We had the good fortune of connecting with Phivi Spyridonos and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Phivi, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
“Study to be a lawyer, accountant or doctor that’s where the money is at”. This is something I kept hearing over and over again when I was growing up, not by my parents thankfully, they were always very supportive about my decisions of studying illustration. I did though grow up in Cyprus, a Greek island in the Mediterranean Sea, a more conservative place in which not everyone grows up recognizing that the Arts can be a profitable career choice and not just a hobby that you entertain yourself with until it is time to go off to college.
This whole mental sabotage of “the starving artist” concept puts so many creative minds to rest before they even get a chance to blaze their own artistic path because of this fear of others that has been bestowed upon them. There are not a lot of people in the world that they get to do what they love every day, I consider myself one of the lucky ones. As an educator, I recognize it is a privilege to be able to guide the future generation of artist towards their bright career paths. I try to keep reminding them especially on the days that they have doubts about their success that someone believes in their talent and they should keep pushing through and working hard. My counter advice to the above would have been, study something that your heart is in it because there is a good chance you might be doing that for the rest of your life, however, be ok with the fact that dreams do evolve and it is ok if that happens to yours as well.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My work intents to create visual metaphors that are therapeutic to the mind and suggest a lyrical beauty that is found within our pop culture. For me it is all about using the power of storytelling to create a bridge between illustration and fashion. I have always gravitated towards surreal and dark etherial imagery which definitely rubbed off into my work. My favorite medium that I believe I have mastered through years and years of training are graphite pencils. The work I do is created traditionally as highly refined pencil drawings and then I add the color digitally. I think my graphite reductive and additive technique aided to the creation of my style which sets me apart from others.
I am currently working on a new body of work for my next gallery exhibition which I am really excited about. I had this idea during the start of the pandemic but have not started exploring it until now. I do not want to say too much because there is nothing concrete at the moment, but I am creating some pieces that involve fashion fairies, dragons, sea nymphs and so on, very mythologically inclined!
Where I am today professionally was not easy, it was a rollercoaster ride. If I had to describe it I would say hours of traveling, a mixture of lots of tears of joy and anxiety, rejections, little victory dances on good days and consuming cartons of ice creams while watching gossip girl on bad days. All these phases I have been through with the company of friends and family. I think my biggest challenge was accepting rejection, my artwork is not for everyone, it is not possible please everyone and I need to be in peace with that. I would also say a strong support system, hard work, dedication, stubbornness along with a few sprinkles of luck anyone can do it!
I don’t think I want the world to know something specific about my personal story or journey, I think its more about what I want them to feel when they look at my work and that is the emphasis of the emotional narrative arc that my characters go through in their adventures. I want people to experience my surreal fashion worlds and get a glimpse of the hero and villainous characters that I so lovingly create based on personal experiences.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I cannot create the perfect itinerary for Atlanta because as soon as I moved here the pandemic happened so I hadn’t had the chance to fully explore just yet. However, from the little bit I got to see here, I would definitely start by eating breakfast at Bread and Butterfly, they have awesome avocado toasts and pastries. Then we would go to the High Museum to look at the artwork, there are some fabulous exhibitions currently going on. After a few hours we would have a break and go to Ponce City Market for some shopping and a light meal at one of the restaurants there, perhaps at the Bellina Alimentari if we are feeling Italian. Then I would definitely take them to the Atlanta botanical gardens to get our steps in and finally finish the night by eating dinner at the Garden Room and heading back to my apartment for Jeni’s ice cream – Wildberry Lavender please, and an awesome movie to fall asleep to! Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I think it was a group effort of a lot of people that helped me through my journey! First of I would have never came to the States to study illustration if it weren’t for the support and encouragement of my family. Coming from Europe it would have been easier for me to study in England not only because it was closer but also because of the significantly lower university fees. However, my parents had faith in my talents and abilities so they decided to take a risk and put me through college in the US so I can have the opportunity to chase the “American Dream”, for that I will be eternally grateful.
My professors at SCAD also helped shape me into the artist I am today with their expertise and kindness. Everything I know I owe it to them. Today, I am extremely lucky to be calling them my colleagues.
Also, I would say cheers to all the friends that I have made through my career travels starting from Cyprus to the US and in the UK, they have always been my sounding board and my biggest fans when it came to my work, you know who you are!
Now if there is a book I would say that I would like to give a shoutout to is Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. If the little hobbits could go to Mordor and destroy the ring, I could definitely pursue a career in Illustration!
Jessica Imhoff – Personal Portrait Photograph
Phivi Spyridonos- Illustrations