My name is Agata Rek and I’m a little Polish artist learning how to live in America. Long story short: After spending five years studying architecture, traveling, self-educating and participating in numerous projects, I decided to choose my own path, bridging multiple disciplines to weave together roles as creative director, photographer and visual artist. For me, all three complement each other and fill my creative needs.
Here’s how my adventure with Darling Magazine began:
A year ago, on my birthday, I went to Anthropologie to spoil myself with some nice presents. Then, I saw Darling (hear “tada” sound in the background). It was love at first sight. All my beliefs, aesthetic sense (artful yet modern), purpose and attention to detail was contained in one magazine. DARLING. It was obvious that it was going to be my B-day gift, especially because my true inspiration is and always will be a woman’s strength and authentic beauty. What a perfect match! I truly dreamed to be a part of that magazine, and now that dream has since come true.
I was asked to create eight Darling Personas that are a representation of women’s archetypes described as The Dreamer, The Achiever, The Hostess, The Intellectual, The Beautician The Confidant, The Stylist and The Explorer.
I thought I might give a little back story to the ladies you’ll see in the Expanse issue (that sentence stolen from Melanie):
First, I was briefed with a little description what each persona represents, her characteristics and the moodboard of the coming issue with coloristic scheme.This is crucial for me as an artist, because I have to understand the feeling and vibe so my illustrations would flow with the rest of the content.
In my process I start with a raw sketch with black watercolor finishing. I adore faces, therefore it’s my focus point and the most detailed element on the illustration.
Usually I send 1-3 options to choose from to the editor and when the right sketch is approved, I scan my drawings and finish them digitally, removing background, adding more strength to the shading and attaching graphic elements.
I keep the rest of the illustration graphic and clean to transmit the lightness and modernity onto my artwork.
I wanted to keep Darling personas strong yet romantic because, in my opinion, that’s what Darling’s aesthetic is. Also, as the winter issue is the “expanse,” the illustrations are mostly black and white with only some color accents. *Of note: Each persona wasn’t created literally. My intention was to smuggle in symbolic elements according to a persona’s psychological portrait.
I imagine the Intellectual as a self-confident thinker with bright and smart eyes. I wanted to use symbolism that represents what the main senses and organs are that are used to learn and discover. Brain, sight, hear, smell and taste. All are connected to our heart with invisible lines and energy out of space.
For some reason the Dreamer to me looks romantic. I really wanted to capture that vibe. I did many different versions of finishing for that persona, adding some moody, dreamy elements such as the planets (since it’s the Expanse issue), but the Darling team suggested a nice, cozy sweater and I think it was the best idea and turned out perfectly.
I wanted to keep this very graphic where patterns and outfit shapes were playing and covering the face. I believe that clothing is one of the biggest and fastest ways to communicate with the world about who we are, nonverbally. It’s a great way to express ourselves.
My very first thought about the Explorer was a woman with a side braid, hat and winter jacket. I wanted to keep the illustration very clean as a symbol of the purification we experience while exploring. That illustration also represents the beginning of new journey: clean and monochromatic.
The Confidant is a woman who you can trust. You can ask her for any advice and you know she’ll keep a secret.
She symbolically is holding your graphic heart on strings, connecting with her own heart and soul…if that makes any sense?
This was the persona I had to think through the most. I didn’t want to immediately categorize her as being a server. That, in my opinion, could stereotype her as a woman. But then I realized that are women who truly enjoy helping, making a home a warm atmosphere because that is their way of saying: “I love you, I appreciate you.”
I imagined the Hostess as kind and positive woman fulfilled with joy. I hope you get that feeling while seeing my illustration.
True beauty to me has all kinds of colors. I adore unique faces and it’s a little obsession of mine to stare at people most of the time. They must think I am crazy, but for real! I literally study their faces. I think it’s because I am an emphatic person, therefore I try to unravel people’s mood or sadness.
I didn’t want to draw the Beautician in an obvious way. I wanted to be her a cool girl with her own style and touch of make up that gives her a bit more confidence when she has a bad day. It refers a bit to myself. I don’t use much make up in general, but if needed it boosts my spirits!
Achiever should be the first name of Diana Vreeland. I adore her, her personality, bravery, charisma and outstanding imagination. Her face expressions, the way she speaks, all that illustrates to me the Achiever persona. Therefore, she became my inspiration.
I really want to thank all the Darling team, especially Sarah Dubbeldam and Melanie Loon for trust and choosing me out of so many talented artists for the winter issue. Working with you was truly a pleasure and gave me so much energy and strength. Now I feel like I can expand my wings and fly to the space 😉
Special thanks to Nicole Ziza Bauer for great work correcting all my, let’s say, “modern art style writing” (read as foreign style). It truly means a lot to me.
I dedicate this article to all the great women who have self- doubts sometimes, working hard and chasing their dreams. Darlings, stay strong and never give up! Good things will happen, you just have to be patient and listen to your guts!
Want to see the personas “in person?” Sign up to gift or become a Darling subscriber HERE and start with Issue 22, The Expanse.
Illustrations via Agata Rek