First Impressions: Ukrainian artist Iryna Khymych on combining art and literature

 Iryna Khymych art.
Iryna Khymych art.

Ukrainian-born artist Iryna Khymych works as a freelance illustrator. Now living in New York, she is passionate about combining art and literature when painting strong characters and all things glowing.

If you're inspired by Iryna's ethereal artwork, check our guides to the best drawing tablets and best laptops for drawing. You can also take a look at our collection of the best drawing apps for iPad to bring your ideas to life.

Iryna Khymych art
Iryna Khymych art

Where did you grow up and how has this influenced your art?

Until I was 14 years old I grew up in a small town in western Ukraine called Irshava. I’ve been creating art since second grade and have always been fascinated with the human figure and portraiture. I remember art teachers telling me that I needed to know how to draw and paint other things besides people.

However, my real love of fantasy art wasn’t born until I watched The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in 2002 and discovered Donato Giancola’s work. It was there and then that I knew what I wanted to paint for the rest of my life: fantasy art.

What, outside of art, has most influenced your work throughout the years?

Nature and architecture. I bring my camera with me everywhere I go and have thousands of pictures that I’ve photographed of beautiful skies, incredible golden-hour lighting, moss, the shadow between two marble walls, water fountains and leaves. I try to look at the world with the wonder of a child and get inspired by the smallest of things.

Is there a painting that you saw in your formative years that changed everything? What was it?

Oh my gosh, yes! It was Donato Giancola’s Elegy for Darkness: The Lady Shalott. I was breathless when I saw this glowing white figure being carried by these men and a knight holding her feet; it’s just so exquisite! To this day it remains one of my favourite pieces of his and it was the painting where my love of all things glowing came from.

Iryna Khymych art
Iryna Khymych art

Is making a living as an artist all you thought it would be?

Everything and more! Every day I get up and I get to do what I love. How could this life not be the best?

How has the art industry changed for the better since you’ve been working in it?

You know, it’s really hard right now to see the good in the art industry with the rise of AI art. It seems like we, the artists, have to always fight and prove that our skills are worthy of being paid for.

That being said, I do love the fact that today you have so many resources if you want to become an artist. You have instructional videos, SmArt School, Schoolism and New Masters Academy just to name just a few. This has made becoming an artist much more accessible, and just browsing on Instagram today I’m amazed by these teens who draw or paint way better than me when I was their age.

Iryna Khymych art
Iryna Khymych art

What advice would you give to your younger self to help you along the way?

Be patient and practise a lot. I tell this to people who reach out to me for advice all the time. You may not see the improvement, but I promise you that if you practise and are consistent with it, it will pay off.

Tell us about your first paid commission, does it stand as a representation of your talent?

My first commission was actually with Tor Publishing and it was for their promotion of V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue, which is a book that I loved. It was absolutely perfect for me, because it combined my passions for both reading and painting. On top of that, it was such an honour to be included in a project with one of the best authors out there.

What’s the last piece you finished and how do the two differ?

The last piece I finished is actually for a group art show with the
WOW x WOW Gallery called Anna Dreaming and, honestly, looking at Addie and Anna, I’ve come such a long way. Sometimes it’s hard to see progress, but then questions like this make you look and evaluate your past work and compare the two, and you can’t help but see how you have grown.

I highly recommend this exercise for artists who think they aren’t improving. My edges, my values and my handling of the medium have significantly improved. Thank you to my mentor Howard Lyon!

Iryna Khymych art
Iryna Khymych art

What character or scene that you’ve painted do you most identify with?

I would say Dawn. I love painting Greek goddesses and this one just spoke to my soul. After all, without dawn things wouldn’t glow!

What’s your next step in either art or life?

I’d like to concentrate on loosening up my brushwork, on more value control, and on creating a better narrative in my pieces. That’s easier said than done! But I have no doubt that with the help of my mentor, Howard, I’ll be able to achieve all of my goals.

To discover more of Iryna’s artwork, head to her website or follow her Instagram.

This content originally appeared in ImagineFX magazine, the world's leading digital art and fantasy art magazine. ImagineFX is on sale in the UK, Europe, United States, Canada, Australia and more. Limited numbers of ImagineFX print editions are available for delivery from our online store (the shipping costs are included in all prices).