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Words for Thought (Short Fiction Review)
The artist who designed this month’s cover of Apex Magazine, with an astounding 42.9k followers on Instagram, is Lenka Šimečková! She is an illustrator and comics artist from the Czech Republic who has a love for macabre, dreamy atmosphere, cats, and green tea. She studied at Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art in Pilsen, and now works as a freelancer, creating comics and illustrations for books and tabletop games.
APEX MAGAZINE: The drapery and human anatomy in your work clearly shows great skill. What artistic training do you have and what non-professional resources have helped you grow the most as an artist?
LENKA ŠIMEČKOVÁ: I studied graphic arts in high school and then illustration at the Faculty of Design and Art at University of West Bohemia in Pilsen. I had anatomy and classical drawing and painting lessons. It took me years to figure out my style and how to translate all that knowledge into it, so it would feel cohesive. I still struggle with it sometimes, especially when drawing new elements.
As for the non-professional resources, what has been helpful to me is watching other artists and their process, experimenting with new styles, and just generally watching the world. Try to figure out, search, and find other mediums, learn how to translate from one to another. Basically, just play with the silent language of shapes and textures, picking some and letting go of others. I guess it’s not exactly a resource, but that was what worked for me.
AM: Some artists draw inspiration from major world events, some from romance, some from their families, or the nature surrounding them. What aspects of your personal life affect your work the most?
LŠ: Dreams, for sure. I used to have really nasty nightmares as a kid and Mom told me to draw them as a way to process them. This is essentially what I’m still doing today.
AM: As an artist who does so many commissions, what kind of work do you make when you have time to create things for yourself? What is your favorite type of art to create and why?
LŠ: I love trying to capture the ideas, scenes, and atmosphere that appear right before the moment I fall asleep. I catch those shapes, compositions, and airless ambiance and then translate them into clearer lines in the daylight. I also love playing with character and costume design, drawing elegant but scary semi-monster ladies.
AM: You’ve designed tarot cards recently, which rely heavily on symbolism. What kind of symbols do you commonly use in your work and what do they represent?
LŠ: I do not put deliberate symbols into my work; I don’t knowingly consider them when I’m drawing. Instead, they appear in my mind as a part of the whole idea and I just let them flow. Only later I think about their meaning. It seems to me like a more intuitive and natural approach to symbols, based more on a gut feeling and subconsciousness rather than brain and encyclopedias. I get periods of time when I’m obsessed with one idea/symbol, wanting to draw in again and again, and only later I figure out why that symbol spoke to me during that period of my life.
AM: What is your favorite professional project you’ve ever worked on and why does it stand out to you?
LŠ: My favorite project is probably the Tarot series for Arkham Horror by Fantasy Flight Games. I’ve always wanted to make a tarot series, but I could never find spare time for it, so this was an ideal job. Tarot art is the type of project where artists can release their imagination and play with style and symbolism, so having an opportunity to do it as a part of an official commission was great. The art direction under Jeff Lee Johnson was very engaging and fun to work with. I had quite a bit of freedom in this approach. The mood and atmosphere I wanted to put into these illustrations matched the assignment, so I created them as I would have if it was a personal project.
AM: As an artist with such a large following on social media, what are the benefits and downfalls to creating for such a vast internet audience?
LŠ: I used to be very nervous when posting and sometimes I still am. My hand would shake and my heart would beat quickly every time I posted and refreshed the page. I questioned if my work was good enough and what the reaction would be. However, every kind message brightens my day. People reach out asking me for commissions instead of me having to reach out to them. Sometimes I get asked for advice from starting artists or they send a new creation inspired by my work. That side of social media, I love. The bad side is if I post something that I thought was good, like a really personal piece, and the reaction and engagement ends up being mild. Then questions as to why appear in my head: Was it badly drawn? Was it not comprehensible? Maybe the theme was off? Or was it just the ever-changing moods of the algorithm … One can never really know.
With years of experience, I stopped caring that much about numbers and pulling engagement, because it got just too overwhelming and started sucking the fun out of the process. Trying to keep up with the algorithms, having to post frequently just to appear on someone’s feed, dodging nudity censorship, being relevant with the correct hashtags and timing … I guess I got a little bit burned out by social media right around the time COVID began, so for the last two years I’ve slowed down with posting and I’m having a bit of a hiatus. Maybe waiting for when it starts to be fun and authentic again, instead of feeling like I’m putting up a front for the algorithms.
AM: Thank you so much, Lenka!