[EN] INSPIRATION: The stories behind my illustrations
5 love-illustrations and the stories behind them
“Where do you get your inspiration from?”
It’s the most frequent question I get asked by those who come across my art. And I know for sure that eyes are totally rolling sometimes when I answer:
• From my life and experiences, from love and from folklore.
• That mundane? But your world seems so magical!
It seems trivial and shroom-free, yes, but it’s very true. Over the years I got to a point where I’m able to immediately extract images and sensations from my experiences and instantly think about how I would draw and convey my feelings in that particular moment, how I could keep that magic alive in my memories and the memories of those who see my illustrations.
And because it’s the month of love (although love should be celebrated anytime, anywhere, no matter the occasion, because when it’s right, it’s all we need), I thought of explaining the process behind 5 of your favourite illustrations from my portfolio and, in this way, making you part of the moments that inspired them.
1. NIGHT SWIMMING
The inspiration for “Night Swimming” has a very precise geolocation: the D’Arienzo beach on the Amalfi Coast. That’s where I and Daniel, my husband, spent a late afternoon during our honeymoon and he taught me how to swim. It might sound bizarre, since I grew up in a city by the seaside, but until 2016 I never swam and what is more, the sea meant nothing to me. Well, that afternoon, everything changed.
Maybe it was his patience and my enthusiasm, maybe it was the little breaks in which we would eat peaches at sunset, but that small beach, crammed at the bottom of a cliff, where if you laid back and opened your eyes, you’d see the lush vegetation pouring upside down over your head - that beach remained our spot, to which we always go back, where nostrils fill up with the scent of lemons and salty water, the skin remembers the touch of cold water and fingers rummage through rocks, while the heart beats as fast as the last time we felt there was no one else but us on an Amalfi Coast beach.
2. TO THE MOON AND BACK
What I love most about these illustrations is that it was actually our wedding invitation. It was initially created with this sole purpose in mind, inspired by the fact that Daniel and I met at a tango class and we really wanted to keep dancing together both at the wedding and happily ever after, as long as our knees shall last.
Afterwards, all the couples who would contact me to create their wedding stationery, they were all asking for this illustration, as it spoke to them in an emotional way, despite not knowing its initial purpose. I found it very endearing that something so personal can turn into a universal love story, in which most couples would find themselves, twirling hand in hand to the moon and back.
So, I kept the original illustrations and a year later I decided to offer it as an art print in the shop and it quickly became one of the favourite illustrations for new couples, new homes and new love stories.
3. BISERICA DE BRAZI / The Fir Church
“The Fir Church” is not our story, but it is a crumb of love, so old and special, that I wish we remembered to cherish this feeling like our great-grandparents did. Both Daniel and I have a special affinity for traditions, so he’s always encouraging me to overcome the shallow threshold that formed during these past years around traditional patterns and instead to go back to old books and studies in order to indulge and expand my passion for illustration inspired by Romanian heritage, beliefs and customs.
That’s basically what happened here, too:
In Romanian folklore, forests, trees and especially fir trees have a very powerful - almost religious - connection with the man, accompanying him throughout the most important moments in life. “The Fir Church” was a cluster of fir trees planted in a circle or cut off in a similar shape in the mountain forests, where shepherds would marry girls against their parents’ will. They would come to the sheepfold and the ceremony would be officiated by an old shepherd or sometimes even by a priest. The couple would have as witnesses to their union the stars of the night sky and the treetops closing around them like a temple of God.
And this seemed to me the simplest and most beautiful celebration of love on earth.
4. ADAM & EVE
The story of this illustration goes like this: I was once in a beautiful masseria in Puglia and everything around me was bliss. There was a huge fig tree in the courtyard, in the shadow of which a table for two was set for lunch.
While we were walking around, marveling, a fig leaf fell right at my legs - it was perfectly cut-out, crisp and rough; I took it and I saved it (I carry it with me in my wallet every day as a reminder of that wonderful day) and the thought shot through my beauty-drunken mind: what if Paradise started here and Puglia gave Adam and Eve their first fig leaf? What if this land, that I am so in love with, witnessed the First Love and hid it from the world for a while, so that it could grow and travel through time?
5. THE LADY AND THE LION
“The Lady and The Lion” was the first illustration I painted right after Daniel proposed. Cheesy, I know, but for me it was the best way in which I knew how to record this beginning.
A lot of you may not know this, but “Leu” ( “lion” in Romanian) officially became my last name after marriage, after some insight negotiations between the desire to bear my lover’s name and the vanity of an artist name which I believed important. I decided to keep the old “pen name” in order to avoid confusions and endless explanations for those to whom I already wasn’t offering too much of my personal life (by way of proof, all my ex-boyfriends received congratulations for the wedding), and keep the Lady Lion for my Mr. Lion, in a world where we think we know everything about everyone, but we still have so many missing pieces. And this is a thing I continue to enjoy so much...