Aiwan: I am 34 years old. I have a family, a wife and a son. I have a job which allows me to be engaged in those things that I like. I like my friends and I am interested in the Internet. I finished the 10th grade, served in the army and then followed my studies at the University. If I had to sum up my current state in life, I would say I am a totally happy man. .
Hof: Do you have a qualification in graphic arts or were you self-studying?
Aiwan: I have two degrees, but both of them are far from fine arts. I am an economist and an IT specialist. When I was little I used to draw sailing ships, cars, the sea, pirates, things I think every children draw. But at a certain age I threw my pencils and my sketchbook away. Nowadays I work only with the help of computer graphics. Sometimes I draw into my son’s sketchbook, a white sailing ship, a boat rocking on the waves. But I suppose that is just nostalgia, the memory of the happy, old days. We have sweet moments like this with my son, who is in that age now.
Hof: In your opinion, how necessary is a graphic knowledge to create smilies?
Aiwan: I think no fine arts knowledge is needed. All you need is a genuine ability which you can improve.
Hof: How did it start for you? Why and when did you create your first smilie?
Aiwan: On my site I told once how it all begun. I started a forum on my existing homepage and I downloaded the smilies from the Internet. Those first smilies were simple and only available for light background. I had to transform them for dark skin. But it was a failure. The time has soon come when I’d realised that I had to draw new ones myself. The first one got ready. The second followed and then the third… etc. At that time I was not thinking about copyrights and such things. I just took other smilies, adapted them and labelled them as Koloboks. On one fine day I realised that those smilies are really not for my taste. I wanted my own ideas. The first very own idea and realisation was Diablo . Soon I understood that my works are not at all like the other smilies available on the Internet. I went mad with the idea of being able to create smilies which were nearly as alive as human beings.
Hof: Do you know any other eminent smilie masters?
Aiwan: Of course I do. Shatun (Igor Nesterov), Fool, Kroleg, Vopros, Major Pronin. Those artists I talked to personally. I consider, Fool as the most talented animator in this company, including me.
Hof: Looking at the way we use smilies, is it possible to say, that people sometimes prefer them more then the actual words? Does it mean that the better the smilie is in expressing feelings the less words we use? Do smilies help a dialog or harm it?
Aiwan: Honestly? I do not know. It is a personal choice to decide whether to use them or not. But I would say, I can’t find any special reason for not using them.
Hof: It seems to me that smilies in general are underestimated. They are used by masses, which means that the imprint, the nature of the author, the essence of the smilie gets lost in all those dialogues they are placed in. What do you think about this?
Aiwan: Oh, yes! I was studying why my smilies got so widely used instantly. I understood one reason. My smilies are not only products of grahics work, but they are born in an artistic euphoria, they deliver that certain energy which makes me sit down and sketch. My personality is usually cheerful and happy, so I create cheerful and happy. And what could be more stimulating in a dialogue than a smilie? Let there be more amusing fellows!
Hof: What would you tell to the enemies of smilies? Those who deliberately don’t use them, or make an ideology of deleting them from their forums, saying they are just monkey business.
Aiwan: I respect them. This is a personal choice and they have the right to act this way. Many of them are working at the source of developing the Internet. What distress me is the malicious attacks against me and my smilies. I know that this is not my fault, neither my smilies’. Not liking my work is healthy. It is worse when someone does not care at all…
Hof: How do your smilies born?
Aiwan: I would lie if I said what you see as a result is the same I had in my head from the beginning. Ideas are accumulated in my head. They are prompted by my admirers, my family, I see characters in life and I collect them carefully. I sit down at my editor and draw. I apply more and more layers, I study the outcome. But sometimes a strange thing happens. Out of the blue, while creating a happy smilie, a really unattractive face appears. I save it under a different file name and a new smilie was born. Sometimes one smilie leads to the birth of a whole new range of smilies. Sometimes the original idea never gets finished, but it carries out its mission. At the end of the day it always keeps its honor in the pack of ideas. My wife tells me what to observe when I work, when I repeat the smilie’s motion and try to find the smoothest move. She points out the best timing. She is helping a lot with advices, criticism or with laughing out loudly at the result.
Hof: Do you have a favourite smilie?
Aiwan: I do. But you would not believe it. It consists of only one movement and it is not my idea.
Hof: Do you use smilies in your conversations?
Aiwan: Yes, I do, but not beyond a sensible limit. I love when there is a smilie in the context, not for its own sake but for respecting and strengthening the message. Some people can’t understand the meaning of smilies, but that does not bother me at all. Even I don’t know why.
Hof: What makes your smilies so vivid, so lively?
Aiwan: There is a state of mind when a smile does not leave me a rest. It is like when a poet is visited by a Muse. I just have to draw. I sit down at my computer and magic starts. A living creature is being born. Sometimes it only takes a few hours, sometimes it is a long, painful procedure, which takes days. But the result is worth the energy.
Drawing gives me physical enjoyment. As I told you, the state of the soul gets transferred into the work. A smilie is born. So comforting that is.
There are emotions I simply cannot express with Koloboks. Those ones are really tormenting me. Once I get rid of those ideas they will not give me sleepless nights anymore.
One more secret to success – I never reduce large figures. I draw every single detail. That makes Koloboks gorgeous and exciting.
Hof: Is this just a hobby to you or does profit matter?
Aiwan: No, certainly does not. Generally speaking, there were and there are offers reaching me. But I simply can’t draw for order. I mean I can, but drawing something which is not interesting for me is a real punishment. And let me say, all the offers I got were ridiculous.
I usually make them free. All I do is to try and get enough money from them to pay for my server, the domain, the programs. I can honestly say, the income covers my yearly forum purchase and the payment of the host. That is all.
Hof: There are many forums and places where your smilies are used. How do copyrights work for smilies?
Aiwan: Complicated question. I am often accused by being an IPB forum smilie plagist. But if we look at this way, it happened in the best time. It is no secret that my smilies’ body (Only standard variants koloboks for for light skin series. Note Aiwan) is the standard yellow circle used by IPB forum smilies as well. But it was enough for charges. At that time a bunch of new series were born RPG smilies, Sports… etc. I tried to move away from the standards as much as possible and prove that those accusations were nonsense. And I succeeeded. They are the brightest smilies of my work.
By the way my rights. I made several smilies for QIP. The owner of the site, Inf started the negotiations with me long before his site was out. We sent a mutual agreement. I draw when I want to draw, I create what I want to create, the smilies carry those emotions I feel necessary. That is a deal for me. A necessary deal. A whole set for QIP was born.
There are many websites, magazines, forums, smilie collectors asking my permission to use Koloboks. I never refuse any of them. I will never get rich from smilies. All I ask them is to specify clearly my Kolobok’s name and their accessibility. There are special commertial organisations I work with personally, but I am not a businessman.
Hof: What kind of feelings do you have when you search the Net and you bump into your own smilies?
Aiwan: A very pleasant feeling. I see how popular they are and how widely used on the Internet, but I do not suffer from star fever. Sometimes it is inconvenient to admit my friends how I spend my nights. Many of them do not know at all, and many of them are so far from this. But there were situations when my name, my connections helped. There were minutes when my Koloboks helped me out with their popularity.
Hof: Your smilies represent art. They are alive, they cheer you up, they make you smile. Have you ever considered to create horrifying, scary smilies which carry negative feelings? Is it possible?
Aiwan: Thank you. Unfortunately not everyone thinks the way you do. It took so long for me to find out my Kolobok characters. (The healthy fellow, fool, ridiculous, girlie… etc) But spiteful, I just can’t. I am not able to.
Hof: What can the friends of Koloboks expect? A new series of smilies perhaps? A brand new family?
Aiwan: Yes, thoughts like that occur to me. But as I mentioned I am not engaged in Koloboks from dusk till dawn. So a long time will pass before I sit down at my computer and decide about changing the whole virtual world of my smilies. Maybe that time never comes.
I lived long enough to know that there are smilies which I could never draw better. If a smilie comes with the same emotion it could be only the original’s younger brother. We always argue about this question. For example there is the military hero, I won’t name whose smilie. They say it could be drawn better, but that would hurt copyrights again.
At the meantime I am working on the girlie project. I got so many touching messages. Many requested smilies for girls. This is my mainstream at the moment. I don’t remember a whole series of female emotion smilies. These girlies carry a lots of potientials.
And what will future bring? I don’t know. We will see.
Good luck my friends!
Questions: Hof. Translation: Katinka. Interview for site HofArts.com 2006.