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Alumni Spotlight: Olena Kalinina

When I was finishing high school, I knew that I wanted to develop and grow as a creative person. Illustration was my big passion, but I wanted to challenge myself and explore a new field as well – animation.

Why did you choose to study at ARU and ARU College?
When I was finishing high school, I knew that I wanted to develop and grow as a creative person. Illustration was my big passion, but I wanted to challenge myself and explore a new field as well – animation.

A year before my graduation, I lived in England for 2 weeks for a summer camp. I practised my English, met new people, explored cities and different places. London and Great Britain stole my heart!

At that time, I understood, that I liked that place a lot, therefore it would be interesting to try to connect my life with it in future. Consequently, I applied for Illustration and Animation course at ARU and ARU College, and I got in!

How did the Art and Design pathway help you on your journey to the animation and illustration degree?
It helped me a lot to dive deeply into art and explore all the tools, metaphors, visual and verbal solutions to communicate your idea. It was interesting to look through different art fields – film and digital photography, fine art, architecture, art history and so on. It allowed me to look broadly and not be afraid of complicated and unknown tasks.

Meeting people from different countries and backgrounds was also an important and interesting experience. It was cool to see that everyone works in his or her own way, to feel this variety.

Writing essays, having oral presentations, and working in groups were also very helpful, especially because English is not my first language. I felt much more confident in the end of the year after a big number of tasks, challenges and assignments.

What’s your fondest memory of ARU College?
Probably, the first day of it, to be honest. It was such a new experience for me – to be surrounded by people from all over the world, to be alone in England, to know that I will study something which I really adore. That day I felt very nervous and excited at the same time.

I really liked the tutors, subjects and the College and University. I felt more like an adult and an artist that day.

Are you continuing with your art and what are you doing now?
Yes, currently I work as a graphic designer with an American start-up, they help different wellness and health brands to create their brand image and grow in social media.

I also work as a freelancer with various brands and companies. I create illustrations, animations, and design things for social media.

I like that I can experiment with the tools and work formats, because otherwise I would feel bored. I want to explore the possibilities of design, illustrations and animation and seek new ways to communicate with the audience.

Examples of some of Olena’s work 

What was it like studying in Cambridge as an art student?
It was a nice and funny experience. I really like the city, it inspires you to relax and connect with your inner artist, because there aren’t any distractions. I liked that you feel relaxed if you start life drawing in the streets or in the cafes, people seemed to be used to this.

Also, I felt creative freedom to do anything I wanted in my projects and style. It was very easy to do this in university – to sign up for different classes (like printmaking, which was a totally new experience for me), to try new software and tools (like film cameras), to collaborate and chill with other students.

And 1–2-hour trip to London – one of the best things. I had an amazing time, to be honest!

If you could give one piece of advice to students starting the Art and Design pathway, what would it be?
Don’t be afraid to experiment! Try something new and challenge yourself with the medium, software, visual communicative tools. At some point you may think that you have already found your perfect style and it’s time to work only in this way. But with such attitude you may miss all the cool opportunities and projects.

And please, do not procrastinate too much! It’s cool to have some balance in your life! Study and chill instead of stressfully working on the piece at the last moment.

What was your favourite piece you created over your 4 years at ARU and ARU College?
Probably my major project animation, ‘Dissolved’. I created it in collaboration with another student. I worked in different roles – screenwriter, sound designer, animator, illustrator, producer. It was amazing to combine all my knowledge in such big work and to feel all the responsibility for the result.

I like the combination of metaphors, the message, the visual style and mix of sounds and soundtrack. This project is very special for me, I like to rewatch it sometimes and feel inspired again.


Olena Kalinina 

BA (Hons) Illustration and Animation with Foundation Year 

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