Featured Exhibitor: Vladimir Zimakov
By Samourra Rene
Published 30 November 2022
Bold graphics. Contrasts of darks and lights. Distorted silhouettes.
These are a few characteristics of illustrator, printmaker, and designer Vladimir Zimakov's distinct style.
His unique style has amassed him an impressive portfolio of prominent publishing companies such as Penguin Books and Random House. His style demonstrates influences from the German expressionism art movement, characterized by simplified shapes, twisted figures, and jarring contrasts to reflect emotional intensity.
Zimakov's style has developed after years of art education and practicing his craft. He holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Graphic Design and Illustration from the Kansas City Art Institute. After completing his BFA, he apprenticed with contemporary artist Mihail Chemiakinan, known for his non-conformist art. Zimakov later moved to London to attend the internationally-renowned Central St.Martins College of Art and Design for his Master of Arts in Communication Design. His interest in letterpress printing and book design blossomed there and led to him producing his first artists' books.
Zimakov rarely gets a commission where he isn't "eager to take it on." He enjoys his flexibility and creative freedom to work on books by Ray Bradbury and Margaret Atwood. The projects vary in subject matter ranging from the adventure tales in the children's book "Wind in the Willows" to the dark fantasy novel "Something Wicked This Way Comes."
The first artists' book Zimakov completed is based on Russian novelist Nikkolai Gogol's writing which Penguin Books commissioned. Originally from Moscow, Zimakov has worked on numerous designs for publications by Russian authors. He will often explore the authors' homes and museums when he is in Moscow or St. Petersburg.
Zimakov will develop a greater appreciation for a book while undertaking a project. He will read the text multiple times and find ways to dive deep into the story to find the perfect visual design. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to numerous years. When he worked on two books by the Austrian novelist Gustav Meyrink, he flew into Prague to explore where the main characters lived and spent their days.
"That's the really cool part about this process, there is no formula to it. I don't sit down and then, you know, crank out a draft and a print the next day. It needs to be ready. And sometimes, it takes months or years. Sometimes it takes a couple of days." Zimakov explains. "It's a creative process; sometimes, I'm happy with something immediately. And sometimes I'm just like, I'm going to put it aside, wait for the right moment, and then come back to the month later."
His dedication to his art and unique style has garnered him a fan base constantly reaching out for artwork, book cover designs, and even tattoos. The most recent zealous fan asked permission to get a tattoo of Zimakov's artwork for Julian Barnes's "Noise of Time" book cover.
"It's always very nice to hear and interesting to see." Zimakov remarks. This only speaks to how iconic some of his book covers have become. You can check out his work and his artistic process on his website here.