My name is Karolina Szymkiewicz and I am a freelance surface designer and an illustrator. I am originally from Poland (Wrocław) and have lived in the UK since 2006. I graduated with a Masters in Illustration from Edinburgh College of Art in September 2011, for which I was awarded a distinction. Not long after this I moved to Leeds and set up my freelance practice as Karolful.
Building on the theme of my Masters, initially I continued to create realistic and figurative illustrations inspired by contemporary dance. This personal exploration resulted in numerous exhibitions on the subjects of the human body as a medium of expression. Alongside this my practice also diversified greatly, such that over the past seven years I’ve applied my skills to a wide range of commercial projects. These include working in character and graphic design, producing illustrations for games, stories, apparel, phone apps, logos, wedding invites and even album covers.
Running through all my work has always been a deep passion for drawing. I’m particularly experienced in working linearly and in traditional pencil, but these days I am also as comfortable drawing digitally. In fact, I especially enjoy getting finding creative ways to combine the two.
Over the past seven years I have, naturally, begun to specialise and my work is now increasingly focused on surface design. This is something that has grown out of my long standing collaboration with Kidspattern, who work closely with several large Chinese kidswear brands. Initially I was involved solely as an outsourced illustrator but quickly expanded into working on seasonal pattern designs for a range of children’s clothing (up to 5 years old). For over half a decade I have now worked with them annually on creating both Autumn-Winter and Spring-Summer collections. More recently we have also begun expanding our surface design portfolio beyond fashion, by working with other clients on elements of their branding such as packaging and merchandise.
I’m very enthusiastic about my work as a surface designer. I find exploring a new brief and going through the process of pattern development very rewarding. I also appreciate how this experimentation has led me to developing new skills and drawing techniques. I have also learnt a considerable amount about the finer points required in file preparation for print production and relish the challenge of working creatively within these constraints.
Having built my confidence and an expertise as an illustrator who works in surface design, in 2019 I made the decision to begin composing an independent portfolio as Karolful.Designs. In my patterns I showcase the craftsmanship of my drawing skills, incorporating hand-drawn elements into most of my designs. These can be both traditionally or digitally drawn, painterly and linear in their style. I like to emphasise the detail and intricacy of the subjects I portray. In doing so my patterns are often highly ornamental, stylised and decorative in their tone.
My inspiration mainly comes from nature, with my interests covering both flora as well as fauna. Additionally, my aesthetic is often influenced by my enduring admiration for movements such as Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts. Building on the traditions of floral and botanical themes present within decorative arts my work strives to offer modern interpretations.
If you’d like to learn more about my previous work or get to know me better use the link below to my personal instagram account @karolful. There I share bits and pieces of my previous portfolio as well as my other creative pursuits such as hand written typography and character designs. Additionally, I posts about my other interests that include: house plants, outdoors hikes in the Yorkshire Dales and travelling. I’m also involved in a local illustration community by running a bi-monthly meet up group called “Leeds Illo”.