Q&A with Artist & Surfer Daria Mikhailova



Hi Daria, thanks for chatting with AWSA, please tell us a little bit about yourself:

I am originally from Russia but grew up in Prague Czech Republic. The past 3 years I have spent living in Bali, that is where I learned to surf. I am pretty new in the surfing world. Bali was great for learning, easy and consistent waves every day. I think only after spending some time in New Zealand I realize how spoilt I was over there. I have found in New Zealand you have to know about the swell directions, bank conditions and know how to read waves. Indonesia is almost always working and it breaks exactly the same way. So at the moment I am all about learning how to read the waves properly. It is still strange to me surfing beach breaks, when waves come at you from the right and left and sometimes straight. I have enjoyed the challenge.

I am a software engineer and I have been working remotely for the past few years. That allows me to easily move between countries while sustaining my full time work occupancy.

Oh yeah, I am also an illustrator. At the moment it is mostly something I do in my free time, however I am pretty serious about it. For now I am just learning and drawing and exposing myself to the world. Eventually I would love to start working in the illustration world and maybe even release an illustrated children’s book.

You can see my work at https://www.instagram.com/watchmeillustrate/ and a smaller portfolio like selection at https://dribbble.com/daria-mikhailova



What inspires you as an artist?

I am not sure, but I think it is emotions. It doesn’t even matter if they are positive or negative.

After the lockdown was over I went surfing for the first time after what seemed like forever and made a fun piece. I was just so pumped from that first session. It felt so good being back in the water and the art just came easily. It was pretty perfect that day, small 2-3 ft peelers.

I think the more you do creative things of any kind the more perceptive you become to the world. It is like you start seeing things you have never seen before. I see all different shadows on people’s faces now which I have never noticed before or I see all the different colours of the water and shades in the sky. It is very fascinating to get this extra sense. The more I create the more things I start seeing because I get interested in how they work and what they look like.


Are there any particular mediums that you like to work with?

I am a big fan of ink pens on thick watercolor paper. I really like the black and white contrast. I love how black can become so many colors at the same time while just changing its shade.

I do a lot of digital stuff lately. I have recently got myself an iPad and I find it fascinating. I think I am a bit more brave on the iPad than on paper. I love digital art because you can try things out and undo them any time. And at the same time I love paper for the opposite reason. When you screw up on paper, using ink, you need to be creative to fix it. It is both super fun.


Who are your biggest influences in both art & surfing?

I love longboarding, the grace, lightness and aesthetics of it. I think the surfers that influenced me the most are my friends and my partner. I like watching surf movies with beautiful graceful people surfing but they seem so unreal. All I know I have been taught by the ocean and by my friends. The ocean was very rough to me. Haha. Friends were nice. 😆

Art wise there is one person who I think subconsciously kick started my illustration passion. It is a tattoo artist – Marina Foley@aniramchi. I met her while in Bali and got a few tattoos from her. She creates those outworldly strange creatures and little cute details around them, little dots and sparkles. Ah, it’s simply awesome.


Living on the Coromandel, what’s your favourite surf spot and why?

To be honest I haven’t surfed that much around Coromandel to choose a spot yet. I have done a few sessions in Pauanui, Sailors Grave and Whangamata and it was lovely but I don’t think it has been enough to pick a favourite. I spend the majority of my time surfing at Waihi beach since we live 2 minutes walking from the beach.

I can say I had some great sessions in Waihi Beach, but it is very rare for everything to align perfectly: the banks, the swell, the wind. I have been living here since March and I think I have had maybe 5 perfect sessions. I heard other places have better banks so hopefully the next place I move to will be a bit more consistent.


What’s next for Daria?

Ah, I’m not sure. I think it kinda looks like I’m settling in New Zealand. My partner loves it here and I am starting to understand why. We do have a dream of having a place in Portugal or Spain too. So I guess we will see. Wherever we are going to be we will be next to the ocean (He is a surfer too and a very good one) Which actually reminds me that we are getting a van and will be living in a van starting this December for at least 6 months. We want to drive through all of New Zealand’s surf breaks. How cool would it be to see all of the surf this country had to offer.

Also, I am working on an album cover for my friends band at the moment so hopefully you will see my work on Spotify soon! And maybe one day you will see my work on chocolate, juice or candy packaging. I have been very interested in packaging design lately and really want to try it out. From what I have seen around so far, my favourite is the SpaceMan candy sticks package! Check it out! It rocks!


Awesome Daria! thanks for taking the time to chat with us. It was lovely to hear your story and see some more of your beautiful designs x


Daria surfing photo credit: https://www.instagram.com/sarah.soulsandtales/ 

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