Angel Angelov: I use the most technologically advanced tool available – the pencil

Hi, my name is Angel and I am 39 years old. I am an illustrator and occasionally a graphic designer. Education : A proud college dropout

Current Location : at my home studio in Brooklyn, NY

cats from hell

Mokuso: Why did you decide to settle in the US? What are your reasons for abandoning Bulgaria?

Angel Angelov: This all sounds a bit final. I don’t see it this way at all. I think of it as a journey that one goes through in life. I don’t think the US is my final destination yet, more like a chapter of my life, or an experience I needed to have. I also don’t consider that I have “abandoned” Bulgaria, as I always will carry the Bulgarian cultural “genome” and sensitivity inside me. I think it is  essential for every young person to travel and to immerse himself/herself in different cultures. It broadens your horizons and changes your outlook on the world around you.

vector illustration

M: How long you have been in the US?

A.A: I came to the states in 2000 as I just finished my third year in college. I was fascinated by the modern graphic design here at the time, and I knew my education would not provide me with an adequate experience to practice design professionally. Also obviously, as a child of the 80s, New York always had a huge pull on me and my generation as a whole. I knew it was a matter of time before I would come and experience it, I just had no idea that I would end up staying for so long.

YRB_magazine various spreads

M: What sphere of art does your work fall into?

A.A: My work would be described probably as commercial art, more specifically illustration. I also freelance as an art director in various advertising agencies in NY.


M: Did you take private drawing lessons growing up?

A.A: Of course, it was an essential part of preparing for any art school or academy at the time (late 90s). I went to a specialized art high school in Bourgas, which unfortunately I don’t believe exists any more. After that I went to University of Veliko Tarnovo, attending the faculty of fine arts, graphic arts major.  I left university after my third year as i became disinterested with the focus of the program and how out of touch with reality the faculty was at the time.

layout for YRB magazine
layout for YRB magazine 2

M: Do you remember when you first decided to pursue a career in arts?

A.A: I have always drawn and had a crazy imagination, despite my math teacher’s best efforts to crush it. :))  If I had to pick a single moment in time, it has to be when as a little kid, I had a neighbor who was a few years older than me who had great artistic skills and talents. He used to draw these amazing sea battles, indians fighting cowboys etc… It blew my mind what you could do with just a pencil. It must have been there that his drawing captured my young imagination and I subconsciously made the decision to learn to draw and recreate these amazing imaginary worlds.


M: Can you define what a contemporary illustration is? Are there any rules or norms you need to abide by?

A.A: I don’t think it’s my job to determine what qualifies as a contemporary illustration or art. In fact, i don’t think anyone should. These are just superficial categories that are made up by bunch of cranky old people in order to feel important in the industry. I think the best work produced out there is that one that is not defined by norms or categories, the one that crosses genres. Real artists are not obsessed by terminology and labels. It is all about communicating an idea, or a feeling, etc… At the end of the day it’s very simple, really: if it’s good work, it moves you. You react to it, it provokes an emotional response inside you. Mediocre or weak work, on the other hand leaves you indifferent and you soon forget about it.


M: You tend to visit Bulgaria every year. How does that affect you creatively? Would you come back for good?

A.A: I visit  Bulgaria every year, purely for family reasons. Of course, while I am there, I try to make the best out of it and spend as much time as I can outdoors and seeing friends. There’s a certain feeling of freedom while in this part of the world, still. It is perhaps the more laid-back lifestyle, people seem to enjoy themselves more and are less obsessed with work than in US. Nature in Bulgaria is unique and it pains me to see every year more and more greed and materialism taking a toll on our pristine sea coasts and lush mountains. My hope lies with the young people.They seem more tuned-in to the dynamics of the modern world. Thanks to the advance of the social media people are engaging in creative endeavors and are much more willing to take initiatives. It is  a change from the way of thinking from previous generations, which is quite encouraging.

design_illustr for Dispatches Comcast

M: What kind of place is New York for a creative person? What encourages creativity there?

A.A: There’s no doubt that New York is a unique place and New York should be experienced in order to be understood best. The constant flow of energy, new talent, ideas, the ever-shifting trends, cultural events and underground street art can keep inspired and on your toes, with hardly a minute to relax and take a breather. It could also be hard to stay focused and not to break your attention in a million different directions. I think for a creative person it is important to find a balance between nurturing social life and some kind of solitude in order to stay productive. A great deal of creative communities exist here, though unfortunately I don’t think I am involved sufficiently, which is something I need to work on.


M: How has the difference of mentality in the West affected you?

A.A: People in New York are very different from one another, so it’s hard to generalize, but bringing my eastern-european sensitivity has helped in establishing my own voice and shaping my creative language. There are lot of things to be admired in western culture, and working and living in NY for the last 15 years have taught me some invaluable lessons.


M: Do you take time to experiment?

A.A: Totally. Taking on personal projects or collaborating with other creatives is something I am always keen on. The best work usually comes out when there’s a little or no commercial aspect involved. Of course when you work on a project for a commercial client, the satisfaction factor is smaller – or sometimes non-existent! :) – but the paycheck gives you the freedom to work on your personal projects, shows etc.

mural at The Wonderfactory office 2
mural at The Wonderfactory office

M: What is innovation and does it have place in your field of work?

A.A: Starting on any project, I use the most technologically advanced tool available – the pencil. Pencil and paper is how the good ideas come to life. Everything else follows. Innovation in the way of thinking and how to communicate a certain idea or message interests me much more than learning the newest piece of software or technique.

M: What does it take for you to feel comfortable?

A.A: On a daily basis, I can’t function without coffee and some sort of physical activity. In broader terms, I have come to an agreement with myself that I am probably a person who needs to have change of his surroundings every few years, otherwise apathy starts creeping in. As a result, I have been moving to different apartments and neighborhoods every year or two. So I think I am ready to close the Brooklyn chapter for now and head on to greener pastures.

spot-illustr for WildlifeCS

M: Is it important for you to have fun at work?

A.A: Anything that you do, you have to enjoy it, otherwise why bother. So yes, you have to have fun. Or just get paid lots of money. 😉

YRB mag_layout_illustr
YRB mag_layout_illustr2

M: Do you have any short or long-term goals in your professional career?

A.A: I am just trying to pay my bills while drawing pictures. That in itself is a big achievement in New York, trust me. In the long term, it would be great to open my own design studio, as I am a bit tired executing other people’s creative ideas.

mailer for Cloudred 2

M: Do you have any advice for young people who are considering a career in illustration?

A.A: I am not sure I am in a position to give advice to anyone, as I am still trying to figure out my own messy life, but if I must, it has to be something like this: Have fun in your work, and don’t listen too much to other people giving you advice.  The truth is that nobody knows anything for certain, so go out there and figure it out on your own. Do your best and the rewards will come eventually. And travel and live abroad.


For more of Angel’s work go to his website and tumblr.

You can see his work exhibited in august in bar Barbossa, Burgas, Bulgaria. This will be his first solo exhibition in Bulgaria.

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