Some artists work with an arsenal of pencils and brushes, smudge with ink or smear more than they care to. Others instead go digital, like Aya Akbib. As a freelance illustrator and urbanist, she works mostly from her IPad, although she recently started scheduling daily moments to work in her paper sketchbook. "Drawing daily allowed me to regain the joy of drawing, something I had lost over the years," she says.
How do you get started?
Aya: "As a freelance illustrator and urbanist for an architectural firm, I work mainly via Procreate or Photoshop. During the process, there are no single sheets of paper or 'real' pencils or markers involved, but my full armoury of drawing tools is already in my IPad. This allows me to test many textures and erase things whenever I want. Although these drawings are far removed from my personal work, I really enjoy being able to use my drawings to communicate within architectural projects."
Where did you discover the joy of drawing?
Aya: "Although I loved drawing from a young age, I never really committed to it. After my studies in Marocco I studied Architecture in Brussels and Mons. There it was very important to draw correctly. That didn't quite suit me, just like the programmes I had to learn to work with. Suddenly, in my master year I got the assignment to make a drawing every day. I kept all those drawings, even though there are a lot of mediocre attempts among them. That daily drawing made me rediscover the joy of drawing, something I had lost over the years. In the beginning it was very difficult to draw every day: your mood and inspiration are very determining. And I admit, sometimes I didn't draw every day, and had to do two or three drawings a day to catch up (laughs). But over time, it provided a certain kind of continuity in my work."
Do you draw every day?
Aya: " It was only a few years back, during covid, that I started to draw for myself daily again. I realised that I had been drawing purely for my work for a long time. A bit of a sad insight, but I suspect it's something many artists experience. From then on, I really tried to put more effort into my own work, trying new things. Therefore, no matter how little or much time I have, I always try to schedule a moment. Then I go to the park or try to experiment with colours and textures. And in this, I give myself complete freedom. Just lovely!"
What do you prefer to draw?
Aya: "For my work, I draw digitally, but also always very detailed. That's why I just like to work very abstract in my personal sketchbook, and preferably with as many textures as possible. For instance, I had a small sketchbook in which I had recently started drawing again, but unfortunately I lost it while travelling. For me, the nice thing about a sketchbook is that each sheet of paper acts as a frame: you keep drawing until the sheet is full, and then move on to the next. Unlike my digital projects, you can't cross that physical boundary on paper."
Where do you get your inspiration?
Aya: "I never sketch precisely what I see. Even when I'm outside in a park. When I draw, I put together my image from existing elements that have nothing to do with each other individually. No drawing I've ever made, or at least in my own sketchbooks, exists in real life. There has never been a landscape that, no matter how beautiful, I wanted to copy exactly."