Interview with Illustrator, Sonia Kolner

How did you get started doing what you do?
You know in high school where everyone doodled in their notebooks? Some people drew really cool creatures or sick typography and shared it with each other. I kept my simple stars and circles to myself. I was always more interested in photography. This was until my sophomore year of art school. I knew I had to change my major when I would finish photography assignments quickly just so I could have more time to practice drawing. Photography was a great way for me to document memories, but I wanted so badly to create my own world from scratch. It did not matter to me that I never drew seriously before. I took the risk and switched to illustration. It is the best decision I have ever made because drawing is the one thing that quiets the noise and clears my mind.

How would you describe your creative style?
Being born hapa (half Asian, half white) has influenced a lot of my creative style. I am currently researching and exploring a mixture of both European and Asian ways of expression into my work. I love blending together the old school techniques of both cultures. Because of this, my work is always handmade and organic. I really enjoy the classical anatomy drawings that resonate heavily in European art, but also the mind-blowing stories, and aesthetics from Asian art.

Interview with Illustrator, Sonia Kolner on Jung Katz
Interview with Illustrator, Sonia Kolner on Jung Katz

What’s your inspiration?
The inner workings of the human mind/psychology, deep conversations, the complications of friendships and relationships, dogs, anything occult related, everything about Japanese art and culture (vintage graphic design and printmaking), the old masters such as Gustav Dore and Albrecht Durer, flora and fauna, anatomy; books, books, and more books, masks, vintage diagrams, the list could go on.

How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
All of my work is detail oriented but I have gotten the hang of working quickly. The bigger scale pieces take a week, and the others about four days or less to finish, whether it is pen and ink, or stone lithography.

How do you keep motivated?
There is so much to learn and so many new ideas to depict and blend together in my own way that it is hard not to be motivated. When I am passionate about something, I always delve deeply into research, and am in awe of the results I find. I stay motivated by constantly having the need to express my voice and reach out to people.

Interview with Illustrator, Sonia Kolner on Jung Katz
Interview with Illustrator, Sonia Kolner on Jung Katz

What do you want others to take away from your work?
My most recent series of work, was based on the Nietzsche quote: “There are no beautiful surfaces without a terrible depth.” The pieces portrayed emotions that are generally difficult for people to discuss. I left a guestbook out during my show for people to write in. An anonymous comment on the first page really hit home. Someone wrote that they related to a lot of the emotions, and that the pieces made them feel at ease. It made me happy to know that people emotionally connected with my work to such an extent that they felt the need to reach out and open up to me.

What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
You are much stronger than you think.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Anything that my grandmother has ever told me. However, my all-time favorite is “Always be independent.”

Interview with Illustrator, Sonia Kolner on Jung Katz
Interview with Illustrator, Sonia Kolner on Jung Katz

Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Only pursue it if it makes you truly happy. Another important reminder is to do your own thing and believe in it, because once you do and find a distinct voice, everyone will recognize it and nothing will stop you from succeeding if you’re passionate. Last but not least, work really, really, really, hard and keep yourself motivated.

What are your thoughts on art school?
If you are already great at what you do and you have the strive, passion, and connections, I wouldn’t recommend going to art school. It is a hit or miss. However if you are finding your footing and wanting to explore different mediums/ideas/ways of creating, etc. you may consider it for the experience. I personally enjoyed it because it took me to a completely different path than I thought I was going to take and I am forever grateful for that discovery. At the end of the day, there are a lot of successful artists/illustrators who never went to art school. It isn’t a must, it is more about the experience and connections. What you get out of it is what you put into it.

Interview with Illustrator, Sonia Kolner on Jung Katz

Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
I would love to just be able to be an illustrator for a long time. It helps me accomplish a lot of things at once. Not only would I just live my life being able to do what I love, but also share important messages with people through illustration and allow people to feel something through my work. I would be very content.

What art supplies do you use?
My main tools are crow quill nibs, ink, and a litho stone. Sometimes there are other mediums involved such as tea/coffee and bronze gouache.

Follow Sonia Kolner on Instagram and Facebook.


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