Profile by Jane Ledwell
Design, like culture, surrounds us in the tiniest and most seemingly insignificant details of our lives, a visual and functional language we all speak. Consider professional fine artist Elena Herweyer a skilled visual linguist. “We can’t express everything verbally,” Elena says, and, to her, “every language is complementary.”
In her journey from the Ukraine, where she studied fine art and graphic design and worked twelve years as an art director in an advertising agency, to Prince Edward Island, where she arrived eight years ago and founded the award-winning design and branding company Art Fresh, daily attention to the details of design and a new culture are the makings of a rich life.
Elena’s rich life was particularly full when we arranged to meet: she had successfully competed and been selected for the worldwide jury of the prestigious A' Design Award and Competition, and she was on a deadline to judge 200 design entries from around the world in each of the six categories she was chosen to judge. The award is based in Italy, “where design is born,” she laughs, and it attracts world-famous brands.
“I love to see ideas and how people think from around the world, to see work from designers and creative agencies from around the world,” Elena says. Seeing her colleagues’ work expands her vision, and also changes her understanding of the world: “Now, we are very connected. It’s possible to work with others internationally. In my case, you can show it doesn’t matter where you live or your language, you can connect with the world, contribute to the world, and experience the world.”
Art Fresh’s clients are a mix of local and international businesses, and she says, “It is always interesting to get to the roots, to understand a client’s business, to represent the uniqueness and value.” Clients have created their business out of love, she says, and a branding agency can help find “how they want to express this.”
Elena is also a skilled visual artist who longs for more time for painting, which she does mostly in oil—figurative, landscape, and whimsical canvases with bold graphic style. “I follow my love in what I do,” Elena says. “Art became my profession, but it is also my hobby,” which to her means a balance of hard work and joyful creation. She loves to do both fine art and graphic design and can’t choose between them.
She is inspired by PEI’s “beautiful nature”—“I had never seen so bright colours,” she says of the Island landscape—but even more inspiring is the creative community. “Everyone expresses ideas and has creative hobbies to do something, to share their feelings, in art and in craft and in what they do.” People “inspire each other,” she says.
“Every day, I love to learn something—to see different works. To contribute to a vision, especially, is very inspiring.” An immersive creative environment, she says, “becomes a synthesis to enrich each other.”
She also loves that in a small place like PEI, you “see all the nationalities here,” and interact with them all in a way that you might not in a big city, where it would be more possible to stay within your own cultural or language group. She loves to cook and share cultural traditions with new neighbours and friends, and what she would love most to introduce of Ukrainian culture in PEI, she says without hesitation is “Cuisine!”
As an encouragement to others, Elena earnestly sums up her ethic as an artist-newcomer: “Always learn and be open… Try to find your place. Follow what you love to do. Be confident and don’t give up. Develop (your talent) and learn every day. Work hard. See how you can contribute to a new place.”
She smiles warmly, “This is what I try to do, every day.”
Speaking of her new home Island’s creative community, she says, “When we speak the language of creative ideas, we can speak the same language.”