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Student Spotlight | #01 | Daria Kowalczyk

Welcome to the first student spotlight of the year! Each week we’ll be talking to one of you to find out more about yourselves and your practice! This week’s feature is Daria Kowalczyk, a Level 5 Visual Communication student and the illustrator of this year’s Exec portraits.


STUDENTS’ UNION [SU]: What would you say is your ideal job/future plans?

DARIA KOWALCZYK [DK]: Hopefully to have my own alpaca sanctuary or farm.

SU: How do you turn off from doing your work?

DK: Mostly by cooking or making a big cup of green tea and sleeping.


SU: Now that they’re out of the way, tell us about the type of work you produce?

DK: Mostly digital graphics or illustrations.

SU: How do you come up with your ideas?

DK: Usually at the last minute, in the least expected moments. However, it often comes after a lot of research, wandering thoughts and ideas.

SU: Well in that case, who, or what, would you say has inspired your research, work and style?

DK: To be honest, the list is never-ending. I love the simple, yet extremely creative Polish graphic design from the 50s to 80s. I'm influenced by the detailed illustrations of Mateusz Kolek and striking collages of Roger Mattos. I draw inspiration from my surroundings too, whether it's nature (particularly flowers and moths) or architecture. I also find that the incredibly diverse work of my fellow students gives me the courage to experiment, especially when it comes to my visuals and statements.

SU: I guess inspiration really is all around us and it’s limits never end. It’s great that you’re also inspired by your peers. In an environment like the University where you all work so closely with one another, I imagine it creates a sense of healthy competition that pushes you to be better and explore more. What type of things have you had the courage to experiment with lately?

DK: Recently, I've been experimenting with metaphor and irony in order to catch attention or enhance the message I want my art to convey.

SU: Ah, that’s interesting. How has that experimentation influenced your process and message?

DK: When producing any artwork, my main aim is to aesthetically please the audience and to make them smile. However, I believe the devil is in the detail. I often try to incorporate visual elements that are related mostly to the environment and social issues, whether it's travel, food, ecology, politics or discrimination etc.

SU: What do you hope they take away from that?

DK: By exposing my audience to those themes, I hope to make them more aware of these matters and maybe even influence their future choices and way of thinking.

SU: It’s great that you’re using your platform as an artist to hopefully raise awareness and change at least one person’s outlook on the world.

You were chosen to draw the incoming Exec Officers for the Union guide, congratulations again, what were you hoping to capture the most about them in your illustrations?

DK: Definitely their positive attitudes and the fresh energy they're bringing to the union. Even though they were portraits so they had to be realistic to some extent; I tried to make them fun and playful, since that's how I perceive those people. Apart from the hard work they put into making our uni experience enjoyable and valuable, they are still art students with tons of ideas and aspirations.

SU: You really did do a great job with capturing everyone’s looks and personalities. Time to play devil’s advocate, which one would you say was your favourite to do?

DK: It'd have to be Poppy's. Since it was the first portrait, I felt the freedom to experiment with new styles and techniques, and with a little bit of help and feedback I was able to create the final design. Both aspects made the whole experience a lot more rewarding.

SU: Well we’re glad that we were able to give you the opportunity to experiment! I’m sure Poppy will love hearing that.

SU: On the topic of experimentation, outside of the Exec illustrations, what was the last piece of work that allowed you to fully step into that process? How did it make you feel?

DK: It was a photograph of Leeds during a stunning sunset, with a galaxy and illustration of two walking alpacas edited in. It's part of a series I've been creating recently which combines my poor photographs with fun illustrations. It took me a lot of time and effort to edit this piece, however it felt extremely rewarding when I finally finished it. The response I've got was also gratifying and motivated me to carry on visualizing my - sometimes spontaneous or bizarre - ideas and sharing them with the world.

SU: Keep on sharing! In times like this we could all do with some art in our lives that makes us smile.

SU: In the ice breakers you mentioned that you’d like to one day own your own alpaca sanctuary or farm (which makes perfect sense in relation to the previous question), but looking at your future as an artist, where do you hope it takes you?

DK: To new, exciting and diverse environments. I'd like to travel and meet different cultures from all around the world. It'd be amazing to collaborate with local, sustainable businesses and create art for or with them. I truly believe in the power of visuals when making an impact and I'd like my career path to revolve around that idea.

SU: Well we all have our fingers crossed for you here in the Union! It’s amazing that so many people in this age bracket are championing supporting small and sustainable business, and that you as art students are realising that you can be agents of change through your work. We wish you all the luck going forward and thank you once again for perfectly capturing the Exec!

You can find Daria’s illustrations here on the Union’s website:

Find Daria online here:

Instagram: @d.kowalczyk.viii


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