”I was born with an idea.
I drew: what I felt, what I knew and what I experienced. I drew what I dreamed.
I was the girl that made twenty Mother’s Day cards at school to help her friends out. I was the one with shortest pencils, who never listened, but always passed from one year to another making posters for classrooms and decorating halls. I forgot about homework, but never left home without a sketchbook.”
Those words are by artist, girlboss and creative Paulina Kwietniewska, founder of Small Faces Illustration. Here, she chats to us at House of Coco and tells us all about her journey…
When did you launch the brand and what was the reason behind it?
I started About Face (previously Small Faces Illustration) in April 2016. My daughter was 6 months old at the time and I had no job to go back to – I quit my last full time employment just a month before getting pregnant. I couldn’t imagine going back to working full days and not seeing my little girl so I decided to give it a go. Soon enough I started regretting not having done that earlier.
Whats your background?
I studied Fine Arts in Lodz, Poland for 2 years and I spent 6 months studying painting in Catania, Italy. I took courses at Royal School of Drawing in London and LARA.
How many people are involved in the company and what are their roles?
I currently have just one contracted employee as the nature of business is very specific. That’s my studio manager, Gosia. I also work with two freelance illustrators who work in a slightly different style so that my customers have a wider range of products to choose from. I work with other people like business advisors, social media specialists etc. but they are freelancers.
If you could start over with the business, would you do anything differently?
I’d start earlier. I wish I had the confidence to go out and show my abilities before I had a baby but I’m still quite happy with the way it is now.
What is the hardest challenge you have faced since you started the company?
Keeping my family life in balance with work. I’m a perfectionist and I want to do my best in all areas of life but to me, family comes first. Sometimes life gets in the way, my daughter is unwell or is just having a worse day and I still have to work – on these days I work until late, when she’s asleep and then I wake up early the next morning and I’m a full time mum again, working when she naps or plays by herself. Sometimes it’s just a bit tiring.
Tell us one fact about you that people wouldn’t know?
I was choosing between an artistic and a linguistic career. I worked as a translator and interpreter before. I speak five languages and choosing art was a bit of a sacrifice although I didn’t know it at the time. You need to practice all your abilities if you want to keep them and sometimes you have to choose between them which is painful. If I could, I would probably be learning all day long.
2017 is here, where do you plan on taking the brand?
I want to polish everything and organize myself a bit more. I’m planning to add event illustration to my services and I would like to sell more original art, not commission based like what I sell now.
To date, what has been the highlight since launching?
Painting as a full time job is a dream come true to me. Seeing my paintings featured in Vogue felt amazing.
I also like the social side of my job. I meet a lot of people who share interests with me and are attracted to a similar aesthetic.
Which city do you feel most at home in, London, Paris or New York?
I’ve been living in London for four years now, so I wouldn’t hesitate to say that it’s home for me. All of these cities are lands of opportunities but I feel I need the countryside as much as the urban landscape.
Three beauty products you can’t leave the house without?
Hand cream, hair brush and baby wipes.
Personality in accordance with visual aspects.
Best thing about London to you?
The access to art.
Statement shoe or statement bag?
If you had to, what piece of clothing from your wardrobe would you wear everyday?
A black turtleneck and 60s style sunglasses.
Favourite love song?
I don’t have one; David Bowie’s ‘Changes’ is quite symbolic for me but it’s not a typical love song. I am also very attached to the ‘High Violet’ album by The National.
Best place for a coffee?
Dalston Eastern Curve Garden and Oto Café in London.
Most memorable piece of advice given to you?
My first painting teacher made me wipe my paintings off the canvas when something went too wrong. He’d say: ‘I have a great idea for this painting’ and then he’d make me start over. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.
If you could spent 24 hours in anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I’d love to travel Mongolia but 24 hours wouldn’t be enough. I’d probably spend that time somewhere nice and green with my family around.
In future, how do you plan on expanding the company?
I would like to do more life portraits and work less with the photographs.
Find out more…
FB: About Face Illustration
And on my personal website: