We had the good fortune of connecting with Mirella Toncheva and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Mirella, let’s start by talking about what inspires you?
I take a lot of inspiration from observing the world around me. Real world happenings often make it into my art- appearing in character designs, animations, or recently in storyboards. I love riding the subway or bus – everyone that gets on has their own story, aspirations, quirks, and drives. They all pack into a metal box on their way to different destinations. Most travelers will never see each other again, but in that small space their stories collide. I love capturing this collision and sometimes the tension that comes with it! I think really interesting things appear when I stop, sit, and look around. My inner chatter quiets when I focus, and I get curious about my environment and how things work within it, as well as what doesn’t work! I think in the act of stepping outside myself, I become less critical of my own drawings and open myself to inspiration.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m from Bulgaria originally and moved around a lot due to my parents work. I was a quiet child, so drawing pictures and illustrating my own stories was a way to express emotions I couldn’t communicate due to language barriers and shyness. Going to college for art felt like a natural step for me, and I studied 2D animation at the School of Visual Arts in New York and after graduation I worked as a 2D animator and layout artist for TV shows (NYC & LA,) and eventually I became a 2D/3D animator for games in San Francisco.
I’ve learned by wearing a few different hats along the way, but I started to feel burned out in the world of gaming. After some soul searching, I had been incorporating storyboarding and storytelling into my animation workflows, but I had never started from a blank page. I signed up for a night school storyboarding class to explore something new and it became a huge ‘aha’ moment for me! The things I made in that class gave me a sense of agency over my work, and it made me remember how much I loved turning concepts that are difficult to express into stories. Looking back now, it’s pretty easy to see how growing up as a shy child with a yearning for connection directly translated into my grownup interest in boarding, but sometimes the path isn’t clear until you reach your destination.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I’ve lived in a lot of cities over my lifetime (currently, I’m in San Francisco – possibly moving to Los Angeles in the fall, so I’ve never felt like an expert in one place.
When I have a visitor, I take them for a view of SF from Coit Tower – as long as they are willing to climb the Greenwich steps leading to the top. The stairs snake between hillside houses and gardens filled with succulent plants, and once we reach the top the whole Bay Area can be seen on a clear day! The patchwork of houses draped over hills is inspiring.
While we’re being tourists for a day, the Musée Mécanique has an incredible collection of old coin operated arcade machines (that you can play!) I also love taking people to San Francisco’s forest-like parks to spot some wooly bison hiding in the fog, or the ancient-looking ruins of the Sutro Baths. The Golden Gate Park Sunday Roller Disco Party is excellent for the people watching (and participating if you have some roller blades or skates!)
It’s fun to take my east coast city friends for a stroll, because they are surprised to see giant redwood forests nearby, or schools of dolphins and whales swimming right off the coast. It’s a fun city to capture with a camera and there can be a photogenic hot-pink victorian mansion, or a colorful ocean sunset around the corner. Bringing a friend along reminds me of the magic of seeing something for the first time.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Will Krause – (https://willkrause.com/) my husband and constant love and support! He has a wealth of knowledge of all sorts of design, and props for film and television. He is a wonderful person to bounce ideas off of and an incredibly intuitive storyteller.
Tatyana Drewry-Carvin – (http://taty555.blogspot.com/) my good friend and creative confidant! Tatyana is an incredibly talented animator, story artist and director. We share a love for people watching and understanding the stories driving people’s behaviors and actions.
Personal photo in black and white was taken by Will Krause