So, who am I? A human being? An artist? A woman? All of those? Yes, all of those seems like the best bet. After all, as Bob Dylan so succinctly put it, all of us contain multitudes.
My name is Kristel and I’m an illustrator, born in another century in a state that no longer exists. (It sounds a touch more dramatic than it is, but as I like the inherent mystery of the sentence, I use it wherever I can.)
After living abroad for 20 years now, I am among other things, also a permanent ‘other’. Born and raised in Estonia, I moved to Denmark when I was 18 and from there to Greece when I was 30.
My artistic career started with the move to Greece – I realized that this is what I need to do, when going through my old notebooks (I always carry one or two), I found the notes saying ‘paint more’, going back for nearly 10 years.
I’m definitely not a typical artist if such person even exists. I liked to draw as a kid, but it never occurred to me to consider art as a job. My background is working class, so art was something that people in books did. I was the first one in the family to go to the university though – after reading Marie Curie’s biography when I was 14 or 15, I visited the university open days even year until graduation. I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to study – everything seemed to fascinating. Story of my life really, I’m a generalist at heart and not a specialist.
Later in Denmark I luckily found my place, a university that encouraged the generalist approach and thus I spent 6 years at RUC (Roskilde University) getting my Masters degree in History and Communication. Art hadn’t even entered the picture as consideration yet. I had once taken the entrance exams to the Arts department at University of Tartu (which is my hometown), but hadn’t been accepted and hence I was quite convinced that I didn’t have the talent what it takes.
Nevertheless in Greece I tried again. By a happenstance I managed to come up with the necessary funds and then, not yet speaking a word of Greek I enrolled to Comics course at Vakalo Art & Design College in Athens. Despite being the only non-Greek at the course, the teacher accepted my meagre portfolio and for the first time in my life I was an art student. The most valuable insight I gained from that course was the simple sentence of my teacher – ‘Drawing comics is an 8-hour-pr-day job like any other.’ That changed my whole mindset. I was late to the scene, I was surely not one of the brightest stars in the field, but I could work just as intensely as anyone else if not more.
Ever since graduating from Vakalo, I’ve slowly proceeded on the path towards becoming a working artist and illustrator. Have I reached my goal? – No, not yet. Admittedly my generalist nature sometimes gets in the way – as I want to incorporate it into my artistic practice, sometimes a whole different approach is needed and occasionally I need to make it up as i go along. The path is the goal.