There’s no such thing as being bad at drawing: an interview to Sibba Hartunian

Bad at Drawing is about the process. You already know that. When I started I had a lot of questions in mind – how do you develop your own style? How do you achieve a satisfying creative process? Am I the only one struggling to create? – and I thought writing my own experience would be a good way to start giving some answers. Until I felt ready to turn my questions to someone else.

That moment has arrived. Today I’m publishing the first interview to an illustrator here on the blog. Let me introduce you to Sibba Hartunian. We’ve been following each other on Instagram for a while (years, actually) and I saw her developing her own style (although she says she doesn’t really think she has one) through illustrations, books, and zines (zines that have been recently featured on It’s Nice That). Her experiments with collage, pencils, gesture, paintbrush are something that inspires me very much for their freedom and originality. I asked her to give me a little insight of her work and here’s what she told me.


Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? When did you decide you would become an illustrator?

I was born in Los Angeles, and after living in a few different cities in the US, settled down in New York about five years ago. I have always been into art and drawing (my mom is an artist) but started to take it more seriously as a career just a couple years ago.

How does the creative process work for you?

It depends on what I’m working on. If it’s a children’s book I usually start with the text then go back and forth between text and images. There’s a lot of planning involved. The zines happen a lot more organically. I’ll usually think of a topic or theme and just start drawing whatever comes to mind.





What do you do when you get stuck?

Sometimes I force myself to just keep going but I’ve realized that I usually just get more frustrated. I think it’s good to take breaks and do something else to give your brain a rest and restart.

Among your works, what’s the project or the illustration you’re more proud of?

This is a very hard question! I’m not sure. Possibly my two latest zines: Sharks and Snakes because they were the most fun to make. I thoroughly enjoyed the process from start to finish: drawing, printing, and binding the books. I think creating something “just for me” also lessened the pressure and allowed me to enjoy the process more fully.





Your style is quite experimental. What do you enjoy most of it and what’s the hardest part of it?

I actually can’t really pinpoint my style (maybe it’s harder to notice in one’s own work). I think I am always trying new methods and media. I would say that is my favorite part – experimenting and trying new things. But that is also the hardest part! Sometimes it’s hard to get focused and settle on a “style.” But maybe that’s not important anyway.

If you could come back to when you started working as an illustrator and you could give your younger self a piece of advice what would that be?

It wasn’t that long ago so probably the same advice I would give myself now! To loosen up and enjoy the process instead of focusing on the end result or how you want an image to end up looking.





Your favourite subject to draw?

I really love drawing people and animals.  I love trying to capture the individual personality or character of each person/animal.

Is there anything you can’t draw or you don’t like drawing at all?
Hmm not really.  Maybe it’s the teacher in me but I don’t think there’s a such thing as being bad at drawing! I don’t think things necessarily have to look realistic for them to be good. Everyone has their own way of interpreting what they see. If I had to choose my biggest challenge though I would have to say it is coming up with interesting compositions.
Story, Work

36mountains, or Falling in Love with a Sketch

I’m starting this blog with the story of a mistake.

It was last summer and I was working on a project for 36mountains exhibition (here all the information about it). I had been asked to fill a concertina notebook with black and white drawings about mountains – free interpretation, free media. I took some days for sketching and deciding what I would be drawing. Then I started.

My sketches looked like this.



04 copia


I had overlapped different layers of paper – I didn’t mention it had to be tracing paper, like the pages of the notebook – and I used paper scotch tape to be able to move every part as I pleased. The goal was to recreate the flexibility of Photoshop, a software that I had been working a lot with those days, while dealing with the fact that the notebook had to be “the” original: no prints were allowed on it and, most of all, no mistakes.

I designed my sketches with extreme care, calculating the exact position of each element: nothing had to change in the final work, it would have been just a matter of relaxing and copying. Then something happened.

Has it ever occurred to you that, no matter how much energy and precision you put in the final work, the sketch always looks better? My teacher at the illustration school used to call it “falling in love with the sketch”. It’s a kind of love, I think. It’s probably the lack of pressure, the fact that the sketch is yours and potentially nobody can see it; or it’s the feeling you have when you’re sketching. However, the sketch is special, it has a magnetic roughness and, unfortunately, is irreplaceable.

And here comes my mistake. I convinced myself that I could actually reproduce my sketch. The secret, I thought, is in the paper cuts: it’s this way of mixing drawing and collage that makes the sketch so powerful. I bought a very expensive spray glue and, proud of my discovery, I started drawing and then pasting paper cuts as in the sketch. The result was, of course, terrible: it had nothing of the plainness of the sketch, it was just a bad collage.

I hurried up to remove all the paper cuts but the glue was still there. It took me three days to dry it under August’s sun. The pages were still sticky though. I closed the notebook and put it in an envelope, hoping my addressee would be able to open it. Luckily she did.

Here are a couple of pictures of the exhibition (in the second one you can see people actually looking at my notebook, a photo that honestly made me feel relieved).





The notebook looked like this.







Needless to say: if you’re in Rome and you need spray glue hit the “contact” button and I’ll reach back.