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21 questions!

She makes shiny things shinier, colours brighter, the bold more beautiful, and the beautiful more bold. She has worked for one of the magazine industry's most revered men, Mario Testino, and improved the appearance of many a huge campaign. Meet Rufina, accomplished retoucher and all-round sweet thing.

1. What sparked your passion for design?
I grew up in Russia and my grandmother would take me to beautifully designed and decorated buildings and churches. Also I had many picture books and a love for animation, later on Marvel comics and Manga became my passion.

2. How creative were you as a youngster?
I had a pretty wild imagination, I spent a lot of time running around the yard making up adventures, while evenings were spent with cartoons. Inspired by comics, I would draw my own super hero characters, cut them out and set them on different quests.

3. Do you come from a creative family? Were they supportive of your desire to be a designer?
My father is a jeweler and my mother enjoys sawing and knitting, so often sketches of ring designs or dresses would be found on napkins and loose papers around the house. Still, they had an ingrained attitude that "art won't pay the bills", so I can’t say they were thrilled when I began my degree in photography, but they grew to accept it. I still think they're baffled by retouching and what it is that I actually do.

4. What sort of education and training have you had?
I studied Advertising Photography at RMIT, and spent a year at PIC beforehand. I think my real industry education came when working at Visual Thing. I believe the deep end is a great way to learn, with its real life challenges and a real sense of achievement when you see the final product in print.

5. Who did you want to work for when you first entered the industry?
I didn't focus on any company in particular. When I was younger National Geographic I think inspired me to pursue photography. I still think I'm on a path to discovering my next creative outlet, so I'm always open to new ideas and new inspirations.

6. Tell us about your first project and what do you feel about it now?
My first project was in first year uni; I was asked to do a catalogue for a kids’ clothing designer. I was so eager that I shot all of the flat lays and models, scanned, retouched and colour matched, designed the whole layout. I stayed up nights, and saw it through to the printers. I was taken out to McDonalds by the client…it was a harsh lesson in business - next time I’ll ask for dessert!

7. What is your preferred software to work with and what has been the greatest advancement in technology over the past 5 years?
I feel at complete ease with Photoshop, to me this says that it’s time to master another program so I have my sights set on Maya. The greatest advancement I feel has been the growth of digital photography - I’ve seen digital cameras sweep over the industry with leaps in quality.

8. What are the various mediums that you’ve worked with and are there any that you would like to explore?
I’ve mainly worked with printed advertising media, but have also designed and illustrated album covers, film posters, clothing, web. I’m very eager now to explore the moving image industry as well as learning more about 3D modeling and even compositing.

9. Is digital technology going to eliminate the need for print?
I don't think we're any closer to that time, because when you want to reach the widest audience print has its stable niche alongside digital media. Maybe far in the future when digital paper is a possible format...but by then I’ll be hoping to be retired on my digital flying yacht.

10. Whose work do you really admire and why?
It would have to be Jamie Hewlett. I am completely in awe of his style, he has mastered the art of creating original and expressive characters through dedication to detail in different mediums, from clothing design to painting and moving image. I'm a big fan.

11. Who has been the greatest person that you’ve ever had the pleasure of working with and what have they taught you?
There have been a lot of inspirational and talented people that I’ve had the good fortune of working with, it really isn't fair to single anyone out. I’m always grateful to the guys at Visual Thing, and those who worked there at the time, for being patient and encouraging with my baby steps into the industry.

12. What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Moving over to London, working for Mario Testino, making some awesome friends and traveling Europe!!

13. How would you describe your work?
I’m a perfectionist, I enjoy working on complicated concepts so often it feels like putting together a puzzle. I am precise, yet get lost in the detail when I know I can take the indulgence.

14. What are your plans for the future?
I’d like to move forward towards gaining some experience with 3D packages like Maya, maybe even look at some compositing programs. The plan is to expand my knowledge and avoid becoming bored with what I do, the horizon's the limit!

15. What sort of company would you like to work with next?
Somewhere with a friendly and creative environment, where the work is challenging and learning is encouraged. Somewhere where I could expand my knowledge and have the freedom of my own input.

16. What is your opinion of Australian design?
I think the photographic imagery itself could take more risks, flare, noise, blur, overexposure and surrealism should play a larger role in creating a mood or mystery, which (from a retoucher’s perspective) would also be more fun to work with.

17. What is the best/worst thing about being a designer in Australia?
Retouching wise the industry is really small, but in that sense you can really get to know your client, their style and expectations.

18. In your opinion, what is the greatest challenge the Australian design industry has to face in the near future?
With the economic downturn, it will be hard to achieve work at as high a quality with cuts to budgets encouraging the cutting of corners. So I guess to not let the standard drop and think outside of the box creatively when dealing with lower budgets.

19. What is your creative outlet outside of design?
Drawing, music, climbing, dancing, badminton and karaoke!!!

20. What is the best designed bar in Melbourne?
I’m not too fussy about the look of a bar, somewhere with friendly people, good music and a place to sit and have a drink is ideal.

21. What are your top 5 websites at the moment? - when I need creative inspiration. - when I need a laugh. - when I need general inspiration. - when I need a story with claws. - when I need a tune.

Do you need an A-List Artisan like Rufina in your studio? Would you like to know more? Contact Elke NOW.