Every character in SFG Magazine is unique. But when we happen to talk to the artist himself — everything reaches some other higher level, excites absolutely different emotions, forms an absolutely different story. In Lviv — the city of great atmosphere and beautiful landscapes — there lives and works a very talented designer and illustrator — Mihai Tymoshenko. A famous ukrainian last name and a little extraordinary name are telling us right away that Mihai's story and family take their beginning somewhere beyond the borders of Ukraine, but are connected with it at the same time. We have had a little talk with the artist and he kindly agreed to share some of his secrets, reveal his plans and simply tell about his life.
— Hello, Mihai! Could you please tell us a little about yourself? How did you, the citizen of Romania, happen to live and work in Ukraine?
— Hello! I really was born in Romania and also studied there at school and lyceum. I came to Ukraine to study at Lviv Art Academy in 2000. Long story short, my father had the Ukrainian roots and his last name — Tymoshenko. He did not know Ukrainian for he was born in Romania as well. I first wanted to study in Bucharest in Art Academy, but I failed the entrance exams, so there was time to come up with another plan — to study in Ukraine. I did not speak Ukrainian, but having Tymoshenko in my passport helped a little and i became the part of the student exchange program between Ukraine and Romania. My first contact with Ukrainian language and culture happened with Ukrainian diaspora and with the help of my Russian teacher, Virgiliy Ritsko. For now I have been living in Ukraine for 15 years. Having graduated the Academy I live and work here. But I travel to my Motherland very often and sometimes visit other European countries.
— Comparing art and the people's attitude to it in these two countries, what are the main differences, advantages and disadvantages?
— Ukraine and Romania are very much alike. Maybe that's because of communism influence, that continued in Romania for a long time. So in different times there was a different attitude to art. At present times it has become easier to show art in Europe and world in general for Romanians, thanked to the country's joining the EU. And a lot of art spheres have experienced a great step-up. For example the movie and theatre industries. My project Theatre — Portraits
has been created under this influence and I presented it in Romania during the great International Theatre Art Festival in Sibiu city. But generally speaking, yes, everything is very much alike.
— On your Behance profile there are a lot of wonderful juicy, emotional illustrations. Are these commercial or noncommercial projects?
— In the majority all my Behance works were created in a very short time and just for myself. Because the commercial projects are most often boring, plus I can't show them because they are usually advertising projects and are of the commercial property. I have worked a lot as a graphic designer and created posters, logos, as well as some brands, different concepts for calendars, flyers, catalogues. It was a lot of fun, but boring at the same time.
© Mihai Tymoshenko
— And again referring to Behance, a lot of pictures there are pretty warlike, we can see armour, fighting notes and battle topics. Where does it come from?
— Unfortunately, I am too busy to renew my works on Behance. And actually it is a kind of an experiment, that I was making for myself. I mean I was trying myself and orienting on the general audience at the same time. As a rule I have always worked for indie-games
not for AAA games
. So I was following the demands of the videogames industry while creating works for my portfolio. It is not the inner struggle nor it is a reaction to something. It is trendy and i follow it. I love video-games and play and read a lot about games too. It is one of my recent hobbies and a pretty dangerous one you know :) So the walike illustrations I created influenced by the movie and game industry. And generally speaking, our life is a constant struggle: for lives, ideas, anything. The life is usually built between the good and the evil, that live inside each of us and we always hope for the good to be the winner.
— Let's dwell to the graphic novels. How did the idea of creating such a big project cross your mind? Why Ivan Franko and why The Unpurposed Hero
— Oh that's a long story :) To tell the truth I was fond of comics first and art was only after — not the other way round. Once in my childhood i found some comics journal torn into pieces. I stack it together using the tape and I liked it very much. After that I went to libraries looking for other comics books and journals. I need to say that I could find only few of them at those times. After the Romanian Revolution in 1989 there was a big boom and romanian and foreign authors started to be published. The most popular books and magazines we had were Pif & Hercules
, Lucky Luke etc. Also the series of American comics about Mickey and Donald. But for some reason I do not remember a single one about the famous super heroes. May be at those times they were not of such value. As the time was going by, I started to collect novels and had a great set of different authors, among them are Gipi, Sergio Toppi, Tardi, Enki Bilal, Alberto Breccia, Enrique Breccia, Nicolas De Crécy, Frank Miller, Franz, Hermann, Horacio Altuna, Hugo Pratt, Jordi Bernet, Mike Mignola, Milo Manara, Moebius, Paulo Serpieri, Régis Loisel. Why Ivan Franko? I can not tell exactly. I wanted to draw a graphic novel about Ukraine, about Lviv. Once I met Kyrylo Gorishnyi, who is a co-author and publisher of The Unpurposed Hero, we understood that we have the common idea of creating a graphic novel. He was the one who suggested Ivan Franko and this novel.
© Mihai Tymoshenko
© Mihai Tymoshenko
— How much time did it take you to create this graphic masterpiece? How were the illustrations created what were you basing on? For the pictures have an enormous amount of details.
— We had been working for three years but this includes breaks. I always answer this question like this: eight months of very intensive work. But I might be mistaken. I did not count like eight hours a day. Usually I work for 10-12 hours and then take a few-day break. As far as detalization is concerned, I created a special style which is the characteristic of this particular novel. Since Lviv is a very interesting city in all aspects and architecture in particular, we wanted to show this treasury in our best way. Kyrylo is a historian by the way and i got all the necessary materials from him: photos, engravings etc. Plus he adapted the text, which is not very different from the original.
— Are you planning to continue with something like this work in the future?
— Of course. First, we are working on the second volume and finishing this story. Perhaps, there will be some other stories with the same character, but that will require our creating these stories by ourselves. It very much depends on the project's success. We will also publish two volumes as one book and probably in different languages. That what we are working on now. As for other Graphic Novels projects… I have a couple of those waiting for their time to come :-)
© Mihai Tymoshenko
— Tell us please, what inspires you? Are there any modern artists, who you value or may be those from the past, who you can call your artistic mentors?
— Oh, I am inspired by a lot of things and people. And every epoque has its artists and they are very different. I every sphere of art i have a list of the artists. I have already told you about Graphic inspiration roots. As for Concept Art, which is closer to my profession, i also have a separate list. If we are talking about great and famous artists, I love the Renaissance period and especially Michelangelo Buonarroti. I am also fond of theatre and movie. Here i have a very long list of my favorite directors and actors. Among the modern illustrators I like Kim Jung Gi
. We occasionally met last year in Brussels and even exchanged the books.
© Mihai Tymoshenko
— What tools do use as an artist? What is your favorite software or technique or appliance?
— To tell the truth, I have always been between two generations. Between classic materials and computer technologies. And right between two of these streams i started to tear myself. The time I still was not perfect with classic materials: watercolor, ink, easel painting, acrylic etc, here I was, sitting behind my computer, installing the new graphic editor. In 1999, when I entered the Art Academy i chose graphic for the lack of money. In Romania I studied painting and I thought to myself that if I receive the higher education on graphics, I will save on canvas and oil paints and will draw on paper using pencils and ink, which is a way cheaper. In the long run I stopped at computer and Photoshop.
— In our talk before the interview you briefly told about your work on video-game Counter Jour, which has received many awards in 2011. Could you tell us more about how you got into this project and what was interesting for you while you were working on it?
— I can call Graphic Novels to be my hobby, and my work is a concept artist. I worked with many projects. In 2010 together with the Contre Jour
developer we were working on two projects. And at that time I asked to create a rope that floats in the air. And occasionally he put two ends of the rope together and created a dark spot that could be moved. And it has become the main Counter Jour's idea. We closed those two projects and created one of the most successful Ukrainian mobile game. For the time of development there were only two of us. The developer himself was investing and promoting the project. I was also developing, making concepts and arts, UI and invented this great one-eyed character. My work lasted for around 3 months, but we went apart after. I have earned more experience and good reputation than money. And for some reason any award, diploma or medal for Art has still not reached me.
Later, together with the other progarammer, Petro Shmygelskyi, we founded Indi Studio that recently launched its first project Cardinal Land. We also have many new interesting projects that require a lot of work and energy.
— Tell us please about the Theatre-Portraits. What made you choose this or that character?
— First, I used to have my own amateur theatre studio
. It was founded in my student years in 2003. Its name was Cage and it included 10-15 enthusiasts. I was a director, an actor, screenwriter and mentor. As a couple of years passed, when only my wife and I started to work on the project, I renamed it into Tymoshenko Mime Theatre. Unfortunately, after the years of its existence, I did not have enough time to work on it. It is both pleasant and painful to remember those times: so much energy, naivety and dreams at one place. My love to the theatre, all the knowledge I got there made me go to some other visual space. So i created an exhibition of my favorite authors. We also attend theatre festivals every year and keep enjoying every sip of this kind of art. Maybe someday I will get back to it.
© Mihai Tymoshenko
— That would be really great to see you directing or acting in the future! But we also wonder whether you have a plan to go back to Romania, regarding Ukraine considers you to be its genius and proclaimer.
— I do not know who Ukraine considers me to be. It is a little dangerous to call oneself a genius. Even when people write or say something like that about me it was a little scarring. I think that I have a lot of work ahead and I have to show and achieve a lot more before I can accept this tag. I keep learning all the time. Now the world is changing so fast and I do my best to keep up. I have a lot connected with Ukraine: I married the Ukrainian girl and now we have two daughters who are also Ukrainians. I have been living here for 16 years, surviving as a student then and surviving as an artist now. I have got many projects, plans and dreams that are impossible to fulfill here without at least little funds, people's understanding and support. Thus, I have got a lot of unrealized ideas and closed projects. Whether I will go back to Romania? — I am not sure yet, but I’m saving the Romanian citizenship.
— And to finish it up, what a great artist, the owner of many awards and great reputation, workshop leader, Mihai Tymoshenko, would wish to Ukrainian artists who are only starting their way?
— To work, to create, to love and to live. To never stop learning and surprising themselves. The sooner they start — the better. Time does not wait for anyone.
© Mihai Tymoshenko
As we can see, seeming to be an absolutely ordinary person from the first sight, Mihai creates the unique projects, each of which gets a small piece of their author's soul and absolutely fascinates every spectator.
SFG Magazine wants to deeply thank Mihai for the interview and to those, who became interested in his art we have something more on the links below:
About The Unpurposed Hero
And lots of interesting videos on Mihai's YouTube channel
Interview and translation: Zhenya Shokun