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Over the past few years, Livia Fălcaru has gleaned an impressive following — plus partnerships with brands including Vans and Refinery29 — for her cheerfully subversive illustrations. Juxtaposing cute characters and colorways with dark, unsuspecting themes like vulnerability and fear, her abstract work is inspired by quotidian life…and rescue cats.
“I usually draw things from my daily life and they’re constantly a part of it,” the Bucharest-based artist says of her kitties Lily and Ida. “I just simply like the idea of cats and their specific things.” The duo consistently pops up in her work, often decked out with Fălcaru’s signature exaggerated whiskers and round bodies. “Throwing in a cat is something that comes naturally now when I make an illustration,” and they’ve popped up everywhere from her custom wrapping paper to surprise cameos in jigsaw puzzles. We caught up with Fălcaru to talk about her artistic process, being vulnerable online, and why cats make the best muses.
Tell me about your cats, Lily and Ida. Do you all have a routine?
Oh yes, they are so different. Lily is calm, lazy, and quiet. She rarely meows. Ida, on the other hand, is very energetic. She likes to climb anything she can, and is very talkative — we have entire meowing conversations at times! We have a routine and it’s usually [starts with] me or my boyfriend being pulled out of bed in the morning to feed them. They will climb on the bed, sit on top of us, and stare insistently until we wake up. It’s very funny.
How long have you had your cats and how did they come into your life?
Originally, Lily was my cat and Ida was my boyfriend’s cat. When we moved in together two-and-a-half years ago, we kind of merged our families and now we’re all living together. Both our cats are four years old. They were both adopted because we don’t support trade with animals.
You used to work from home, but now you have a studio and they aren’t with you. What has that change been like?
It’s a bit hard, to be honest. I miss them when I am there. But it’s good that my boyfriend works from home and can keep them company while I’m away. I kind of miss having them around, being curious about what I’m working on. They’re always so excited to greet me when I come home, though — I love that!
I love how your work fuses bright colors and bold illustrations with unexpected themes (like life changes, existential crises, moods, even working through trauma). Can you tell me a little bit about what your work process looks like?
My work process is very intimate. Most of my art is inspired by my personal experiences and daily life. I think it’s the subject that I’m most comfortable with because it allows me to share what I’m feeling and how I’m seeing things, while being a healing process at the same time. I’ve always seen my work as a journey that’s constantly changing and evolving. My style has changed so much throughout the years, but right now I would say it’s in a more stable place. I feel like I’m finally finding my own voice after many years of experiments. Although things are a bit more certain now, I’m always open to changes and adjustments. I don’t believe in finding your recipe and sticking with it all your life; it would be too boring for me.
You share lots of your work (and work in progress) on Instagram. How do you decide what to share on social media?
I’m actually very spontaneous when it comes to social media. I almost never plan what I will share. Most of the time I enjoy things too much to keep them only for myself, so I share them. I love bringing the audience into my process and I’m super grateful for all the people who have witnessed my online (and offline) journey.
You’ve partnered with some seriously cool brands in the past, including Vans and WWF. How do you decide who to partner with?
When it comes to deciding who I’m going to partner with, I’m more of a “yes” person and try to give everything a go if it aligns with my values and beliefs. In most cases, the brands approach me. To be honest, almost all the times I reached out to companies and brands myself, I was ignored. So I stopped doing that and I’m just focusing on producing consistently good work.
What would you say is your dream collab?
My dream collab would probably be with Gucci — designing some patterns or illustrations for them. The day will come; it’s just a matter of time for me.
As the owner of two cats, do you consider yourself a cat person? Would you ever get a different pet?
I think yes, I could be called a cat person. We are always thinking of adding a third cat in the equation and then we realize it’s going to be absolute madness with three cats in one apartment. So for now, I think we’re settled. But I would say I’m an all animals person. I love all animals and my dream, since I was little, has been to become rich and open pet shelters in my country where animals don’t have legal rights and are still treated poorly, unfortunately. This has been a cause that’s very close to my heart and I hope I get to do something about this in the future.
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Liza Darwin is a writer and brand strategist. She has contributed to NYLON, Refinery29, Vogue, The Guardian, Vice, and Elle, and co-founded the news platform Clover Letter. She lives in Brooklyn with her two dogs, Montie and Hopper, and cat, Tiger.