Eyes Wide Open

Freelance illustrator known as Fitza takes it all in, no matter what city she may be in.

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One of the first replies that came out of Franzisca Barczyk’s mouth in between sips of steaming espresso was the following: “As long as you are open to documenting a thought or feeling and expressing it artistically, that’s where it can all start.” That is exactly where the natural illustrative progression began: the pencil hit the paper and the rest was history.

Technically speaking, her background consists of German and Hungarian roots, but in reality, Franzisca was extremely “visually driven with a strong dance background in ballet, salsa and tango” and has been interested in movement and space right from the get-go. Currently residing in Amsterdam, she graduated from OCAD in 2008 after studying Illustration. ‘Why Toronto of all places?’ you may ask – well, she just can’t get enough. “I get this certain sense of the city’s represented identity, which ends up being prominent in my work,” she explains. While immersed in the multiculturalism that Toronto has to offer, the artist made some life-long friendships along the way. “There’s a really strong sense of community that comes out of going to such a great school. Some of my best friends are from OCAD; we still keep in touch.”

Barczyk has also picked up on the fact that Toronto has a large art scene featuring “international aspects with an edge of rawness to it.”

Back in Amsterdam, a different kind of inspiration is brought to the surface. Since she works out of the comfort of her own home, the need to get out and explore is a part of Franzisca’s daily life. “I go out to cafés a lot and try to be surrounded by people and the architecture,” begins Franzisca, “I think that curiosity is a large part of developing.” Without following one specific path, she feels as though she is able to mix and match, experimenting with the notion of collaborating visual mediums. In Amsterdam, the scene is much more about “incorporating the arts into different areas in a very transcendent manner” allowing transfusion to be prominent in one’s work. Colour, traveling, dancing and music also tend to influence Franzisca Barczyk’s illustrations.

Her unique aesthetic style has been uncovered after many years of practice, experimentation and endless phases of ‘I want to be like this, I want to do this.’ No matter what she was doing, it always came back to

her original approach. Technically speaking, she describes her style as a “combination of monoprinting, line drawing, water-colour and collaging.” ‘Fitza’s’ preferred mediums reveal her creative complexity, as she explores all aspects of her craft. Her favorite matter to work with is “black-and-white as well as textures” when it comes to line drawing. While monoprinting, the freelance illustrator undertakes the challenge of re-stenciling subject matter and following up by “taking a roller and creating various textures such as the effect of paint coming off and staying on.”

As a big fan of her work, I was dying to ask about her reasoning behind fusing together her original illustrative pieces with motion. It ended up being quite a simple concept in her mind: “I saw my work move already, and then I just made it move.” In one whimsical piece, she was able to flash deep hues of blues, pinks and oranges with a swipe of the word “wanted” in a deep red as well as what seems to be coloured teardrops escaping from a model’s eyes. Another piece displays a simple black-and-white sketch of a couple dancing in a fast,

complex motion. Showing her artistic diversity, her portraits of Drake, Obama and Kanye West have really caught the eye of her followers. Although not involving motion, all three portraits were created using stenciling and the “roll on, roll off” paint effect to achieve an appealing sense of texture. “You have to be able to speak to mass culture and take an idea and express it in a way everyone can understand,” she says as she fingers her dangling earrings, “Journalists would write the story but an illustrator would compose it visually.”

Having shown in various exhibitions and gallery showings such as the Steam Whistle Gallery and Show and Tell Gallery in Toronto and at the Art Director’s Club Poster Exhibition in New York, Franzisca’s talent is not going unnoticed. “Being chosen as one of the 90 posters showcased at the ADC exhibition was a highlight for me,” she smiles. Another standout opportunity brought upon the young artist was online graphic design work for NYLON Magazine. She saw this as a chance to branch out of what was comfortable and put her skill to the test.

“It was an interesting experience because every graphic had to be completed within about three hours, so no thinking was allowed,” she explains. This time limit was similar to the process of editing as she was forced to cut herself off in a disciplined manner, which every graphic designer agrees is one of the hardest things to do. “I learned when to stop and how to move on from one piece that I couldn’t dwell on forever.”

With growth comes opportunity, and Franzisca is ready to continue to take advantage of everything that’s thrown at her. Although she loves Toronto and everything it has to offer, in the future she plans to explore the other side of the globe more extensively. “I have a longing to go to Berlin and do more collaborative work with fashion designers and musicians as well as get my Masters in Visual Communication.” Along with those aspiring thoughts, “Fitza” would also love to visit New York again, as well as Toronto with intentions of doing something more “daring”, whatever category that may fall into.