Anna Sudit is a New York based artist and woman of the world, who is currently working for the awesome femme forward Refinery29. Born in Russia, her parents then moved to Israel when Anna was only 1 years old and 14 years later they closed up shop once again to make New York home, where Anna’s creative career was birthed. “I barely finished High School. I dunno, I guess when you’re 15 and move to a new country you’re just not happy and want your parents to suffer, so I barely finished High School and never went to class, but we had a lot of art classes in my school and I’ve always been creative in my own ways. I started drawing before I did anything else, even as a baby, so I started doing a lot of painting, hand drawing, still life, real life kind of things. In school I was taking painting classes, where I first learnt how to paint practically and I liked painting even more. Then in my senior year most of my friends had already left and then everything happened so fast because I kept skipping High School and then suddenly it was ‘where are you going for College?’ and it’s just like, oh yeah College!? So I was telling my teachers how I just want to paint, and just be an old lady living alone, painting and just making enough money to live, and they were saying ‘no you should go for Graphic Design, that’s the next step, it’s gonna go really well. Everyone who’s good in these classes goes for graphic design, you’d do really well” and so then begun Anna’s journey into finding her own artistic passage.
“Because I did bad in School and barely graduated I didn’t even try to apply for the normal art colleges, so I actually went to a private institute, The Art Institute of New York, which is definitely a really great school. Went. Didn’t know anything about graphic design. Didn’t know how to even use Photoshop, so first it was kind of hands on, which were the classes I liked, more practical and then in the computer ones I was like I have no idea what I’m doing, so it was very challenging and also very confusing because I still wasn’t sure if this was definitely what I wanted to do and then only in my last year - I think it all comes down to your professors, once they become your mentors it’s like, cool, I’ll do whatever you tell me to do, I had a really really great Professor, and one of the last classes was to create posters and do whatever you wanted. I did mixed media, I illustrated a couple things by hand, did some collaging, typography, and made this poster for a fake event in a College ad - it won an award and I was like great, maybe this is working.”
After a couple years at a company that was stifling Anna’s creativity despite the support of a lovely manager, she decided it was time to move on to pastures new and search for a company she could work for where her creativity could flourish a little more, somewhere “inspiring and where I can actually contribute ideas”. Anna found Refinery29 after following them online not knowing how they were yet to grow and was offered the job on the spot. Three years on she’s still there and building her own name outside of the company.
“Refinery definitely is what put me out there too, they have such a large social media following as well as on the site, and once I started producing so much work and once I got out there, the things I started to create for them didn’t exist before I got there, so people started seeing it and within the company they started using it more and more. It just hit a wave, people started emailing saying ‘hey, I saw your work on refinery’, and it was very little known companies but I was so excited because that’s never happened before, and then it was places like Vice, Harper’s Bazaar, to now a TV show on TNT has asked me to do stuff for them and it’s all from Refinery29.”
Do you think the different Countries you lived in or the scenery influenced your art?
“I don’t really know. Moving from Russia I was a baby so I have no idea and then moving from Israel all I remember was being confused, but I was a teenager so I would’ve been confused regardless, but since I was about 12 I got really into Punk and Metal so I had a very rebellious character to begin with so I’m pretty sure that has influenced my influences, my taste, and my creative process in my life in general up to today. I think moving effected my life because I travel all the time and I can’t see myself not travelling, and I think that has a lot to do with it. When I travel I feel very inspired and refreshed and come back with all these ideas.”
What do you think pushed you towards illustration rather than another medium?
“I only started actually illustrating at Refinery, I think one day I tried to do something by hand and scan it in and switch the colours, and they were like that’s great, but it’s not on brand for us so don’t do that, try something else. So I tried something completely new and different and nothing like I had done before, which was also difficult because I didn’t know what my identity was or what my stye was and I was going through different stages, like, my work looks too much like this person, I want to make it different, and I just didn’t know how to do it differently. I think in illustration the world is large but so small and there’s only a few different very specific styles […] So I really pushed myself to have a voice and a style, and I found my colour palette, and found a way to push all my general interests into my illustration, and also still have it not fully out on the table if that makes any sense, but now when people see my work they’re like, that’s you, those are your colours, that’s a shiny illustration. It’s a really good place, but now I’m like, shit who’s gonna start doing that next.”
Anna’s work is definitely unique, her ability to tie in flat illustration but bring them to life with the added effect of texture - particularly her glossy trademark, brings them to life. The soft colours against subject matters that include her love for punk, metal, bondage, hands, and lips, in my opinion creates an almost femme fatal genre of illustration.
Where do you draw inspiration from, other artists or eras?
“Generally I take inspiration from living in New York, like New York is so trashy and diverse and yet honestly the best city in the word, and so glamorous and amazing. And then I’m really into fashion and the connect and disconnect between subcultures, sexuality, and fashion, they all tie together so well yet they’re all so separate and for some people they don’t tie in together at all, so I use a lot of sex toys in my illustration but usually I get asked to do that, so I guess that’s not really by choice, but I specifically really like isolating things, specially hands and nails, and mouths, I focus on details like bright colours and making them look shiny and stand out, because I feel like with illustration, typically, it is very flat or very 3D and I don’t want to be either, I very much like to be in the middle, I think it’s still very flat but all the tiny details like the shiny look, makes it more. I’ve had a lot of people say it’s very sexy and I’m like ‘ooo that’s great’ and this one person told me it was too sexy and that’s not my intention but I think it’s cool that someone can have that reaction, I’m just sitting at a computer drawing and it can do that. I think with art it’s better that people can feel something, because that’s it, then you’re done, right.”
In which way does fashions influence you?
“I think fashion and design go hand in hand, fashion also comes into my life back when I was younger and very influenced by certain music and that scene, and that goes back into my personal fashion, for years and even today it’s interesting, I see it going back into very high end designers like, Alexander McQueen, even Dior, Givenchy, and Saint Laurent for sure even. I think what they’re making now for thousands of dollars is like what I used to buy in Hot Topic for like 10 dollars and get made fun of. Now I see this is great, because now it’s all connected […] I think it’s the connection of sexuality subculture and sexuality together that influence my work, rather than them separate, so like patent leather, metal, studs, those kind of things I love in reality, the texture and try to bring that into the illustration world. I really like Issey Miyake, who’s very design oriented and she uses computer design to create clothing instead of pattern making, which just blows my mind, it’s really cool.”
“I really like Tillmans, a lot of artists I like or that I think influence me are not illustrators, I love photography, so yeah, Tillmans. There’s a designer, Walter Van Beirendonck, back in the 70s or 80s he was creating these crazy clothes that were very tied into like fetish and fashion, all these leather masks, dressing people like popsicles, things that didn’t look like anything anyone would wear outside of a runway. He somewhere became like very involved in rave culture, he’s a big name in rave all over Europe, a big name all over fetish, fashion and rave. They as artist, at least at this moment have influenced my creative life over the last say, two years.”
What do you listen to while illustrating? Does music influence you?
“I listen to music at all times, definitely while illustrating, I think mostly I listen to Marilyn Manson, I started listen to Marilyn Manson while I was still living in Israel so I was very young. I started kind of straying away from Punk and going into this not necessarily Metal, but more that scene. I also think he’s very poetic. I was really into his look. When I was in High School I was shaving my eyebrows, dying my hair black, I wanted to be Marilyn Manson, I thought he was so cool, and the whole attitude of not giving a fuck and doing whatever you want, because you’re doing whatever you want, people respond to it. It’s like that happened to me in my career, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do I just thought I’ll do it for the man, but then it became, I have all these interests so I'm just gonna do that, and people responded really well. I don’t know if actually the music was an influence but definitely more artistically, as a person, till this day.”
One of my favourite pieces of Anna’s is of two phones, adorned with lips, pictured below. The image was created for a poetry book cover and feels exclusively feminine while I still think having a very inclusive way of being relatable for women, which seems to be one of Anna’s specialities.
“That’s one of my favourite pieces I’ve done too actually. This woman reached out to me, it’s so cool because most people that reach out to me since being with Refinery, are digital, so they basically want the same thing. So this lady reached out and said she’s putting out a poetry book, she’s a lesbian and it’s about her long distance relationship. I thought it was so cool that this older gay woman, was reaching out to me and she just said she really liked my stuff online, I don’t think she even knew what Refinery was and she actually sent me a specific example of what she wanted, and it was more of a full body image of two women in a room, but she said I could read some of the poems if that helped too. I decided I didn’t wanna go that way and wanted it in the same direction as what I’ve been doing, so I thought about long distance and how a lot of the relationship ends up being on the phone and I wanted it to be sexual because a lot of the poems are very sexual, and so I thought of the lips and the hands. The lady is white and her partner black, and that’s how I ended up with the two different ladies. It was a lot of fun.”
What’s your creative process?
“I guess now, knowing the things that I can do well, like the safe routes, I always try to think about how I can use that and then incorporate something new into it to make to challenging and interesting. How can I apply this to my style and push it even further to make something newer and fresher than something I’ve ever done before, that’s usually it.”
Sexuality seems to be a coherent theme, I’m not sure if that’s conscious or not, but why do you think it’s important to create art around those themes?
“So I do think it’s important to create art around sexuality, I think for a very long time and even still today, sexuality is quite taboo and especially for women. Women are not as sexually open as they should be and although things are changing all the time and times are different now, even I have friends who know me and know what my work is like and I still can’t openly talk to them about sex, its like ‘errr great, let’s talk about something else, what shall we eat’. I think with art, creating that connection or feeling that isn’t so direct, as maybe talking about it or watching porn or engaging in sex, I think it still has a separation for people, and I think that with my art it’s sort of safe, where you can look at it and not feel uncomfortable, but it’s still sexy. I think that’s important for women, to look and think ooo this is sexy, I can find this sexy and go put on lip gloss, and maybe go and sext someone now, why not [….] I remember the first really scary story I had to illustrate for refinery was a masturbation challenge. We used to have a sex writer who I was very close with, and we talked about it and decided that there was no way to really illustrate the story well without showing a full on vagina masturbating and she just said go for it, and I was like are you sure we don’t need this approved, and she was just like ‘approved, they’re into it, go for it’. The feedback was insane, I think it performed better than most sex related stories ever on Refinery29, and I think the reason is - and it was either gonna be photos or illustration - and I think that if it were photos people would have felt uncomfortable whereas with the illustration women feel safe, and it’s a bit more abstract and not so real. It was a crazy time when that story went live.”
I want to ask you about the ‘Yes Mistress’ Zine you did a while ago, is that something you’d do again or are thinking about now?
“Totally, so I made that zine, a little over a year ago, it came from wanting to illustrate specific things and not having a place to do it, also I wanted to do a personal project because I felt like I was doing too much work and nothing outside of it, and also I really wanted to do something printed, because I do everything digital. I don’t remember how it came about, but knew I wanted to illustrate all these accessories and I had a colour palette in mind, maybe I was in a bookshop and there was a sex section and there was some fetish books but no guides, and this was a time where I was exploring the fetish world and I thought there’s no guide, no where I can go and just read what each toy is and how to use it. I learnt about the roles of top and bottom, and slave master, I was so intrigued by it and wanted to make that accessible to other people who might be intrigued by it. So I partnered up with this girl who I actually never met, Madison Stevens, my friend set me up with her, because she’s a writer […] and I think because I’ve only been in America like 13 years, I don’t think my vocabulary is rich enough to write something like that, so I was looking for someone, and my friend said this girl Madison is great, we connected, it worked out very fast, very very well and it was cool, people really liked it and the same with the poetry book, actually holding that printed copy and flicking through the pages was one of tho most amazing feelings ever. I would totally do another zine again, I haven’t thought about it for a while, but the process was super easy, so I would do it again.”
Would you ever make a series?
“Yeah I’ve actually been asked that before, I totally would. I think for me coming from the illustration persecutive, it’s about thinking on what could be illustrated in an attractive way, so it’s more about deciding in that series, what could be illustrated well, once I decide that then there will be another zine.”