Her sketches are a daily journal of everything she finds interesting in her life, “simple things”, as she calls them, from recipes to birds, places, buildings and objects.
She uses multilines and markers and draws on Moleskines, and her illustrations are followed by more than 40,000 people on Instagram, which is pretty cool.
What is your real name?
My real name is Anna Rastorgueva. Sally Mao is an old nick-name that I used in my very first blog. If I am not mistaken it’s a messed-up Chinese phrase that could be translated as “a little chinchilla”.
You are doing a doodle every single day, which is amazing! How did this start?
My first sketch-book consists of my works inspired by the experience of traveling in Cambodia and Thailand in 2012. I was amazed at all aspects of life in that part of the world – Asian architecture, unique food, nature, ocean, people that sometimes looked like aliens, culture of Hinduism and Buddhism… I stopped taking photos and started making pictures of everything that surrounded me during those days. Pictures keep the essence of impression much better than photos do. The daily aspect comes form the idea of a dairy – I just make a note every day, but in a form of a picture.
Did you study art?
I have university diploma as graphic designer and I have graduated bachelor program on modern art. Right now I focus on illustration.
I make a note every day, but in a form of a picture
Where do you get inspiration for your doodles?
I get inspired by the world that surrounds me. I love to draw simple, regular things. At the moment I work on 7 theme-based sketch-books, such as Baby journal, recipe journal, travel journal, endless journal and others.
Do you always use references for your doodles, or do you sometimes draw from your imagination?
Mostly I like to draw from life, from nature. It’s always a pleasure to hold an object in your hands, to see the unnoticed details. But sometimes, when no other options are available, I do make illustrations from photos, though I take this as some kind of a cheating.
More than 500 daily doodles in 2 years and 10 journals
How long since you started posting daily doodles?
This winter would be my 2-years anniversary since I first started my ‘dairy in a sketch-book’ project. It’s more than 10 books by now. And the daily posting started 1,5 years ago.
Do you ever have bad days when you don’t feel like drawing? What do you do in these situations?
A really bad day happens, when I have no possibility to draw. I never felt any confusion about the lack of inspiration – If I do have a time but do not have a theme, it’s a great opportunity for me to see some video-lessons and train my technique.
Your doodles are pretty elaborate, how long does it take you to do one?
It will take me 30 minutes to an hour to do a small one. And the regular two-page opening takes not more than an hour and a half.
I have a daughter, who’s now 1 year old, so I don’t always have the possibility to draw as much as I want to
…And how do you always find the time?
I have a daughter, who’s now 1 year old, so I don’t always have the possibility to draw as much as I want to. Normally I do work 6 days a week from 10 till midnight.
The more you draw, the better you do it
Tell me a little bit about the tools you use. I know you always draw on your Moleskine, what else do you use?
I’ve tried a lot of techniques and lots of materials and now I’m very conservative – I use copic multiliners, copic original markers and moleskine journals.
I am always curious about the process, once you finish a doodle. Do you use a special camera to take the picture? Do you tweak it in Photoshop afterwards?
It’s a regular stop motion that is done by near 50 photos in Photoshop. Soon I will shoot a couple of drawing lessons, as my readers/followers asked me to.
A style is made from some good solutions, some unique ways that flow from one drawing to the other
It’s easy to see that your style is very consistent, throughout your work. How did you find your style? What do you think it takes for artists to find their own style?
The more you draw, the better you do it. A style is made from some good solutions, some unique ways that flow from one drawing to the other. Also, when you see works of other artists and you see some interesting moves, you think “oh, I should try that too”. There is a great book about it – Austin Kleon, Steal Like An Artist.
What do you do when you are not doing daily doodles? What kind of projects do you work on?
I simultaneously do some commercial and some philanthropic projects. For example, one of the most interesting is organising and holding the course of master-classes on botanical illustration. The event takes places in the Fund`s Greenhouse of Botanical Gardens, under the patronage of Russian Academy of Sciences. This project is big honour and motivation for me.
Do your feel that your daily doodles help you get commissions?
Yes, of course, it does help. This daily drawing is some kind of exercise, it helps me to “stay in shape”. Also it’s a great way to show the viewers a full range of my interests and capabilities in the illustration.
Daily drawing is some kind of exercise, it helps me to “stay in shape”
You have almost 40,000 followers on instagram and, on average, a photo you post gets around 3k likes. That is quite the audience! How did this happen, did you do anything special (advertise, have a strategy) or did it just happen in time?
I am glad that I have such a loyal and big viewership – all my followers are the best critics and motivation for me. A kind of milestone in my career was the publication in global Instagram account of the two-page opening (page spread) of my sketch-book. After that I received lots of interesting commercial proposals from all around the world. I never had a strategy, it just happened.
What would you advise artists who want to become popular, build a community around their art? Any tips?
The best advice to an artist, in my opinion, is a phrase by Salvador Dali who said “If you are an artist, you shall draw“. If you would follow this advice – just practice, do it everyday – success will find you.