Hey Creatives: We Need You, So Throw More Paper Airplanes

posted in: Blog | 0

Like I was telling my friend Katie Waters, a foley artist and sound engineer, sometimes it feels like I’m throwing paper airplanes into the abyss.

I’m so thankful for all the private commissions I’ve gotten the chance to create for such great people. And I’m thankful for my part-time job at the printing center because I’ve learned a lot there. Meanwhile, I’m still looking to create commercial and editorial work. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ So I keep throwing my portfolio, resume, and post cards out there.

I was being a downer one day and said that people buy art as a luxury. Katie corrected me by adding that art is an escape. And she’s right. I like to escape and enhance my life with art all the time, through music, movies, books, stuff on the internet. When you work in a creative field, you have the ability to create an escape and enhance the lives of people.


In my other post I mentioned that it’s been a rough few weeks. Not to mention the freezing, nearly sunless Chicago weather. During times like these, I try to plow through it all with what I can only describe as, ignorant optimism: I keep saying that the weather is beautiful!

Getting featured by Design Juices and Land Rover, among other things, was awesome. Of course, it’s a nice feeling to be noticed and appreciated for something you love to do. It’s like being rescued from an island.

“Fool’s Gold” – Print

So, I guess you just gotta keep making and throwing those paper airplanes. For years. Eventually, they’ll land in the hands of the right people.

(Or maybe I should have said, “message in a bottle” instead of “paper airplanes” because that would have made more sense about the island rescue thing… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

Featured on Design Juices

posted in: Blog | 1


Design Juices features a lot of awesome illustration and design, and I’m so excited that my illustration work was featured alongside such great artists! My feature shares a some background info about my artistic influences and my project IllustrArticles.

You can read it here: http://www.designjuices.co.uk/2014/02/artist-and-illustrator-tanya-pshenychny/

Check out more features on Design Juices and follow on Twitter for daily inspiration.

Pass The Torch Of Creativity By Sharing Your Stories

posted in: Blog, Uncategorized | 0

One of my goals this year has been to write more and share more stories about illustration, creativity, and life. So far, I’ve been failing at that a little bit by not posting often enough. It’s been a rough few weeks since my last post that made it hard to fully focus on work.

Smoke sketch, part of an illustration in-progress.

There have been demonstrations and protests happening in my birth city, Kiev. My family that are there are alright, I guess, but they have been affected and are in shock, as well as the entire country of Ukraine. If you aren’t aware or don’t keep up with the news, you can Google for news and images of Kiev and Euromaidan (Independence Square).


Amy Ng is celebrating 6 years at her blog Pikaland and is giving away Issue #1 of her Good To Know zine series. It shares how artists deal with their setbacks. I contributed to the issue when it was originally published in 2009. You can check out my contribution on page 31. Here’s what I thought in 2009 was my stumbling block to creativity:

“My biggest stumbling block to expressing myself artistically is that I’m often taken too literally. I struggle with this because I usually don’t want to have to explain my work. The thoughts I put into the piece are my own and private and explaining those thoughts is like telling my life story to a stranger, to whom I just began to exist. I think my work invokes the feeling of curiosity, and just like lyrics of a song, my art could be interpreted in different ways, according to the individual.”

My views have changed within these 5 past years. I no longer mind if I’m taken literally and I don’t mind explaining my artwork. So, maybe that means I’ve made it past this stumbling block. Or maybe I misdiagnosed the actual stumbling block in the first place. That, the actual block, was me spending too much time focusing on the negative instead of the positive, and being afraid of what others might think of my artwork.

Long Stories - Print
“Long Stories” – Print

Since 2009, I’ve learned that “explaining” your work is just sharing your stories of life’s joys and heartbreaks. I, myself, love learning about other lives and I’m inspired by people’s stories. By sharing your stories, you’re passing along a torch that could inspire someone who needs it.

I’ve also learned I can focus more on positivity while accepting that negativity exists. It’s hard but not impossible. And I’ve learned to deal with the fact that I what I can’t do is control what others think of my work, just like I can’t bend spoons with my mind. Although, that would be a badass trick!

9 Before & After Sketches of IllustrArticles Illustrations

posted in: Art Process, Sketches | 0

This coming Sunday, my project IllustrArticles will have been running for 9 months. For fun, I put together a bunch of before and after sketches of some of the illustrations I’ve created for the site. The left side is the initial sketch of the idea. The right side is the completed illustration:

“Fool’s Gold” from 4 Awesome Reasons Why Thinking INSIDE The Box Gets You Ahead

“Bag of Chocolates” from 4 Awesome Reasons Why Thinking INSIDE The Box Gets You Ahead

“Pick of the Litter” from 4 Awesome Reasons Why Thinking INSIDE The Box Gets You Ahead

“Call of Nature” from Learn Your Life Purpose By Drinking Coffee (It took every fiber of my being to stop myself from calling this one “Call Of Doodie“)

“Flooded Basements” from 3 Reasons Why Your Flooded Basement Is A Great Thing

“The Pigeon Whisperer” from Average Heroes

“The Hygiene Genius” from Average Heroes

“Cups Of Royal Tea” from What Does Your Halloween Costume Reveal About You?

Drinking Game For People Sick With Colds

So far, I’ve managed to speed up my drawing process by cutting out some steps that I used to do. I used to draw the entire sketch with a non-photo blue pencil onto the watercolor, ink it, erase any showing pencil, and then do the watercolor.

Now, I just scan the small sketch, printed out a larger size of it, and then put that printout on a lightbox, and put the watercolor paper on top. From there, I ink out the lines right onto the paper with brushes. After that, I paint the watercolor. Sometimes watercolor goes on before the ink. Cutting out the steps of drawing in pencil on the watercolor paper has made the process faster and makes cleaner illustrations in the end.

Hear, See, and Speak Like A Crow in 2014

posted in: Blog, How To | 0


This New Year, I look forward to doing a lot of things. In order to stay on track with my goals, I’ve narrowed down my resolutions to these 3 basic principles. They are illustrated in my “Hear, See, Speak” crows illustration, that I created back in 2009 as a twist on the old “Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil” monkeys. To Hear, See, Speak more still stands true, and in this exact order.


Resolution #1: Hear more

– Listen to more music! I’ve already started on this a few years ago by trying to be more open and appreciative to different kinds of music. My favorite types of music have always been and still are classic rock and alternative rock. But 2012 was all about dubstep. 2013 has been mostly about Miley Cyrus. 2014 might just be Justin Timberlake. However, I can pretty much guarantee that I still can’t enjoy country music 😀

– Hear people’s stories, if they’re willing to share them. In order to hear better stories, ask open-ended questions. Who, what, where, when, why, and how – these type of questions are open-ended, where there is no “Yes” or “No” answer. Questions like, “So, did you drive or walk home?” are judging and limiting, and instantly create a disagreement with an answer like, “No, I somersaulted home.”


Resolution #2: See more

– Notice more good and beauty in yourself, other people, things, and events. In some of my experience, it’s been very hard to do but always worth trying. Spend less time focusing on imperfections, and focus more on the good traits. Often, even the bad traits are not really bad traits, but traits that are misused or the energy from those traits is misdirected.

– See more places. Go somewhere you’ve never been before. My goal this year is to visit a state I haven’t been to, yet. I’ve been dreaming of visiting San Francisco and California for a long time and will be making this dream my reality this year. The main reason I haven’t been able to go is because I didn’t have enough money. But once I made travel my focus, I saved up enough pretty quickly. And when I do go, I’ll be sure to write all about how I somersaulted my way there!


Resolution #3: Speak more

– For someone who doesn’t speak much in person, I do enjoy words a lot. Maybe you don’t speak out loud as much, but you write. Or you do any of these: sing, act, play guitar, dance, draw, photograph, video, program, play basketball, breathe. Your actions speak louder than words, so your contributions to the world ARE your voice. Since discovering my own voice, through drawing and writing, I’ve gotten even more opportunities to speak.

– With my artwork, this blog, and with IllustrArticles – I speak out my stories, ideas, and passions. In 2014, I choose to focus on this even more. Most of my life I’ve felt like something is wrong with me: “Why don’t I talk more? Do the people around me think I’m really creepy or stuck-up if I don’t say much? Why don’t I participate more in group discussions?” And then I write a giant blog post like this (and this final post isn’t even half of the length that the draft was.) This is an example of how to see the energy of a seemingly bad personality trait that was misdirected.


The result: Feel more

The point of actually practicing my Hear, See, Speak ideals is that I feel more happy, calm, and at peace. It’s harder for things to get me down or to annoy me. And I hope that by sharing my goals and experiences, it helps the people who want to develop these skills, too.

Truth be told: you can hear, see, and speak more clearly through rose-colored ribbons. So whether you’re sozzled or snoozing as the clocks strike midnight, I hope your 2014 is happy!

The Tale of Tattletail

posted in: Art Process, Blog, Illustration | 0

I’m excited to be a part of the SPECIES Showcase by Animal, coming soon to New Delhi, India. Artists were asked to create artwork of an animal. The only rule is that it had to be in the shape of the Animal logo. So, I created “Tattletail” inspired by parakeets.


The title of my Animal artwork is Tattletail, emphasizing the long tails of parakeets. When I was a kid, I got an aqua-colored parakeet named Kesha for my birthday. He was a sweet little bird, who learned how to talk and even tried to compose his own phrases. Eventually, he passed away. I missed him a lot. Years later, I did what any well-adjusted teenager would have done: I got a new aqua-colored parakeet and named him Kesha. But this one had a completely different personality and didn’t talk. That’s when reality hit me like a ton of bird droppings: No matter how similar the characteristics, each animal is unique and tells its story in its own way.

Additionally, here’s a tiny video I made that shows the drawing process and close-ups:

(Song: “I Like Birds” – The Eels)

Teaching At An Elementary School Art Class: Finally… REAL Super Heroes!

posted in: Blog | 0


Art teacher at Mossville Elementary, Brian Du Pont, invited me to lead on an art project for his art class. Because I worked on a bunch of superhero illustrations recently and Brian publishes his own superhero comic Pecos Bill, I came up with the idea to have his students create their own superhero symbols. The guidelines to create their artwork were:

1. Combine two elements in the symbol: One thing that scares you + One thing that you like or enjoy doing.

2. Illustrate your symbol using watercolor & ink.

The project was inspired by Batman, my favorite superhero. When Bruce Wayne became Batman, he chose a symbol. Bruce Wayne is disturbed by bats because he fell down a well full of bats as a child. He uses the bat as his symbol to conquer his fear in the processes. He projects this fear to become Batman and fight crime.

Brian had his students sketch out their symbols and draw the final art on watercolor paper. And the day I came to visit, I showed them a couple techniques they could use with watercolor and ink to paint their symbols.

2013-09-09 10.29.35

It was so awesome seeing in person what the students came up with for their symbols. They worked with their own ideas and caught on to the painting techniques immediately! And I am not surprised, because they are, after all, real superheroes. This was their works in progress:


Brian even took the project a couple steps further by having his students write a statement and frame their art:


Since all these super heroes are revealing their fears, it’s only fair that I reveal my own. It’s kind of embarrassing and makes no sense to me: I get social anxiety sometimes. That literally translates to “being afraid of people,” even though I love people. But just like with Batman, it probably has to do with things I’ve had to deal with in my childhood.

I’ve created different versions of my Razorberries logo over the years, but the elements within it have always been the same. Razor and berries.


The razor came from my childhood incident at a dentist. (It’s story time!) This was when I was 6 or 7 in Ukraine, and one of my back milk teeth on the left side hurt. My parents took my to a dentist at a hospital. As I was about to learn, there was no anesthesia for dental work or small surgeries in Kiev back then. There were two women in the room, the dentist and her assistant. I sat down in the chair and the dentist got out a pair of rusty pliers. Then she yelled at me for crying while she was trying to pull out my tooth. The nice assistant tried to calm me down and whispered to me with a warning to stop crying because the dentist doesn’t like children. The dentist kept pulling my tooth and I was screaming. The pain was unbearable and I can still remember the cracking sound of my tooth that echoed in my skull. She got my tooth out but I don’t remember much after that, until next morning.

My left cheek swelled up to about 3 times its usual size because the area, from which my tooth was extracted, got infected. My mom almost fainted when she looked at me. My parents rushed me back to the hospital… to that same dentist. That’s when the dentist got a razor blade and cut the infection out of my gums, again without anesthesia. Ouch. Surprisingly, the infection went away, and my face either went back to normal that day or caught up with the size of that cheek as I’d grown up over the years. But a permanent tooth, that was supposed to grow in place of the milk tooth, never did.

The berries are because I love raspberries. They are illustrated as hearts on a vine. They are for the love of life, people, and work. And the vine is for personal growth. Of course, I created the meanings of those parts only after I completed the inside part of the logo. I just like things to have good meanings.

The traumatic events of Bruce Wayne for his creation of Batman and my own events for the creation of my logo are just a coincidence. I learned the story about Batman’s and Bruce Wayne’s character after I created Razorberries (this website) for my artwork back in 2003. But this coincidence is one of the things that makes Batman my favorite super hero.

So about my social anxiety: When I’m being myself and when I do what I love – art & illustration, I forget about my anxiety. Fears cease to exist. Thank you to super teacher Brian and his super students for saving my life once more when they had me at their art class.

Adventures in Screen Printing as a Newbie

posted in: Blog | 0

There’s something magical and inspiring about being a complete newbie at something. And when I say magical and inspiring, what I really mean is awkward and terrifying. And that can be a good thing.


The Beginnings


At age 9, the only English word I knew was “Yesterday” thanks to The Beatles and my dad playing and singing their songs with his guitar. Today, I know more English words than Russian words (my native language) and naturally think in English.

At age baby, I drew stick figures wearing stick capes and imitated my parents’ cursive handwriting by drawing squiggly lines. Today, I like to think that I’ve become slightly better at the drawing and writing thing than I was back then.

I’ve learned that you’ll never learn something new unless you practice. And that you still won’t learn something new if you compare yourself to others.

While seeing lots of screen prints in the past few years by some of my favorite artists, such as James Flames, I became curious about the screen printing process. When I learned about the screen printing classes at Lillstreet, I took one.



The Teachers

This is Matthew, the screen printing teacher:


It may look like he’s pondering deeply about the great impact he’s making on the world by teaching people new skills, but something’s telling me he’s probably pondering deeply about the ingredients that would make the perfect beef sandwich for lunch. Not sure how I know this. Just a hunch, I guess.

This is Nora, the screen printing teaching assistant:


When she’s not teaching her own 2,483 different printmaking and textile classes, she assists other teachers, like Matt, and other screen printing newbies, like me.

She also likes the sky. Which is great, because the sky is awesome. Nora is running a project called Blue is the Sky, where everyday she, or another participant somewhere in the world, holds up a paint swatch that matches the color of the sky at that moment, and then takes a photo of it. In addition, she currently has a flag installation at the rooftop of Lillstreet called Interactions of the Sky.

The Lessons

This screen printing class helped me better understand printmaking and layering of colors. Plus, it helped me experience that vulnerability of feeling completely clueless about how to do something. Each of us are good at something, but only doing what we are good at can cause us to think narrowly. Those moments when we feel like we’re out of our comfort zone are an important part of personal growth.

At moments, I felt angry when I couldn’t remember the proper steps of the process. But I had to let that anger go and think about what I’m doing and try to remember, or ask for guidance, and keep going. Here’s a bunch of pictures from the various steps it took to create both of my prints:

And of course… The Mistakes

As a screen printing newbie, I made plenty of mistakes. It seemed like it was just unavoidable! As mentioned above, I kept forgetting the steps. Sometimes, it was the most simple things.

My favorite one is when I was getting ready to burn my screen for my “Shiptini” print, and used a fellow classmate’s screen by mistake. I didn’t realize my screen got moved and I didn’t think to check the name on it. So, for the remainder for the classes, I was known as Jonathan and he was Tanya.

The Results!

This is KLOUDZ, my first ever screen print using 3 colors:


And this is Shiptini (Or shipteeny), my second ever screen print, using 3 colors (which should have been 4 colors but I ran out of time for all of them)! Color-mixing assistance and title, courtesy of Nora.


My classmates created awesome prints, as well. Each of us were from different personal and professional backgrounds, and with different interests. It was a great experience to come together to learn this same screen printing process, and for each person to learn their own lessons and end up with their own results.

The Making of “Brainstorm” Illustration

posted in: Art Process | 0
Brainstorm – 11×14 Watercolor & Ink for IllustrArticles 3 Easy Steps To Total Mind Control

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain” – Vivian Greene

This might be one of my favorite illustrations I’ve done because of the spontaneity behind it. Most of my “brainstorming” happened subconsciously! It was created for IllustrArticles “3 Easy Steps to Total Mind Control.” The idea for the illustration came from a mix of a million things, such as:

– A thunderstorm that unexpectedly drenched me as I was walking down the street one day
– An apocalyptic dream I had, in which it was very windy on a field near a beach (similar to the one I live next to) and the sky was changing colors every few seconds (probably prompted by walking into that thunderstorm the day before).
– The Stepford Wives movie I watched
– I’ve been noticing cloud formations for about 2 weeks straight.
– Stress I’ve been dealing with around that time

I pretty much saw the gist of it the image in my mind before I even started doodling it, and kept making small changes as I went along. See if you notice them. These are some of the thumbnails and sketches I did, first:


And then I scanned them and arranged them in Photoshop, and traced my computer screen on tracing paper. This is the tracing paper line art and the finished art:

tracing paper lineart & finished illustration

I should have photographed this step, but I forgot! Basically, after that, I attached the tracing paper line art to the back of a blank watercolor paper sheet, and placed them on top of a lightbox. From there, I went straight to inking with a brush. Then, I used watercolor for color. Last, I scanned the finished illustration and corrected the colors in Photoshop so that it looked on screen just like the original.

New Illustration Blog and Art Process

posted in: Art Process, Blog | 0

New Blog!

IllustrArticles – Illustrated articles about important stuff.

I love reading blogs and articles about various topics and I’ve always wanted illustrate for editorials. I’ve done a few editorial illustrations for a newspaper in the past, and would love to do more for magazines, newspapers, blogs, etc. I also love to write. So, IllustrArticles is my way of indulging in both: illustration and writing, based on my life experiences and introspection about IMPORTANT STUFF.

About 2 weeks ago, I told myself that if I can think of 5 topics to write AND draw, I will buy the IllustrArticles domain name. It was up by May 2nd. So far, I’ve done 2 posts and working on more. If my sense of humor doesn’t make your eyeballs bleed, you can follow on Tumblr or subscribe to the RSS feed.

This Razorberries blog is just more of a place to read about my new art and peeks of my work processes, which I will post more of, now that I have IllustrArticles and I feel more organized. Speaking of work process…

Work process: Before/After

The following sketches and illustrations are the ones I created for my first two IllustrArticles (anyone getting sick of that word, yet?) posts.

Stiff Upper Lip - Before/After

Warm Hands in Cold Water - Before/After

1 2 3 4