childlike energy with the elements of horror. That’s why Tim Burton and Edward Gorey had a strong influence in developing my style. Slowly, as I drew and experimented with different media, my style emerged as it is right now. But I’m sure it will continue to change, as it should. I hate staying in comfort zones, and breaking them is the best way to improve and see your style evolve.

Kirstie: What made you decide to take traditionally scary subjects and make them so adorable?

Igor: I like to oppose elements of cute and scary. I want to create characters that are cute to look at, but as soon as you scratch the surface of their looks you’ll see how psychotic they actually are. There’s just that extra kick of horror once you find it in an unexpected place.

That’s why people are creeped out by dolls, or why small children make good horror characters. That cuteness, once brought into the context of horror, only amplifies the feeling of discomfort. It’s also fun to reverse that and draw a traditionally scary character or topic as an adorable scene. The juxtaposition of these elements gives people a new angle and perspective on well established themes.

Kirstie: How do you create art that is so striking and so simple at the same time?

Igor: Here’s a secret – instead of learning how to properly draw, let’s say – hands, you draw a mitten-looking hand and call it an “art style”. “That head is not too big for the body, that’s called an art style. Look it up” or “What do you mean my shading is not natural? Light works differently in this world I’m creating”. Have confidence about it and convince people you somehow know more about this stuff than them and voila – you’re an artist and soon some cool magazine will ask you for an interview. Just kidding, of course… (or am I?)

Kirstie: What made you decide to make your art so minimalistic?

Igor: I believe it was Coco Chanel who said that, before leaving the house, you should remove one accessory. I’m not a fashion expert, but I like this rule. It can get easy for an artist to try and do more with their art, thinking that more is better and that it somehow needs to be complex in order to be good.

Reality is that it can be much harder to simplify than to add more and more. There’s an unquestionable appeal connected to a simplistic art form, and I always gravitated toward it. I think that stems from my very early (and quickly snubbed) attempts at doing short web comic strips. I’ve learned that usually simple art and minimalistic look grab people’s attention. It’s a reflex response – you react instantly, and you ether like it or don’t. There’s no need for a deeper analysis and the response is immediate and honest.

Kirstie: You often draw your own versions of pop culture characters. What about a character will make you want to give them your own unique twist?

Igor: I need to have some personal connection to the character. It’s usually someone from my childhood or some new character I discovered and now I’m inspired to work on it. It’s fun to reimagine these iconic pop culture figures and show people how they look like seen through your eyes. Drawing characters I know little or nothing about can be a challenge, but sometimes I get commissioned to draw those as well, which is completely fine. That means I get to dig more and learn about them. Maybe I’ll even become a fan.

Kirstie: You’ve also drawn a lot of classic horror characters, from Cthulhu to Dracula. Who is your all time favourite horror villain?

Igor: When it comes to the design alone, it has to be Xenomorph. I mean, that thing is a beautiful nightmare fuel machine. But when it comes to more traditional villain, I would go with Annie Wilkes from Misery. I always liked villains that are grounded in reality, with no superpower advantage over their victims. I think that only makes them more devious.

Kirstie: Do you have any plans to develop a narrative around your own original characters and designs?

Igor: Yes. I am currently working on my first book. It’s a direct extension of my last Inktober project, but much more branched out. It will have illustrations and short stories that are centred around this small town inhabited by anthropomorphic pumpkins and their Halloween festivities. It will be in a style of a children’s book, but with a lot of gore, social satire and parody told in a very infantile way. I hope that the Kickstarter campaign will be ready for this October, but I bit a lot and I hope I won’t choke on it before everything is done haha.

Kirstie: Do you have any advice for aspiring artists?

Igor: I see a lot of aspiring artists on social media and one thing I’ve noticed is their obsession with the number of followers and likes. I feel that’s a big derail from their potential growth. If you focus solely on numbers, you are doing things the wrong way. Invest time and effort into your art, your development and your style. And people will gravitate toward that. Have fun with your art, play with it and just enjoy. Your audience will arrive eventually.

Also – reality is an illusion, the universe is a hologram, buy gold, bye!

We’d like to thank Igor for taking the time to talk to us! To find out more about his work, you can follow him on Facebook and Instagram. You can also buy his designs on clothes, homeware and accessories at his Threadless shop.


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