Anja Nov is an illustrator and researcher based in Vancouver. She is a self-taught artist with a background in research-creation and cultural geography. In 2020, Anja won the Award of Excellence in Oral History for Alley Atlas, her illustrated atlas of Montreal’s Bishop/Mackay alleyway. From there, she dove into drawing as a means of connecting with the natural world around her. In July 2021, her illustrations of the Garden City Lands Park, Ode to the Garden City Lands, were exhibited as posters in the City of Richmond’s Columns project. She has exhibited various works in Vancouver and Montreal, and lives between those two cities and her hometown of Pula, Croatia. She is currently working on a new series of illustrations, entitled Seeds, that explores the connection between nature and human sensuality.
My work centres on the sensuality of the natural world. Pairing pen illustration with digital colouring, I play with texture, line, and organic forms to create sacred images. Symmetry plays a key role in this practice, as I take inspiration from tarot and other metaphysical arts. Pen is crucial to my work, allowing me detailed control of seeds, skins, and fur while bringing in a sense of playfulness. Once the piece is finished, I add colour digitally so as to retain pen texture while bringing in warm tones that further enhance the corporeal quality of the work. My illustrations arise from a desire to venerate human sensuality at its core—that sensuality independent of other people, but rather gritty like the earth and all-encompassing like the sea. The flora and fauna I choose are pulled from subconscious wells: dreams, visions, and gnawing feelings. However, my native Croatia plays heavily into this choice—pomegranates, figs, geckos, mandarin oranges, and octopi are all native to my home region of Istria. All of these natural subjects are of particular symbolic value that can be used for reflection, inspiration, and motivation. Ultimately, though, my work celebrates feminine sensuality—that force that, no matter the brutality heaved at it, will always find a way to scatter its seeds and grow.