The first time I came across her illustrations I was speechless. Tiia is one of the few people I know who has managed to keep an artistic Bullet Journal with elaborate drawings. The level of detail is incredible that I had to know a little more about the artist and her organization. And so today I invite you to discover the world of Archaic Noctuary.
First things first, could you present yourself ?
My name is Tiia Vahla, 29 years. I am originally from Finland, but 4 years ago I moved to the Netherlands. I live in Amsterdam together with my partner and a British Shorthair cat Fitz, who also helps me with journaling (mostly by lying on top of my notebook whenever I turn my eye).
I'm always curious about the story behind the pseudo, so I have to ask you, why “Archaic Noctuary”?
I am a hopeless logophile (lover of words). Spoken words, song lyrics and poetry has always been important to me. When I needed to come up with a name for my Instagram account, I simply went to Merriam Webster and looked for words that resonated to me. "Noctuary" especially was something that depicted the style I was aiming for: a journal with nocturnal incidents.
You wrote on your Instagram Bio that you're a Designer, can you tell us more about it? Is it your job, what does it consist of?
I can understand that the term "designer" is pretty broad, haha! I have a degree on graphic design and have worked for an advertising agency for a few years, designing movie posters and other visuals.
Nowadays I work as a User Experience designer: I design the usability and the look and feel of different applications and websites. My work involves plenty of meetings with business people, interviews and research together with different target audiences, workshops with my team and lots of pushing pixels around on the screen.
Why did you start Bullet Journaling?
I have my whole life kept a diary or journal of some kind; for me it's important to capture all relevant thoughts and ideas, to be used on some later date. I discovered the bullet journal method a few years ago and it seemed like a clever system, something made for enthusiastic organizers such as myself!
What really finally made me start with bullet journaling was the fact that I used to draw a lot in the past, but over the years I was doing it less and less. I had been completing three or four illustrations a year or something like that. I have a tendency of starting these massive art projects — the ones that you seldom end up finishing. Ideas just get blown over the scope so quickly, and something tends to always end up being a little bit off and not exactly something you wanted. Which would then lead to abandoning the project.
Bullet journaling offered a medium, which was forcing me to semi-strict time schedule. Instead of producing these massive and efforty projects, I would do smaller illustrations, just more often. This would allow me to try out different illustration ideas and themes, while also letting me enjoy the journaling and planning features.
How long does it take you to prepare your bujo?
It does take quite long. For example, I started doing my 2020 setup in October already. By now (beginning of January) I have finished that, and my January pages are almost done as well.
Typically I spend one entire day a week working on one spread of my journal. This of course includes plenty of breaks, going out for a walk, eating, stretching and other necessities that ensure that you don't drop down dead at the end of the day...
My 2020 cover took really long, because I created the whole composition myself and it has a lot of details in it. I spend a lot of time looking for photos for references and planning out my spreads even before I pick up a pen or pencil.
When did you start drawing, and has your style evolved / changed over time?
I started drawing pretty much immediately when I was able to hold a pen in my hand as a child. Over the years I have taken courses in illustration and fine arts — so I have gotten plenty of practice.
During my graphic design studies I fell in love with ink drawing, line-art and vintage and botanical illustrations, as well as calligraphy. I like macabre things, insects, creatures of the night; those are often topics of my works. My style is still changing and evolving, I think!
Are there any artists who inspire you?
What’s your prefered medium for drawing?
Ink and watercolor, no doubt.
Do you have a favorite art brand?
The day when I discovered Coliro Pearlcolors was seriously the happiest day of my life! So much shine and sparkle! I think I ordered about 30 different colors on one go. Other brands I really appreciate are Sakura, Tombow, Molotow and Kuretake. They all produce the staple tools for my illustrations.
Could you describe your workspace a bit for us?
I often draw on our dinner table, because I have great light over there, and lots of space. But I also have my working desk, which I use mainly for my design work, but sometimes for journaling too. I store all my art supplies in close proximity of this desk.
Besides drawing, do you have any other hobbies you enjoy?
I read a lot. I'm one of those people who can push through any kind of book no matter how boring — for example I have completed Milton's Paradise Lost and Dante's Divine Comedy without any problems.
I'm also a long-time MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role playing game) player. In the past I have played Ultima Online, Lord of the Rings Online and Eve Online. These days I'm playing Elder Scrolls Online and Sea of Thieves.
Do you have any starter tips for anyone who would like to start drawing like you?
I think most important thing is to remember that we all have been beginners once. There is probably a small amount of natural talent that goes into drawing, but the biggest part is relentless practice.
"The universal formula is: the more time you sink into something, the better you get at it. Always be gentle with yourself as you are learning, and do not compare yourself to others."
But to give some concrete tips, here's a few:
- Study how the artists you appreciate have done their works. I have replicated details from illustrations of other artists for practice, and it taught me a lot. Pay attention to even the smallest and the most obsolete-feeling details. They are there for a reason.
- The blank page might feel daunting, but it's important to just start with something. I usually pick a large detail, like a flower, a bird or a set of letters, and draw it out. As I do this, I get into a creative flow, and other ideas begin taking their form. The key is really to just start drawing, no matter what! I always sketch things out first. It's less scary when you know that you can erase out the stuff you don't like.
- When planning out a layout for a new journal spread, rapidly try out different things. Go to Pinterest, find references and ideas, pick nicest things from those ideas, mix and match. I have another sketchbook for just quickly sketching out different layout ideas and trying out things. I have noticed that very rarely the idea I come up with first is a good one. It takes a few attempts to find the one I'm most happy with.
- Invest in good materials. No need to go over the board with it, but having even a few high-quality materials, such as a notebook with pages that do not ghost or bleed is going to save you a lot of headache later.
Do you have plans, project, goals for the future that you would like to realise with your art?
I'm mainly doing art for myself, and for now it's more of a hobby. In the past I have tried working as an illustrator, and that is just not for me. I find it extremely difficult to produce art for other people. Perhaps if I was able to do lettering or illustration completely on my terms! So yes, if I would like to realise something with my art, it would be that.
Before finishing this interview, I just have a few last questions :
What’s your favorite music band?
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
What's your favorite quote?
“I've always preferred mythology to history. History is truth that becomes an illusion. Mythology is an illusion that becomes reality.” - Jean Cocteau
What’s your favorite animal and why?
A cat, of course. My fluffy friend would be very offended if I answered anything else. But I do like great many of birds and insects too!
If you had a time machine, which era would you travel back to?
Difficult one. I would probably want to experience a roaring 20's party.
Your favorite series or movie?
I'm a big Matthew McConaughey fan, so probably True Detective and Interstellar. Right now I'm also enjoying The Expanse series a lot.
Is there a place you’d love to visit?
Tokyo, hands down. So much great design going on in that city, and amazing stationery shops to mindlessly throw my money at.
Thank you for reading our interview! If you're interested in knowing more about Tiia aka "Archaic Noctuary" you can find her on the following social media channels :
Instagram : @archaic_noctuary
Twitter : ClpsSdnl