One of the most common questions we get asked about the InkTears website is who drew the pictures? The striking image of the bird on our landing page, along with the girl holding an umbrella on our home page, were drawn by Joni Belaruski. Here's an interview about her art, inspiration, and reading.

Where are you from, and do you think that influences your art?

I come from a town called Limavady on the North-West coast of Ireland. It’s very pretty, set in a valley and steeped in history. However, I don’t think this has overtly influenced my work. Well, maybe in the respect that because we were surrounded by lots of countryside and farms I became obsessed with animals, particularly horses, and I would draw them a lot. I still do.

I get people joking from time to time that the hand grenades which find their way into my work are a throwback from the Irish ‘troubles’, but I can assure you they are not!


A large chunk of your art is pen and ink, black and white. We love that style at InkTears, but why does that appeal to you?

Funny, when I look back at the work I did 6 or 7 years ago it was chock full of colour (still with a healthy amount of black in there). At some point though I realized that I could say pretty much everything I wanted to say with simple black ink and lines. Colour was a bit of a distraction. I also do a fair amount of moving and travelling around, and so the thought of lugging about all those paints and brushes gives me a headache!

I admit though, I do love a bit of colour and I’ve been re-introducing it into my recent work, albeit with a rather muted palette. Small steps.


Do you do much digitally, or is it all hand-drawn?

The finished work is always hand-drawn and coloured, although I’m not adverse to digital manipulation. I downloaded a painting app onto my tablet recently but I didn’t really get into it to be honest… maybe at some point in the future I’ll pick it up again but for the moment I’m happy with good old-fashioned paper and ink. You can’t beat the unpredictability and uniqueness of an ink splash that can’t be easily replicated. I do use Photoshop occasionally to compose images as it can save a lot of time, and is fun to play about in.


We know you’re a drummer in a band. What sort of music do you play (and is it different to the stuff you listen to)?

Ah, my lovely band! We are currently a 7-piece ensemble called The Great Malarkey playing a mixture of folk, gypsy, punk and everything in between. I have a varied music taste (doesn’t everyone say that) but elements do creep into the music. For example, myself and Alex (the singer) grew up in the early 90s and were massively influenced by the music of that time which I think can be heard in there. I don’t really listen to music so much when I draw as I find I get distracted too much trying to pick it apart. Learning an instrument means you can never quite listen to music in the same way ever again! Sometimes it helps though when working on bigger stuff as it gets me into a rhythm. I like to have horror movies on in the background too.


Why do you think certain art styles are linked to certain music genres…. like heavy metal and fantasy?

I’ve never really thought about it in much depth before. I guess with the heavy metal example, the music lends itself to fantasy art because the lyrics are typically epic and fantastical themselves (I’m thinking Iron Maiden here!). Some art and music styles develop side by side and become inextricably linked… like the DIY ethic of punk and pop art.


Do you read much? If so, what sort of stuff do you like?

I read as much as I can when I get a chance - that’s one good thing about having to take public transport in London! I’ve read some great books recently; The Gargoyle (total fantasy and dark realism) by Andrew Davidson, The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (magic and romance in the Victorian era), The Girl with all the Gifts by MR Carey (kind of a post-apocalyptic horror), The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (absurd Russian fantasy). I like a good biography too. I just started Robert De Niro’s biography which I’m sure will prove very interesting.


If you could choose to illustrate someone’s book cover, album cover, or the backdrop for a movie, what would you choose and why?

I’d love to illustrate something like The Night Circus. There are so many wonderful scenes and characters; I’d have a field day with it! Or anything by Guillermo del Toro.  His movies are so full of atmosphere and the stories are clever and multi-layered, beautifully visual and there’s a lot of symbolism in there. Can you imagine storyboarding something like Pan’s Labyrinth? Incidentally, I think that film has one of the most terrifying characters in the history of film – The Pale Man. I found out recently that he was based on a Japanese urban legend called ‘Tenome’. Go check it out if you dare, the Japanese certainly know how to tap into your base fears!


Tell us a secret

I was born on Venus many, many moons ago and I was sent to Earth by the elders to complete a mission (which is one secret too far I’m afraid). There are quite a few of us here and we are biding our time until we can go back home again.  Shhh… the world isn’t quite ready……