Opening Image: In Honour of the Red Lipstick
Words Eve Fitzpatrick
In March 2021, I had the privilege of talking to Agnieszka Stopyra, an illustrator and graphic designer whose art focuses mainly on women and fashion. Her surrealist artistic style is reflected in her collages, and has been recognized by top brands such as Pandora, Samsung and MAC Cosmetics. In our conversation, she teaches me about her inspirations and artistic methods, as well as providing me with an insight into her new project, In Honour of the Red Lipstick.
“The project is a tribute to this iconic object, which is so much connected with our vision of a woman. It is also a visual story of attracting and seducing. It is an attempt to tackle a discussion about what femininity is and how it is defined nowadays. These are several surrealistic graphic illustrations, which show a collection of elements in a way which is not a typical one, like some kind of a play, not clearly defined, which reminds us strongly that beauty may be a form of power.”
She is an artist to keep an eye on, as she combines pop art, fashion and surrealism, ultimately placing a unique twist on fashion illustration.
Eve Fitzpatrick: Where do you find inspiration for your work?
Agnieszka Stopyra: I think that the world is so full of fascinating things that we’re absorbing inspiration all the time, whether we’re aware of it or not. Andy Warhol, whom I absolutely adore, used to say that artists worked all the time. I am constantly filling my imagination with new stimuli, magical images and down-to-earth ones, which I filter through my own personal world, and which I then use to start the process of creation. I keep coming back to the aesthetically sophisticated Wes Anderson’s films and my favourite fashion photographers (Tim Walker, La Chapelle or Philippe Halsman). I also often turn to the Polish School of Poster Art, which is a world phenomenon.
EF: Would you regard fashion illustration as your main focus?
AS: It depends. On the whole, my works fall into two categories: fashion graphics and illustration. And what I do is that I switch from one category to the other, depending on my will and inspiration, and depending on my contracts. Sometimes I just have to distance myself from painting and then I only make collages. And then, after I have been working with graphics for a few months I feel like I need to come back to painting. Then, I create my best works: longed for, waited for, calm and caressed. These are fashion illustrations that only show the figure of a woman or just a silhouette of a woman — a metaphor. Men do not exist in my works.
EF: What materials do you use to create your designs?
AS: In my graphic designs (more specifically in collages) I usually use photos, in which I find an inspirational element that fits my vision. I then cut out this element and arrange it together with other matching elements of non-random photos. In this way my vision materializes, which is a beautiful and magical moment, and extremely satisfying. For traditional illustrations I use ink, Ecoline, a pencil or oil paints. Sometimes I use pastels. My absolute favourite colour is black. Thus, I usually restrict my colour palette. Recently, I have had a golden-black period of my creation. I quite often find some kind of an artistic “brandmark”, which then dominates in my works, like a specific artistic signature.
EF: Which particular moments have stood out to you in your career?
AS: I think the key moment was when I won the international competition for the Superior Digital November 2015 Cover. Very soon afterwards, I was offered cooperation with OPI and Pandora. And then it just went on. Now, I am happy to say that I have been collaborating with Harper’s Bazaar, Samsung, MAC Cosmetics, Elle, Glamour, Pennyblack, etc. A very important moment in my artistic development was my solo exhibition entitled “SHE”, which was held in 2017. I showed about 50 works there: from a female nude to a fashion illustration, showing a woman with the whole spectrum of emotions, fears and inspirations.
EF: Who are your biggest influences?
AS: I love pop artists and surrealists. I adore Warhol for what he did for everyday activities – he showed everyday and trivial objects from a new perspective, at the same time forcing the viewer to a certain reflection over everyday life and over the definition of a work of art. I extremely value Dadaists for their manoeuvring from art and to anti-art. And surrealism … to which I come back persistently and which is the most visible in my graphic art.
EF: What defines your personal artistic style?
AS: It is summarised in one sentence: “When surrealism meets fashion”. It focuses my attention to the places where I am looking for inspiration. It shows that art is extremely important to me and it determines my artistic creation, which I express in my own specific, fashion-like, way – by means of my favourite motives and colours.
EF: How did you obtain your artistic skills?
AS: I think artistic skills are just the result of certain experiences and years of artistic experiments, but also a mixture of a certain taste with which a person is born, the influence of inspirations and likes which you just absorb, whether you are aware of it or not. And there are also years of art education and learning painting and graphics. I have always been art-oriented. When I was a child, I used to draw a lot and went to special drawing courses. And then I went to university – I studied art history, art and fashion design and modern graphics.
EF: Where do you hope to see your work take you in the future?
AS: My greatest dream is to collaborate with an iconic fashion house such as DIOR or Schiaparelli, which by its connection with Salvador Dali and surrealism is especially close to me. But what also attracts me a lot is to be able to show my works in well-known, modern art galleries and art exhibitions that undertake a multi-layered discourse regarding women and female art. In the future I also see myself cooperating with theatres and operas – I have always wanted to create posters for theatrical plays. I am thinking of putting my vision of a play or a story in a sketch-like, abbreviated way, by means of one metaphorical picture.