Illustrated by Darya Shnykina
Product Details: Bound in printed and blocked Elephanthide paper • Set in Utopia with Victoria Titling as display • 280 pages • Frontispiece plus 6 full page colour illustrations • Plain slipcase • 9˝ x 5¾˝
In these 13 short mysteries, gentleman sleuth Albert Campion is on hand to assist friends, acquaintances and Scotland Yard with a rogue’s gallery of criminal conundrums.
To celebrate the release, we caught up with Moscow based artist and illustrator Darya Shnykina – winner of the 2017 annual Book Illustration Competition (run by the House of Illustration and The Folio Society) for her work on The Folio Society’s edition of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park – to discuss the illustration process, discovering Margery Allingham and the influences of Russian culture.
Tell us a little about your background? How did you get started in the industry?
I learned about illustration when I was choosing University. I wanted to study Arts but didn’t feel very comfortable with Fine Arts or Design. It’s funny but as a child I never thought much about the beautiful illustrations in my favourite books, and never imagined the person who drew them. I discovered the Illustration Faculty accidentally when I was browsing through different schools in Moscow. It just clicked in me when I read about this profession. I felt like this is what I want to do. And I’m very happy with this decision.
There’s a quote from a Victo Ngai interview: ‘Fine artists like to create problems for themselves while illustrators like to solve problems given to them’. So true.
When did you first discover you had a talent for art and illustration?
I’ve been drawing my whole life more or less. My mom always encouraged it, especially in my childhood. We played with lines and colours, trying to capture impressions in pictures. When I was inspired by something, I always wanted to sketch it. So this habit just stayed, I kept on drawing.
You have a very unique and distinctive style. How would you describe it and how did that style develop?
That’s very nice, thanks. I would say that we have a very strong Russian Classic Academic School of Fine Arts. It was impossible to escape realistic drawing studies when I was a student. I’ve noticed how it defines your style – you can’t resist it. My personal intention was to learn how to let it go. Not to limit myself by academic rules. I’m not interested in drawing something the way it is, I want to express how I feel about it. So I guess I use my drawing skills and try to create something fresh and laconic, while being very honest in putting my feelings into it. My first illustrations used to be more messy in lines and textures, darker in colours. It’s satisfying to see how much the mental state of an artist affects her drawing style. The older I become the better I understand myself in many ways. Now I’m more peaceful and confident, and so are my illustrations. I also pay more attention to the energy I’m translating in my work. I want it to be full of hope, kindness and beauty. Just the way nature is.
This is your second collaboration with The Folio Society. How did the first come about and how has this project differed from the first?
I won the Book Illustration Competition in 2017 and received a chance to illustrate Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. It was a great pleasure and honour for me since I was almost living by Austen’s novels back then. It is my fairytale story. An amazing opportunity for a second-year student from Moscow. It launched my career in many different ways. It was my first commission, and I used every part of the process as a chance to learn from the best professionals in the Industry.
Were you familiar with the work of Margery Allingham before you were offered the project?
No, I had a pleasure to be introduced to Allingham’s work for the first time and I loved it. I’ve always been very into mystery and crime fiction. I read every piece by Agatha Christie many times. I was very excited to be working on the book.
How did you go about selecting which parts of the novel to illustrate?
In the beginning I was a little distracted by the coziness of pieces. British countryside, streets of London, vintage looks and interiors always make my heart beat faster. But with the first drafts we realised that there wasn’t enough crime. I had a personal challenge to not only make it beautiful, but also intense and mysterious. I remember feeling like I was growing as an artist every step of the way. It was a very meaningful experience. We were mainly choosing the plot points with something obviously criminal and intriguing in it.
How do you decide on the best colour palette to match a particular project?
It usually depends on the mood the client needs to achieve. If it’s active and happy – choosing from saturated colours, if something melancholy or sad I stick to greyish cold palette. I usually start putting the main two colours on a canvas and then look at what else it might need. You can easily see that all of my illustrations are just opposites of cold and warm shades.
Can you talk us through your illustration process? How do you prepare and what materials do you work with?
It’s pretty simple — first I make some pencil notes and a rough storyboard in my book. The main process happens in Adobe Photoshop. From sketches to finals everything is completed digitally. People always say that there’s a sense of traditional materials in my artworks, but there’s no magic there, just digital brushes. I always save everything I see on the internet – all beautiful pictures of places, things, and people – and I always keep my favourite books and magazines nearby. It’s very important to be in a good mood when I’m working, and to have a folder of lovely references to hand.
Who would you say have been your main inspirations and influences throughout your career?
On the early steps of my career I was very inspired by Victo Ngai. Not only by her beautiful illustrations, but by her productivity and professional success. I love Magoz’s working attitude and his intelligent ideas, and I always lose a sense of time when looking at Karolis Strautniekas’s artworks.
What have been your favourite projects to date? Can you tell us a little bit about your ‘Places I’d Love to Live In’ project?
It was inspired by the Taschen book Cabins which I love. There’re a lot of beautiful photos and illustrations by Cruschiform Studio. I was curious to try and illustrate those scenes myself. I feel very comfortable when I draw natural motives and landscapes. And lately I’m just obsessed with modern cabins. I have tons of pictures saved everywhere online. Combining these two things felt like a perfect fit. The artworks turned out very sincere and peaceful. I really enjoyed creating it and I’m happy that it met with such great feedback on internet. The project was listed in the Best Illustrations of 2020 by Creative Boom.
You are based in Moscow. How has Russian culture influenced your work?
This is a question that needs such a deep self-exploration, I’m afraid I can’t really answer it yet. For the most of my life I’ve seen how different I am to the local culture. I believe I could say it affects the maturity of my work. I’m very serious about illustration, because my life depends on it. I can’t afford much doubts on myself or my style. I better work and keep creating no matter what. And that’s a pretty good development stimulation.
What do you love most about living in Moscow?
I’m grateful for the local volleyball community here. It’s very easy to start playing; lots of playgrounds with equipment around the city. I’ve met so many great people and friends thanks to volleyball. I’ve also found that the key to my constant creativity and happiness is physical activity. Now I’m training and playing at least few days a week.
What advice would you give for anyone hoping to pursue a career in illustration?
I’m afraid I haven’t gone so far yet to advise in pursuing a career. But I know how hard and scary it might be sometimes, especially at the beginning. And I can say that it always pays back when you are doing what you love. Just enjoy the process and be grateful. I know I am.
What’s next for Darya Shnykina?
I just wish to keep developing and creating beautiful things.
The Folio Society edition of Margery Allingham’s Mr Campion and Others, illustrated by Darya Shnykina, is available exclusively from