Raluca Bararu, aka Nicaieri Von Bararu, is a Romanian art director and illustrator based in Bucharest.
Looking into Raluca’s work is absolutely fascinating. It became even more fascinating when I got to know her story: the “shy” art director for an advertising agency, who was secretly craving to draw more and more. The perspective she offers on everyday things, from guilty pleasures to the lovable pets we own, is one of the many things that sets her apart and makes her work stand out.
Raluca, thank you so much for agreeing to do this interview! First thing’s first, in Romanian, “nicaieri” means “nowhere”. Why this choice of words?
The “nowhere” thing started sometime in 2010, during my advertising years. After graduating the Arts University in Bucharest, in traditional graphics techniques, I turned towards advertising and forgot all about drawing for almost 6 years, time that I spent with the art director cape on my shoulders.
Slowly but surely the itching for inking crawled back into my life. I was extremely shy at first. Felt like a traitor and fraud towards “the old & abandoned ways” but in the same time I was quite certain that the new costume did not fit me too well. I needed more so I started drawing after work and uploading my awkward blurbs on a blog that none of the people I worked alongside knew about. It was my little and almost shameful secret and it was called “made in nowhere”. The shame part came from the fact that the work was extremely personal, something that was a bit frowned upon during the office hours.
As time passed by I realized that I needed to draw more and more and, since the art director job did not allow me that, I said bye-bye to pseudo-glamour at the end of 2013 and committed full time to illustration.
The blog was also left behind and Nicaieri von Bararu was born. Right now my work can be found under my real name but I keep the “nowhere” thing as a reminder of those new beginnings.
Do you currently have a job or do you work solely as a freelancer?
100% freelancing for 3 years and 2 months that i’m very proud of.
You often describe yourself as “an illustrator with an insatiable appetite for aesthetic spookiness”. Why “spookiness”? Why does that define you?
It’s more of an ironic comment towards my abilities and/or lack of consistency but I guess it’s rarely interpreted with the meaning that I had in mind when writing it. Probably for the best since I don’t believe that I (note any other fellow creative) is definable.
What does it take for an illustrator to work with brands like Mercedes and Snickers? A Behance account.
You were an art director for agencies like Leo Burnett and Publicis. I’d love to know what it’s like to work for such huge advertising names.
There are hundreds upon hundreds of creatives in the industry. And it’s exactly that: an industry that collects exploding minds and channels them into selling detergent. Not that there is anything wrong with that, because they are paid accordingly.
And this was the best part of Publicis and Leo Burnett: the co-workers. I don’t think that any other environment could have given me the opportunity to grow alongside such fun-loving-brain-twisted humans. Aside from that a bit of prize winning work and a hole lot of leaflets.
You were commissioned to work for some pretty big names, like Mercedes and Snickers. What does it take, for an illustrator, to be able to work with brands like these?
To be brutally honest: a Behance account. The producer for Impact BBDO found my illustration portfolio and first commissioned one drawing for the Mercedes-Benz Tribal Rapport Field Guide. It came out fine and then they asked for 8 more. And then so many other projects. We were a good match. The background in advertising helps, i have to admit. This is why most of my commissions come from this area and not the publishing business. So far. One never knows where the “nowhere” may lead.
What was your most challenging project so far?
This little unsettling beauty.
Have you ever turned down a commissioned project? If so, why?
Yes, of course. More often because there aren’t as much hours in a day as I would like.
Sometimes it’s about the cost. I don’t believe in working for free, no matter how fun the project is.
You sell your work on online shops like Redbubble and Society6. How is that going? Would you say your work sells well? And if so, how do you promote your shops?
I created shops on a couple of sites mostly for personal benefits. I like wearing my drawings. 🙂
I don’t think I’m a big seller and i don’t put enough time into being one. Each site has it’s networking protocols, trend watch outs, etc and it’s a job in itself. I mostly communicate to my local “fan-base” by promoting on the FB page from time to time. Basically each time I do something that isn’t commissioned I upload it everywhere and the people buying it are the ones that are in love with my work already.
In short I’m not a seller. I would have to hire somebody for this to be a real thing and it’s a hand-full.
You also have your own online shop, where you sell your work. How do you manage that? Do you take care of the orders yourself?
Yes, a hand-full, as previously stated.
I don’t have a favorite thing to draw. I’m happily jumping out my comfort zone.
Is it a good source of income for you?
No, not as much and I don’t intend it to be. I think it’s just a trend so I’m not taking it too seriously, neither investing too much time in it, especially in the sites from other countries (the shipping is a total turn-off). Locally I have a very good working relationship with Printoteca.
Regardless, my main income is work by commission related.
Describe Raluca Bararu’s average work day.
Wake up – walk the dog – work – gym – walk the dog – work – sleep
What is your favorite thing to draw?
Don’t have any. I’m happily jumping out my comfort zone.What’s the one thing you’d never draw and why?
If I was be asked to draw something unethical or politically incorrect I wouldn’t do it.
How do you usually create an illustration, what is your process?
Debrief, research, sketch, approval, the thing with bells and whistles, you know, the usual process.
What tools do you use in your work?
Lately a graphic tablet, a Wacom Intuos 4 L – mostly due to time constraints. Planning another return to the drawing board soon. Might involve some acrylics, how knows?
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Existence. Or lack of it.
Do you have any sources of inspiration that you go to, in order to hit “refresh”, when needed? (like other artists, blogs, a folder where you save inspiring work from other artists…)?
I’m finding inspiration everywhere and constantly. It’s an all time adrenaline-high path. Don’t remember falling into “don’t know what’s next/i’m hungry” situation. More of a “I don’t want to see anything else cause I’m full”. (Juxtapose and High Fructose Magazine feed helps a lot with that)
Maybe because I kinda remember everything I see, which is a blessing and curse at the same time. Right now I have 6 personal projects in mind that I really need to start (and finish) and no time for them.
What’s your ultimate goal as an illustrator?
To illustrate and publish my own (best-selling, duh!) silent novel, of course! 🙂
Any advice for aspiring illustrators who look up to you and wonder how they could get there?
Work, work, work!
Se more of Raluca’s work on her: website | behance | facebook