Drawing Characters from Everyday Life | Interview with Johana Kroft

Interview by Sarah Mills

Johana Kroft is an illustrator and designer coming from the Czech Republic. After living in London and establishing a studio Idea & Maker with her husband she is now working worldwide. Together they collaborate at a broad spectrum of fields varying from experience, entertainment, advertisement and technology. They bring unique visuals in the form of thoughtful craft and storytelling.

Interpreting her minimalistic style in both 2D and 3D worlds in various styles and techniques. Creating illustrations and motion design videos. Her personal work is elegant and poetic. Inspired by travelling, dogs and emotions.

www.johanakroft.com

On your website, you talk about your love of creating characters and the inspiration you take from your dog Panda. Can you tell us more about your characters and what goes into creating them?

I usually imagine an everyday situation that people know and can relate to. It could be sad, funny, melancholic, or romantic. And most of the time it's more than just one feeling.

I had always drawn characters as dogs or cats, even when I was a kid. My dog is a huge drama queen, and a lot is happening in her life. I'm trying to catch her feelings and situations and share them with people. She makes us happy every day, and I want to keep her character alive forever with my work. A mix breed of Parson Russell, sausage dog and maybe Whippet. That is unstoppable, smart, and scared of everything, a combination of feelings. She is very special.

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You have a very specific color, palette. Is there a reason behind your color choices?

I don't. I always start from scratch with every project, because different colors have a different feeling. I see what works and I build on that, keeping it minimalistic. I think a lot of color combinations come from traveling to a foreign country, but you can go to another city, neighboorhood or a street.

Of course, there is a lot of practice to it. Back in the days when I started with design, I didn't have an idea of how to combine the colors. Pinterest is a great source of inspiration. I use it for creating mood-boards. I look at old paintings from masters like Mattise, Paul Klee, Kandinsky or Picasso. One of the exhibitions I saw recently was by Lee Krasner, and I was incredible as I'm in love with abstract paintings. She is definitely a huge inspiration for me.

Another inspiration is Japanese culture – a minimalistic and very clean style with beautiful shapes. One book that I would recommend is A Dictionary of Color Combinations and one more that I like because of colors is Made in North Korea by Nick Bonner. You can explore many beautiful color palettes in books. I'm always looking for palettes that are unfamiliar to me and that I've never seen before. That's what inspires me.

Along with your personal work, you co-founded a studio. What inspired you to begin Idea & Maker?

Ever since my husband and I met, we'd had this idea to start a studio. We have always felt that our skills matched. He is more technical and likes precision, symmetry, and his decisions are based on reason. My decisions are based on feelings, and my work is emotional, colorful, and asymmetrical. But at the same time, we like the same stuff, such as nature, art, design, architecture, traveling, technology, animals, books, movies, etc. We are like 2 hemispheres of one brain haha!

Both of us worked together now and then on a few projects as freelancers, and it worked, so it just made sense to start a studio together, which was possible in London. We decided to make a website and take it very seriously.

Our first project was a 1-second long product video for Coco&Eve, which is a fantastic hair mask. And it was beautiful to work on a product that we also believe in. On top of that, the people were very cool, and we were given a lot of freedom. The project was very successful. We were featured on Behance and got more opportunities because of it. Watch the video here: https://ideaandmaker.com/cocoandeve

What we like to do is practice our craft on personal projects. We are playing with a combination of 2d and 3d animation. That's something we love. We also collaborate with other productions and agencies. We have an amazing relationship with Unit9. We helped them with a very cool project for Google. And we are very proud of it! We are a small studio, but because of our diversity of skills, we can execute more complicated briefs.

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On Idea & Maker's home page it says, "we craft stories," can you tell us more about your role as a storyteller and creator?

I am not the biggest fan of making roles in the studio. I have a feeling that anyone can be anything if he/she wants. Especially in the creative industry. I started as a designer - after a few years, I wondered if I could be an illustrator, art director, or maybe storyteller. My husband started as a designer, he was doing a little bit of illustration, UX/UI, he switched to motion design, then freelancing as a 3D generalist and now he's building his setups in Houdini. As a studio, we are always switching roles. I can be a producer, art director, designer, motion designer, illustrator, modeler, and storyboard artist in one day. I do everything from an idea to making it. It is all about learning something new every day, and I like that a lot!

We are always excited to approach a brief in a way we feel is right, and because we know how things are made, we can see where difficulties may occur. With that in mind, our building blocks are more stable, and we don't have any issues when it comes to production. 'We craft stories' means that we do everything from beginning to end, and the message or story is not lost somewhere in the middle.

What is currently a source of inspiration for you?

We go to galleries a lot! London's got the best exhibitions in Tate Modern and Saatchi Gallery. There is always something that pushes you or inspires you on the next level when you are open to new experiences. I'm reading Brief Answers to the Big Questions by Stephen Hawkings at the moment, and it's definitely something that inspires me a lot. I'm also motivated by talks. Seeing people's hard work is very important to me.

We have decided to move out of London for a little while and explore the world, so I am totally excited about what the future brings. We want to meet people from different countries and cultures. I love new stories and new beginnings. I have never been scared to start something new when I feel uninspired. The last few years I have only lived in cities, and while there are many new impulses, it can sometimes feel like too many. Now I have a feeling that we need to absorb that, explore a bit of nature, and find a new beautiful.