Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Kristen Vardanega, I am a 28-year-old artist and illustrator based in Salt Lake City, Utah. I share my work under the moniker Little Tiny Egg, and my work can be found at littletinyegg.com, or @littletinyegg on social media.
Why do you do what you do?
Simply put, I love making things and I love making people smile. I inject a lot of my perspective and humor into my work. When I started doing observational work like sketching things from my daily life, the world around me came alive. I started seeing colors and compositions that sparked my interest everywhere- that perspective and joy are invaluable to me.
You use so many vibrant colors, do you have any that you favor?
I love color! I am most inspired by combinations, especially those that I find in nature and the landscape around me. Periwinkle skies, peachy rocks, and lush green landscapes are some of my favorite things to depict.
What inspires your art?
So many things! I find myself most drawn to create after spending time outside hiking or biking, my experiences in nature inform everything that I do. I have always loved illustrated books, vintage scientific illustrations, zines, tarot cards, graphic novels, block printing, bugs, birds, Swedish textiles, and ornate cowboy boots.
How and when did you get into art?
After my parents noticed I could draw alone in my room for hours at a time, they bought me a sketchbook at the age of six, and I have kept one ever since. I studied graphic design in college, finding my stride in digital art and illustration, but my physical sketchbook practice is what grounds me and informs everything I make.
How has your practice changed over time?
I used to create somewhat irregularly, and typically only with a finished project in mind. These days, I try to make art on a more regular basis, even if there is not a set purpose or design intention, aiming for a daily sketchbook practice where I can pull from an array of ideas to make more finished or thoughtful pieces.
What’s your favorite piece of art that you’ve created? Why?
Oh, such a hard question! I feel like my most recent work is always my most favorite. I recently finished a commission for a friend’s son’s bedroom that I really love. It is a gouache painting that combines some photos I’ve taken in my favorite places in Utah and Montana with a figure inspired by a picture of my partner. It’s a special piece, I’m glad it will live in somebody’s home who I know and appreciate!
What’s the best piece of art advice you’ve been given?
Someone once told me that in order to be taken seriously as an artist, you have to be prolific. Making a large body of work inevitably creates ties between pieces, pushes your skills, and teaches you what you like. Whenever I get caught up in trying to make my latest work a masterpiece, I remember that my art isn’t one singular painting, it is my entire body of work, and my job is to keep editing and adding to it.
What’s one art tip/technique you can share with us that you find really helpful?
Keep a sketchbook! Draw everything and anything, without judgment or planning. I like to draw with materials I can’t erase, like colored pencils or pens, which leads to a lot of interesting choices and problem-solving (and “ugly” drawings too!).
Do you have any secret tips or techniques you use to salvage a piece when you make a mistake?
If a piece is lacking something or feels too flat, I will take a picture of the piece and convert the photo to black and white, which helps me see the values better. If something is truly ruined, there is no shame in turning the sketchbook page or starting over, multiple iterations of the same subject are normal and vital to the art-making process.
What is your favorite Strathmore paper? Why?
I love the 500 Series Mixed Media Softcover Art Journal! They are my favorite sketchbooks for painting in gouache and watercolor. I have also been playing with the Toned Tan Mixed Media paper, which is super thick and has a nice warm-colored ground to paint on!
What art materials could you not live without?
I would have to say gouache paint, I could spend all day mixing colors, and its water-based nature makes it easy to travel with and clean up. For sketching, a nice juicy brush pen in black or sepia is a must-have.
What types of colors are you drawn to for your art and why?
My favorite color right now is green, I love how many variations there are, and notice greens all around me in nature. I am also inspired by the many different colors of the sky, from light pink to deep blue-grays.
Who are your biggest influences?
I was really inspired by illustrated books growing up and loved the loose figurative drawings of Quentin Blake, Eric Carle’s textured cut-outs, and the charming illustrations in Antoine de Saint-Exupery’s The Little Prince. We had a few Monet prints hanging in my childhood home, and I would lose myself in the brush strokes and color choices.
More recently I’ve found myself drawn to the work of John James Audobon, Hilma Af Klint, and Carson Ellis. All of the artists I follow on Instagram inspire me and inform my work every day!
What’s the most common art-related question you get from your followers?
The most common questions are about the sketchbooks I use to paint in, which are the 500 Series Mixed Media Sketchbooks from Strathmore. I also get questions about how I make so much work, which just comes down to my routine. I make sure to sit down for at least 30 minutes every day to draw, even if it means setting a timer and throwing my phone across the room!
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