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Illustrator Kristina Tort

We are constantly looking for new and interesting ideas how to develop products and make them more exciting. We had an opportunity to work with a fantastic Estonian illustrator, Kristina Tort. Her profession seemed so cool to us that we decided to find out more about how to become an illustrator and what it involves.

What gave you an idea to choose the illustrator profession?

After high school, I started studying graphical design at Eesti Kunstiakadeemia. I had discovered this profession already in high school when we had an additional option to study graphical design. My tutor was Anton Koovit, who wasn’t that famous at that time. In these lessons, I realised that I would like to become a graphical designer. This feeling has still not let me down and I think every day that this is exactly what I want to do!

I discovered illustration a little bit later, at the final courses of EKA when Feliks Sarv joined us as a drawing teacher. Thanks to him, a lot of the graphical design students discovered illustration. Including me. Mister Sarv’s lectures were always inspiring and made us look for our own unique style. He asked all the students to forget what they knew about drawing and to draw in a way that makes us feel right. It was incredibly freeing and this is where my illustrator journey began.

In 2008, when I got a job as a junior artistic director at Estonia’s best advertising agency Kontuur, I had a chance to design Apovit children happiness vitamin packaging as a test run. I got the job and completed the packaging. This Apovit lion is my first launched illustration work.

After this, I had “Noored on hukas” poster (Singer Vinger and Tanel Padar & The Sun summer tour), which was so successful that people actually stole the posters from the walls. Then I won the “Viljandi pärimusmuusika festival” design and this is where everything started. I started to work more and more on illustrations and now I have been working as a freelancer for two years and mostly work only with illustrations.

rocking toy icebird
Kristina Tort designed us an incredibly beautiful ICEBIRD

What/who gives you inspiration?

I get inspiration from my surroundings. Besides graphical design, I also enjoy interior design. If I wasn’t a graphical designer, then I would probably be an interior designer. I observe what happens in the illustration field around the world – I am not trying to copy their trends but everything I work on is always done with a little bit different style from before. If I tried to get rid of this years ago and reach my own unique style, then now I have given up on that. In this way, I am able to test techniques without feeling guilty about it. Despite this, my friends always recognise my work on streets and in media. 

I remember when my friend asked me about Noorus On Hukas poster, that she wasn’t sure if it was my work or if someone tried to copy me. I am also inspired by other creative people, especially if they know how to make something with their own hands.

Since most of my illustrations are aimed towards children, then I observe what happens in the world of interior design and fashion for children.

Who have been your influencers and role models? Which illustrators or artists do you admire the most?

In Estonia: Ilon Wikland, Ulla Saar, Regina Lukk-Toompere, Marja-Liisa Plats, Gerda Märtens. I had the honour to meet Gerda this year through an illustration course at EKA. Gerda is a wonderfully inspiring positive person! If something thinks whether to take part in an illustration course, then you could take part just because of her alone!

Rest of the world: Tove Jansson, Ingela P Arrhenius, Marc Boutavant, Genevieve Gauckler, Parra, Andy Rementer, Beatrice Blue, Steffie Brocoli

What have been your most important works/projects that have determined the development of your own style?

Noored on hukas, Viljandi Folk brand design, children books Seiklusrikas Suvepäev and Seiklusrikas Sügispäev, large-scale illustrations on Saaremaa and Hiiumaa ferries of T/S Laevad and my biggest project to this date, which took me 1.5 years, Laste Vabariik.

Which criteria do you normally use to analyse your own work?

It is incredibly difficult to assess my own works objectively, every artist knows that. Usually, my process is creating the sketch manually and then scanning it to a computer. The next day I won’t do much on it, mostly just let thing set, see if I have the right feeling about the work. The following day I will go through it to see if I am on the right track. If it seems that I am then I will carry on, if not then I will start again. This setting technique suits me really well, as the following day I am able to take a fresh look and probably see if it needs any additions. Sometimes, I am really stuck then I let the illustration stay for a week if the deadline allows this.
I always show my works to my husband as well, who is also a designer and I highly value his opinion.

Since most of my works are aimed at children, then I also show them to my kids, 3 year old girl and 7 year old boy. I particularly value my son’s opinion as he says directly if he likes it or not, and what he doesn’t like.

In all of my works, I have tried to test something new, especially in recent years. For example a new technique. Lately, I have started to use more Adobe Photoshop, previously, I mostly used Adobe Illustrator.

How much attention to you pay to feedback towards your own work?

Feedback is an extremely important part of the project. I appreciate honest feedback, especially if it has been presented constructively. My best collaboration to this date with a client was around Laste Vabariik project. Without the feedback and revisions from the curators, it wouldn’t have turned out as awesome as it is now! Luckily, the older I get, the more I appreciate negative criticism, it helps me out of my comfort zone and also look at my work with a new eye, which could be quite difficult if you have worked on a project for several months.

What kind of projects are you working on now?

Many of my favourite illustrators write their own children books. There aren’t many good writers in Estonia, who would have developed a collaboration with an illustrator, so I decided to write my own children’s book and illustrate it. The book is basically ready, but not edited and the pictures need to be created, but if all goes well, then it could be published by Christmas 2019.

Illustrator Kristina Tort

Where could your works be seen?

My works are available at FB Kristina Tort Illustrations and behance.net/kristinatort