7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #568: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Deena So’Oteh

h1 January 7th, 2018 by jules


It’s the first Sunday of the month, dear Imps, which means I like to turn 7-Imp over to an illustration student. Today, I have Deena So’Oteh, who is originally from Russia and is a student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

Deena shares many pieces of artwork today and tells us a bit about herself. Let’s get to it. I thank her for visiting.


Deena: I am currently earning my MFA degree in illustration at SVA. Although I come from a fine arts background, I chose illustration, as it combines a few things that I love — reading books and problem-solving. To me it is also art with a purpose beyond just self-expression. Going in to the program, I was not sure which niche I could fit into and struggled with identifying myself as an illustrator. Things turned for me this past summer when I was fortunate enough to teacher-assist a Summer Illustration Residency at SVA. Being exposed to narrative storytelling through comics by Andrea Tsurumi was a game-changer for me. Growing up in Russia, comics were not a part of my culture or aesthetics. In 20 years of me living in the U.S. I never understood it. Andrea Tsurumi opened an amazing new world to me, and it helped me with finding my creative path.


(Click to enlarge)


To me, illustration is art with a purpose — purpose beyond one person’s desires and expression. It is also a collaborative effort to communicate an idea. I like that this art form stretches beyond one individual. And it involves reading! I have always been a bookworm and have imagined everything I was reading about. I grew up in post-Soviet Russia, and publications were dry. One could rarely find a book with a full-cover illustration. Forget about interiors!


(Click to enlarge)


I have lived in New York for the past 20 years. I have only had one opportunity to go back to Russia. My culture and my heritage are very important to me, and although I don’t find the time to visit home as often as I like, it is always with me. I read and speak in my native language a lot. It has a big influence on me and my work.



I find myself in a funny place: Although I have lived here for two decades, I still have an accent when I speak English and now, when I go back home, I am told I have an American accent when I speak Russian. I am a legal alien wherever I go.



I follow a lot of artists that I admire — Kilian Eng, Edward Kinsella, and Shaun Tan to name a few, but I have found that it is a double-edged sword for me. If I look too much at someone’s work, I begin to imitate that person’s aesthetic on a subconscious level. So, instead, I turn to books, movies, theatre, animation, and music. I am very much inspired by ideas, stories, and the emotional context that those stories have. Nature plays a big part. I think I am inspired by everything in life, really. My dog and I go on long walks and find a lot of curiosities, which in the rush of the daily routine otherwise go unnoticed. Each and one of those little finds could be the beginning of a story and fuel my imagination.




As I love to experiment, it is hard to commit to one medium. As long as I have tactile experience, it doesn’t really matter what I use. Lately, it’s been a happy 50/50 merge between traditional and digital.




This is the last year of the MFA program, and so my main focus is on my thesis and Thesis Show this coming May. I decided to put all freelance work on hold for the moment and dedicate all of my time to school. There is a personal project right after that, which is in a raw stage at the moment.


Brighton Beach


I will be graduating this May. It is hard to say where I will end up after graduation. Of course, I would love to establish myself as an illustrator. I would love to work within sci-fi/fantasy book publishing and expand on creating and understanding comics. Prior to the MFA Illustration as Visual Essay at SVA, I taught contemporary dance for seven years. I miss the interaction I had with my students and the opportunity to share something I know and would love to get back into the classroom in some shape or form.



Throughout my life, I have encountered wonderful teachers, mentors, and advisors. Their dedication and care helped me grow as a person and an artist. I am a very insecure individual, and if it wasn’t for their encouragement, you wouldn’t see all this work today. I am forever grateful for having them in my life.



All images used by permission of Deena So’Oteh.

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 * * *

It’s been a while since I’ve had seven separate kicks. Here we go. …

1) Deena’s visit. I love hearing from the illustrators of the future – future – future. (That’s my echo.)

2) The new Doctor! A quick glimpse anyway …



3) The few days of zero work I had during the holidays.

4) Watching season one of the television adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale is rough and left me tossing and turning some nights, but I thought it was very well-done.

5) All the year-end news and round-ups reminded me of my favorite moment of 2017.

6) Brunch with friends.

7) My unofficial New Year’s resolution to do things like brunch-with-friends more often.

What are YOUR kicks this week?

6 comments to “7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #568: Featuring
Up-and-Coming Illustrator, Deena So’Oteh”

  1. I wish Deena So’Oteh much success. Her illustrations are filled with imtensity.
    Jules, I really want to see The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m glad you had some time the was clear of expectations and time with friends.
    My kicks:
    1. Finishing a crochet hat.
    2. Announcing the CYBILS Poetry finalists.
    3. Creating New Year postcards.
    4. Friends.
    5. Back to school.
    6. Reading.
    7. Clearing.
    Have a great week.

  2. Hello and Happy 2018, Jules and all Imps!

    I am so glad to know of Deena’s art – it’s stunning!

    Jules, I love your kicks. The future echo made me laugh, as did revisiting the newsman and interrupting kids. I wish you many brunches with friends.

    Jone, I love the feeling of finishing a project like a crocheted hat and of clearing.

    My kicks:
    1. winter break with the family
    2. visiting a citrus orchard and tasting strange citrus fruit (like fingerling limes and Buddha’s hands!)
    3. libraries
    4. catching up on some reading!
    5. a brand new year, a fresh start
    6. surprise packages (Pusheen dolls from my brother)
    7. playing board games with the kids and laughing really hard

  3. I was happily reminded of that TV moment as well, but I have to admit my greatest disappointment of 2017 was that there wasn’t a follow-up picture book of those two kids done in this style: http://paperbeatsscissors.tumblr.com/post/158409867303/do-not-try-to-stop-them

  4. JERROLD! So glad you sent that, because I had seen it way back and had LOVED IT and wanted to link to it today — yet I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember where it was! … I will never tire of the Marion-as-world-leader memes, such as: https://metrouk2.files.wordpress.com/2017/03/mg_marion_memes_comp.png. I love that kid.

    Jone, thanks for the Cybils reminder. I want to go see the finalists. Good luck returning to school (though maybe you already have).

    Dow, we are a big board game-playing family here. … Glad you had a good break. Those fruits are all new to me too.

    Hope you are all staying warm.

  5. Good afternoon, Imps! I hope you are all doing well today. 🙂

    Hello, Deena! Thank you for sharing your work. I especially like that first piece. Yay also for dancing, and hello to your dog!

    Jules: Lucky Thirteen!

    Jone: Have a great second semester!

    Dow: Three cheers for laughing, joy, and a fresh start.

    My kicks for the past week:
    1) Music
    2) Meetings
    3) Responses
    4) Writing
    5) Consideration
    6) Compassion
    7) Hope, always

  6. Little Willow, I tease my youngest daughter, who is a GINORMOUS Doctor Who fan and a HUGE fan of David Tennant that the new doctor, though we’ve only seen a few moments of her, is THE BEST. I know I can’t fairly say that, but I’m just teasing her. She loooves to stand up for Tennant (though she’s excited about the new one too).

    Happy writing!

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