Community Stories, Design

Inside Illustration with Elements Author Spovv

Envato Elements author and professional illustrator Svilen Petrov gives us his top illustration tips, tricks and advice.

Portrait for Kelsie Rimmer By Kelsie Rimmer
Posted 23 Feb 2021
Inside Illustration with Elements Author Svilen Petrov

Over the last few years, the rise of digital illustration has opened up endless opportunities for illustrators to make careers from their craft. Evolving far beyond putting pencil to paper, illustration now has no limits – ranging from line art and watercolor to cartoons and vivid 3D illustrations. While keeping up with all the latest illustration styles is a surefire way to stay relevant, professional illustrator Svilen Petrov prefers to transcend the trends and stay true to his own unique style.

Meet Envato Elements Author Spovv

Envato Elements author Svilen Petrov – also known as Spovv – didn't learn how to draw from lessons. Instead, he developed his approach through self-directed experimentation. He’s worked in graphic design, 3D texturing, web and UI design, and freelance illustration, earning him an impressive and diverse portfolio

We sat down to chat with the Envato Elements author and illustrator to get his tips, tricks and advice on working in illustration design…

What’s your artistic background and how did you develop your creative style?

I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, but my career as a professional illustrator started just six years ago. I graduated from art school, and later from university where I also studied art in my hometown of Shumen, Bulgaria.

I wanted to be an artist, but unfortunately just having the ability to paint is not enough to do it professionally. A lack of friends with similar interests, contacts and places to be seen was also a huge barrier. I started working as a tennis court maintenance attendant, as well as a night watchman, waiter, bartender, and did my mandatory military service. Then in 2006, I got a job as a graphic designer in a garage studio. Since then I've been through 3D texturing, web and UI design, and in 2014, I became a freelance illustrator. That's why my portfolio is so diverse.

Thanks to the internet and portfolio networks, I gained publicity, made friends, and found clients. I didn't learn how to draw from formal education – the style I’ve developed is based on my perceptions and personal experiments.

When someone commissions a project from you, what does the creative process look like?

I provide my clients with clear outlines and a step-by-step process in writing. It’s good for both sides to have transparency and understanding; it creates peace of mind, which is necessary for the creative process.

I continue to research, observe, study, and inspire myself. Most of the time I sketch by hand first, get client feedback based on the initial hand-drawn sketches, and only then do I dive into digital for the coloring and the fine details. I am inspired by everyday events and people in real life. I like to create stories from them and have fun with the little things.

How and where are your clients typically using illustrations?

All kinds of places! Avatars are used by customers on their websites, as profile pictures on their social networks, or for their project systems such as Slack, Teams, Jira, etc. I’ve even had cases where my clients use them for their CVs, which I find very creative on their end! This type of illustration is one of my favorites.

Which brands do you think have it right in terms of illustration?

Dropbox, Mailchimp and Waze.

What’s your advice for creating unique work that stands out from the crowd?

Two simple things — develop your own unique style without copying others, and be patient.

What’s the biggest learning you’ve had from becoming an illustrator?

I've learned to be consistent and pursue my dreams. My advice is to not give up, and do not envy or compare yourself to others.

What are your go-to digital tools, programs, or techniques for creating your work?

I almost always start by drawing with a pencil or pen, after which I digitally complete my works in color. I use Photoshop, Illustrator, Wacom tablet, regular drawing paper, pen, and pencil. I try to have fun while painting. We have to accept our work as fun, otherwise we will lose our love for it.

What do you think makes a great portfolio? Any tips or tricks?

Show your process: customers like transparency. Accept that your portfolio is the biggest project! It will bring you customers, fans, and even inspiration because seeing what you are capable of will make you believe in yourself and improve your future work! And one more extra tip — keep your portfolio alive and always improve it, even including your old projects.

What trends do you think are having the biggest impact on illustration in 2020?

Illustrations on social topics and diversity & inclusion. From now on, illustration styles will become less unique but more relevant to what's going on in the world. I also believe that soon hand-drawn illustrations will become increasingly valuable and in demand.

Why do you think illustration has become so dominant online?

Because most illustration styles can be created very quickly. Often, market trends are copied, and through a few online tutorials, everyone starts to draw alike and make money. As I said above, I believe that this will change and analog illustrations will become more and more relevant to online businesses. We live in interesting times.

How do you see the future of illustration in the digital era?

Illustration will always be there, but its appearance will change. The line between analog and digital will appear. This will level-up the whole illustration community and illustrators will become much more creative. In the future, trends will not be the leading force, but instead the imagination of the artist will shine through. 

Feeling inspired? Catch up on the top trending illustration styles, or discover more Inside Illustration Q&As over at the Envato Blog!