7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #355: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator Dasha Tolstikova

h1 November 3rd, 2013 by jules

Guess what I did in October?

  1. I bungee jumped from the skid of a helicopter into the caldera of a raging volcano, coming within over 500 feet of a pool of molten lava.
  2. I decided to take the month off from blogging, and all the posts you saw here were really composed by my clone, ’cause I’m like THAT with a super smart clone scientist.
  3. I completely forgot about my 7-Imp first-of-the-month student illustrator feature and just skipped October altogether.

Yep, it’s the third one, though I didn’t even make the first one up. (You can evidently pay over $10,000 to do that in Chilé.)

So, on the first Sunday of each month here at 7-Imp, I feature either student illustrators or illustrators brand-spankin’-new to the field, and I just completely blanked on the first Sunday of October — though, to be sure, it was a treat to see the work of Ingrid Godon.

But guess what else? I am more than making up for it today with the work of Dasha Tolstikova, who graduated just last year from the School of Visual Art’s Master’s program in illustration. Here she is — and with lots more of her art. I thank her for visiting.

* * *

Dasha: Before I became an illustrator, I was a photographer, a reporter, a newswire translator, a sales clerk, a cargo van driver, a film producer, and a decorative painter — not necessarily in that order. But the whole time I was doing all of those things, I was thinking about making books.

I started making books before I knew how to write. My mom would sew these little books for me, and I would write stories and draw pictures in them. I would “write” the text by drawing scribbly lines and then tell everybody that it was a foreign language. A trick I use to this day –- you’d be surprised how many people don’t know what Russian looks like.

I always drew pictures, but I grew up around artists and it seemed like such a serious endeavor and what I was doing—scribbling and doodling—did not seem really all that serious. So, it took me a long time to figure out that this was actually the only thing I would be happy doing.

Thanksgiving postcard


When it became clearer to me, I went to graduate school. I know it’s a bit controversial whether one should go to school to learn to make art, but the program I went to, the SVA MFA illustration program, was the perfect place for me. It was the first time in my life that I felt surrounded by people who cared about exactly the same things I did –- stories and pencils. Also I learned to a) draw everyday and b) to trust myself, which I think are just really important life skills.

Enchanted Lion cover and endpapers

Since graduating, I’ve been doing a few different things -– some editorial illustration, some book work (I just did my first book cover for Enchanted Lion Books!), some personal stuff (including A Fox Diary tumblr – which is my favorite side project), and also shopping various books around. It looks like I’ll be continuing working on my thesis project—A Year Without Mom, a semi-autobiographical picture book novel for the 9-12 set—with Groundwood Books, which I could not be more thrilled about.

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

(Click to enlarge)

I work in a studio in Bushwick with some other alums from SVA. I love having the support of my studio mates. I drew at home for the first six months after I got out of school and found it very isolating. Also, I need the discipline of going outside of my house to work. Otherwise, I would just re-organize my books all day and take naps.

Illustrations from the Fox Diary tumblr


Just recently, I’ve been figuring out a new way of working, which is a little terrifying, but mostly exciting. Am getting back into using more color and pencils and various paints after being on the computer a lot, and it feels fun.


From sketchbooks …


A few of the people (out of HUNDREDS!) I look at for inspiration are: Isabelle Arsenault, Laura Carlin, Anne Herbauts, Beatrice Alemagna, Alice Provensen, and always Edward Gorey [see image immediately below].

All images used with permission of Dasha Tolstikova.

* * * * * * *

Note for any new readers: 7-Imp’s 7 Kicks is a weekly meeting ground for taking some time to reflect on Seven(ish) Exceptionally Fabulous, Beautiful, Interesting, Hilarious, or Otherwise Positive Noteworthy Things from the past week, whether book-related or not, that happened to you. New kickers are always welcome.

* * * Jules’ Kicks * * *

My kicks are all wrapped up in this, as I type this here on Saturday night: A day of reading stories to a group of children (which is what I miss the most about school librarianship), great Autumn weather, visiting the park with good friends, and some good, warm cocoa.

Oh, and I’m really grateful for thoughtful surprises that came in the mail this week from thoughtful people.

And oh again! One more thing: Today, I got to meet in person Camille Powell of BookMoot. Now, she has one of the oldest children’s lit blogs. It’s nearly ten years old, according to this ’08 interview I did with her. Camille also joined me and Adrienne Furness in doing these fun Jack-Gantos-for-Ambassador posts. It was great to meet Camille face-to-face.

Sorry to the number seven for not enumerating these kicks, but I’m pleasantly tired from a good day, which is a good kick overall to have.

What about you? What are YOUR kicks this week?

22 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #355: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator Dasha Tolstikova”

  1. Greetings, Imps! Happy November, and hurrah for the extra hour of time we “gained” in the DST sense.

    Dasha Tolstikova: Hello there! Your name is awesome. Digging the hedgehog, and the apple horse, and the cat. (Always, the cat.) Your mother was fantastic to supply you with your first books. High-five for a mutual admiration of Alice in Wonderland.

    Jules: Clones happen. Just ask Sarah Manning and her “sisters” on Orphan Black, or Rachel Cohn’s Beta characters. 😉 Glad that you had time to read, to meet (hi, Camille! Hi, Adrienne!), to share, and to visit. Cocoa is delicious.

    Imps, which of you are cocoa-from-a-packet/tin subscribers, and who among you prefers to melt squares of chocolate into milk? I’m just curious, I’m not conducting an actual scientific poll… or am I? I tend to have cocoa from packets. Easier, cheaper – and I never buy cartons of cow milk (or goat milk, or bunny milk, or whatnot).

    Also, if you and yours dressed up for Halloween, what was your costume? I was Sarah from Orphan Black. (Yep, there she is again – No pun intended.) If you’ve seen the show, picture the opening scene of the first episode. That’s what I wore – or as close to it as I could get!

    This segues nicely into my kicks for the past week:

    1) Halloween. My favorite holiday, because I’m not the only person dressed up that day.
    2) Have you heard about the Snowblind trailer contest? Please help me spread the word. I’m not involved in it, but I love the book and it deserves a kickin’ book trailer. Post about it at your blog, Twitter, et cetera. If you’re an aspiring filmmaker or have friends or family members who like making movies, please tell them about it. Thank you!
    3) Writing. I wrote a lot this week, y’all. That’s probably why I’m not one-word-ing this kickline. And I met (and beat) deadlines, which makes me happy. If you’re wondering, no, I’m not writing for Nanowrimo, nor do I write a specific number of pages or words per day; I write ’til the story’s done, unless it’s for a specific project that has page limits or other such specifications or parameters.
    4) Dangerously Ever After, written by Dashka Slater and illustrated by Valeria Docampo, because that leading lady did what she wanted AND she had a Siamese cat clad in matching outfits. She wins at life.
    5) Hugh Laurie on Twitter.
    6) Leverage is on Netflix. I do not have Netflix myself, but now all of the people who told me, “Oh, that sounds like a good show, but I can’t watch it because it’s not on Netflix” – your excuse is gone now, so I expect you to give it a try. Watch the pilot episode and tell me what you think, okay?
    7) Falling leaves. Thanks, Wash.

  2. Love Dasha’s drawings – reminds me of Maira Kalman, a favorite of mine. And saw a small orange fox last evening walk past my front lawn and across the cul de sac next door to the woods (our neighborhood borders on ravines and some lovely woods). Enjoying Picture Book Month posts on the internet !

  3. Good Morning Imps!

    What a delight to see Dasha’s work here this morning. I have been following Dasha and Foxie on Tumblr for a few months. Her work has such a great energy.
    Jules-Please get video next time you do such adventurous things.
    LW- I prefer my hot chocolate to be cooked by someone else and I don’t care how they make it.
    I “dressed” as a World Champion Red Sox player http://instagram.com/p/gJfGfDFPxH/


    1. How ’bout them Red Sox?! Woo Hoo!
    2. Beautiful Trick-or-Treating weather, no coats to cover costumes this year.
    3. I completed my #inktober series. I’m going to sell each of them in an effort to raise money to go to the ICON Illustration Conf. that is in Portland, OR this year. I’ll have more details when I put that together.
    4. All things Pumpkin
    5. My beautiful baby girl turned twelve.
    6. She didn’t have a sleepover party this year!
    7.Kind of sort of figuring out Reddit. Do any of you do that?

    Have a great week all!

  4. Hi kickers. Daisha’s work is so much fun. I love the idea of the semi-autobiographical picture book. The opening line…wow.
    Jules, how great to meet Camille. Hooray for fun filled fall days.
    LW, most cocoa is packet. My new fave is the Starbucks salted caramel hot coca which you blend with milk. For me that would be almond milk. Never thought of melting chocolate in the milk. Love Halloween too.
    Susan, hi.
    Moira, when’s the conference in Portland? If you get here maybe organize a 7 imp meet up?
    My kicks:
    1. SKYPE visit with Carole Boston Weatherford, author of Birmingham, 1963. She read the book and kids asked great questions.
    2. Halloween with grandgirl. She was a pumpkin witch and I was Grandma Spider, my usual.
    3. Fall storm.
    4. Grand girl, Chuck and I saw The Phantom Tollbooth, Jr. last night. Cute musical. One of my students was in it.
    5. Pumpkin pie.
    6. Feedback from a haiku mentor.
    7. Buster turned three on Friday.
    Have a great week.

  5. So glad to see Dasha on here! What a fantastic artist and one of my favorite people, too.

    1. doing an SCBWI picture book panel at Books of Wonder last night with 8 incredible artists, still pinching myself
    2. first fire of the fall in my fireplace right now!
    3. my daughter getting over a nasty case of strep
    4. my daughter doing an amazing cartwheel
    5. introducing a friend to the music of Outrageous Cherry
    6. hearing Melt Banana play live
    7. my NYC Citizen Pruner field class. You should have seen me working the 15′ pole saw, people!

    <3 M.

  6. HI IMP’s Happy November!

    Really like the style of Dasha’s art, and loved that opening line too.

    Jules – being tired from good days is a fabulous kick. So is reading to kids, great fall weather is and warm cocoa.

    LW – hooray for Halloween! I did not dress up this year, but helped others with their costumes. Nice to read your expanded kicks this week. Packet cocoa for me, but I cheat and drop in a hershey’s kiss or 2 as well.

    Susan – so cool you saw a fox walk across your lawn, very jealous!

    Moira – great costume! Congrats on the Red Sox win, and happy birthday to your 12 year old!

    Jone – pumpkin pie and Halloween with the grand girl sounds like a great week.

    Melissa – yay for first fires in the fireplace and the stre going away.

    My kicks this week:
    1) Travels in the south for 2 weeks.
    2) Seeing good friends in Atlanta.
    3) Seeing good friends and family in New Orleans.
    4) Going out in the French Quarter to watch/listen to my nephew play the upright bass with a jazz singer and a jazz guitarist. They were so good!
    5)Making new friends and connections.
    6) Being reminded that some people in your life are like your favorite pair of jeans – they’ve weathered good & bad times with you, you may not see them every day, but when you do they make you feel comfortable, loved, and exactly where you belong.
    7) Coming home again. Cole and others made me feel well-loved too.

    Have a wonderful, warm and comfortable week everyone!

  7. Hello, Kickers!

    Dasha’s stuff kicks. A LOT. Like Miz Willow, I’m partial to the hedgehog. Although the “She is gone,” from the semi-autobio, is a close second. And all the Foxie drawings — which suggest connect-the-dots puzzles — are a very close third. Aside from the artists she mentions as influences, I caught a whiff of Roz Chast, and more than a whiff of Saul Steinberg as well.

    The number seven, Jules, has told me it forgives the lapse this week, but only because you’ve honored it week after week (sometimes day after day) via the blawg title. I do want to be on the advance mailing list for your volcano skydive.

    LW: wow, what a… a… kickin’ outburst this week! I’m a packet-cocoa drinker myself, although I have dim distant memories of a pot of real-milk stuff in my mother’s kitchen being stirred and simmered. And thanks so much for the heads-up on Leverage, which seems the perfect sort of show to catch up with on an every-so-often streaming basis.

    (Btw, I’m looking for a replacement for my early-Friday-evening show of many months now, Eureka, of which I’ve still got 8 or 9 episodes to see. Ideal characteristics: preferably not “heavy,” even plain old “light” in tone; previously unwatched; numerous — many? — hour-long episodes originally, although obviously sans ads it comes down to 40-45 minutes each… Nominees, anyone?)

    Hi, Susan!

    Kickin’ Sox outfit, Moira. Congratulations on the Series! And when you figure out Reddit, please let us know. I keep hearing/reading about it — it’s been around for years, I think — but it’s a big black box to me.

    jone, my sister took her granddaughter out for her first trick-or-treating this week. I don’t remember ever being half so cute as little costumed kids are these days.

    Hi there, Melissa. Jealous of the pole saw experience… too bad the HONY photographer didn’t catch it on film! (Er, did he???)

    Kicks here:

    1. Did a webinar this week with about 30-40 other would-be authors, led by a literary agent who helped us see what it was like for her to wade through the slush pile. A humbling, reassuring, scary, above all educational two-and-a-half-hour experience.
    2. Cleaning up home office, finding many forgotten buried treasures beneath the accumulated rubble of years.
    3. Prepping for a sisterly visit in a couple of weeks.
    4. The end of what seemed an especially interminable Daylight Time this year.
    5. With luck, brother + other sister will have Mom fully webcam-chattable before the end of the day. (A joint birthday present from the four of us, although I’ll probably be the chief beneficiary — the only one who lives “away.”)
    6. Good books by writers I know.
    7. Not-bad books-to-be, maybe, by writer I am. (But always excelsior, eh?)

    Have a great week, all!

  8. Hey there, Rachel, crossed paths with you… What a great week, a nice trip it sounds like you had. I love and treasure my favorite-jeans-type friends, too. Also, I was convinced more by the “or 2” portion of your comment about Hershey’s Kisses than by the “1” alone. 🙂

  9. Hi John, I think there might be pole-saw photos, actually… 🙂

  10. There’s the photo at the top, here at the Trees NY site. 🙂

  11. (Er, and another at the bottom… helps to scroll down on the page!)

  12. Salutations Imp-sters,

    Dasha, It’s wonderful to see your work here today! I am so in awe of what you do. I especially love 1) what you leave out 2) the electricity of you line 3) the tilt of your exaggeration, and 4) your all around playfulness. I seriously want to steal orange kitty cat and baby! Can I? Am also captivated by last two location drawings from sketch book. Something really magical happening from the contrast of the different media.

    My kicks…

    1) Enjoying a Diwali feast with friends and loved ones.
    2) Crafting giant puppets for a parade with high school students I work with.
    3) Figuring out the story boards (I think) for picture book idea I’ve been tussling with.
    4) Walking through the park on my way to work marveling at the intensity of gold leaves everywhere, especially captivated by ones that have just hit the ground.
    5) Me horizontal, my cat purring on my chest.
    6) The film Wadja
    7) Attending the ribbon cutting for the re-opening of the Museum where I work after waiting the last nine years to do so.

  13. Wow! Dasha Tolstikova is one to watch!

  14. I love Dasha’s art.

    Jules, I am so glad for your good day, and LONG LIVE THE TROIKA!

    Little Willow, I’m glad to hear about all those deadlines met–and beat! I am a melter of chocolate when I make hot chocolate, which isn’t often. It doesn’t take all that long, and I enjoy the process. When I’m feeling fancy and making hot chocolate for friends, I will even make some chocolate whipped cream to dollop on top.

    This is making me want to make some hot chocolate now…

  15. Little Willow, I use my steamer and steam milk and add chocolate while it’s steaming. I guess I could add actual melted chocolate maybe (?), but I don’t know if it’d ruin my steamer (THE PRECIOUS). … I didn’t dress up, but my girls were Jedis (Yoda and Ahsoka Tano). I love your reasoning in kick #1. It made me laugh outloud. I’m so glad you’re writing a LOT, and I’ll watch the pilot episode.

    Susan, Picture Book Month is, indeed, wonderful. I intend to post about it here again soon.

    Moira, happy birthday again to your daughter, and I do not do Reddit. Should I know what it is? It sounds familiar, but that is all. Congrats on the Red Sox win!

    Ooh, Jone, what a great Skype visit!

    Melissa, Outrageous Cheery. Hmm. I’m very intrigued. I’ll have to look them up. Glad your daughter is all well.

    Ooh, Rachel, such good travels! If you EVER make it near Nashville on your next trip to the South, I hope so super bad that you contact me. That would rock and RAWK, as the young ‘uns say. … I like kick #6. Especially.

    John: The show you do NOT want to see now is Sons of Anarchy, which we’re watching. We have mixed feelings about it, but something keeps us watching anyway. I almost recommended it, but light it is not. … I love your last kick. I’m crossing fingers that the webcam works. Kick #1 sounds fascinating! Was this just a random session?

    Tim, what an illustrator leaves out is so important, isn’t it? …. Do you have photos of the giant puppets? I am always impressed by the work you do with children and teens. …. And kick #3: YAY!

    Hi, Danielle!

    Adrienne, long live the Troika, indeedy-o. Oh, and everyone, white hot chocolate is the BEST. Anyone want the recipe? Very sugary, but very good.

  16. Jules, will have an interview with Carole on November 13.

  17. No, Sons of Anarchy would NOT be a good “decompress your way into the weekend” choice!

    We had to sign up (+ pay) in advance for the agent webinar. Anyone who wanted could submit the first two pages of a manuscript; each MS was assigned a random number which determined the order in which the agent responded to them, just as if she’d opened them from her slush pile. She got through 16 (of the 30-40 of them!) by the end.

    I laughed at your “(THE PRECIOUS)” comment above. Then I remembered that we’ve got this little battery-powered coffee-frothing wand which we never use, and that got me thinking about using it in hot chocolate…

  18. Heh, did that. Live. (“I bungee jumped from the skid of a helicopter into the caldera of a raging volcano, coming within over 500 feet of a pool of molten lava.”) Climbed a live volcano in Chile, with my little kids. Otherwise my life if basically unevetful.

    Loved the illustrations!

  19. Karin: FOR REAL? Whoa.

  20. […] My agent, Sean McCarthy, found me after my work was featured on Jules Danielson’s blog Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. He is really […]

  21. […] Thanks Dasha! You can see more of Dasha’s work here and you can follow her on twitter and tumblr.  Her work was also featured on Jules Danielson’s blog, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. […]

  22. […] featured Dasha’s artwork here back in 2013, and it’s wonderful to be talking about this book today. A Year Without Mom is […]

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