Maia Walczak: Multi Award-Winning Illustrator, Artist + Author
I first met Maia on a surf trip to Sri Lanka 10 years ago and then crossed paths again in Mexico 4 years later.
The awkward thing is that both Myself and Maia had completely forgotten that we had met each other in Sri Lanka, even though we were staying in the same building, had photos together and knew all of the same people...oops.
We became good friends in Mexico and I spent many weeks trying to persuade her to leave London and to come and live in Newquay so we could keep surfing together.
A few months later, she did just that and is now part of our community and is known for being a great human being, for many reasons.
Maia's art reflects her connection to the forests, oceans. Her work is an exploration of consciousness, the interconnectedness of all things, and a celebration of the natural world.
So I thought id ask Maia a few questions about her journey and about some of her work:
Name: Maia Walczak
Local Break: Fistral
Maia and her board / Photo James Midwinter
Where did you grow up:
Born in the UK, in London, but to Polish parents, I used to go to Poland every summer, mainly to the woods in the centre of Poland, where my granddad built a beautiful a-frame cabin. I’m sure I enjoyed the ocean earlier, but really it was later in life, when I was 20 and lived in Chile that I first started learning to surf in Pichilemu, and fell in love with it.
What did you do for fun before you found surfing?
All the same things I still do for fun, but having said that, the one thing that surfing did replace (or at least for the last 14 years) is snowboarding. Chile was where I last snowboarded and first surfed, and I pretty much decided I wanted to stick to surfing, as it was cheaper and so much more accessible! But who knows, maybe one day I’ll get back on a snowboard :)
Maia enjoying summer in Newquay / Photo Berta Valverde
You are the author of 'The colour black', what is it about?
It’s about two characters Silvia and Jack who meet by chance. Silvia is a half Mexican half Norwegian artist living in San Diego who since the age of seven has lived a secret life. Jack is an environmental and human rights lawyer originally from New York and a keen wild swimmer, who five years ago suddenly realised life is not what it seems. It’s a road novel (taking the two characters from the streets of San Diego to the vast wilderness of Alaska), an eco conspiracy, and a love story, that delves into the mystery of being; that totally bizarre thing called being alive that otherwise seems completely ordinary and goes unnoticed.
Check it out: www.worldofbooks.com
You have also illustrated and created over 8 children's books, what inspired you to go down this route?
I was asked to illustrate a children’s picture book for the first time by a friend of a friend many years ago. At the time I was creating very abstract art, so children’s picture book illustration was completely new and different for me at the time. I enjoyed the process so much that from there I decided I wanted to do more and create books of my own. The reason I love children’s picture books in particular as a mode of expression is that in a matter of a few pages of imagery you can portray a feeling/message/story. You can touch and move the viewer/reader in a short space of time, and I really love that.
Find them here: www.maiawalczak.com
Being a full time artist must be amazing, but it must be difficult at times, how do you stay in flow?
Yes, there are so many aspects to it, and even the most enjoyable aspect, i.e. the creating itself, can become a struggle sometimes if you’re lacking inspiration. It’s hard to force inspiration. At those times probably the most important thing for me to remember is that it will come in its own time, and in the meantime to keep filling my cup with things that I love and enjoy and that inspire and nourish me.
Maia sleeping under the stars on a solo hike form Newquay - Lands End
Are there any artists, people or surfers that inspire you?
Anyone with a big heart and a free mind inspires me.
You are an award winning illustrator, tell us about some of your biggest accomplishments:
In all honesty I consider some of my biggest accomplishments not awards I’ve won or publications I’ve had but times where I’ve persevered through difficulties, chosen to stay true to my values, been authentic, been vulnerable, or let insecurities teach me something about myself.
Maia cruising through Cornish waters / Photo Jamie Mitchell
We have seen that you have been spending lots of time in the forests around Cornwall foraging, how did you get into it?
I learnt to forage edible mushrooms with my mum when I was a child and have been in love with it ever since. In the last few years I started branching out into learning about edible plants too, and also more mushroom species. Nowadays my main teachers are the internet and books :)
Any advice for anyone that wants to forage in Cornwall?
1. Be 110% certain of your ID - there are both poisonous and deadly plants and mushrooms that grow here, some of which look similar to edibles.
2. Be responsible – go gently, taking care of the ecosystems you’re engaging with, and only take what you intend to eat, and leave plenty enough for wildlife.
3. And finally, enjoy! Gathering wild pants and mushrooms to later cook up a meal is one of the loveliest things! :)
Maia foraging, looking for Cornish goodies / Photo Zee Van G
When did you first decide to become an illustrator and artist full time?
I think it was almost ten years ago.
You can see through your artwork that you have a deep connection to nature and a love for wildlife. How does this translate into your everyday life?
Aside from the obvious of loving to spend time in nature, there are also choices I’ve made along the way that support compassion towards animals and nature, including being vegan, cutting down my use of plastic, not buying products that involve animal testing, and not buying into consumer culture in general. These are just a few of the things I do that at least stop me actively contributing to and funding cruelty and destruction, which feels like the very least I can do.
Your latest children's picture book Wylder, is incredible, it tells the story of a son and father living from the land and takes us on a journey of loss, love and compassion for animals. It's also been made into a short movie, how did you feel watching your book come to life?
Thank you!! :) It was absolutely amazing and surreal in the best way. Just so beautiful to see it brought to life like that! Engine House VFX did an incredible job, I feel so fortunate that they wanted to make Wylder into an animation.
Watch Wylder here on Vimeo / Animated by Engine House VFX
Thanks for chatting with us Maia, see you in the water soon!
Visit Maia's shop and check out her prints & original pieces, or send her a message to collaborate!
Etsy: Maia Walczak Art
Linktree: Maia Walckzak