The Girl with the Furry Coat
An Essay by Viktor Kalvachev

December 13, 2021

Music has been a big part of my life. When I was little, my mom wanted me to become a musician and forced me to play piano for several years. My dad encouraged my art-addiction by getting me all sorts of drawing tools and cool paper but without pressuring me at all. Guess who won out in the end?

Right. Music stuck though. In my early 20s I was playing guitar and was all about Chemical Brothers, Prodigy, Rage Against the Machine, Senser, Orbital, Sound Garden etc. I loved going to raves, dancing all night, being all sweaty and exhausted, but happy as I could be. It was awesome, it was loud, we were euphoric.

But this story is about a friendship. Here’s how it started.

Paris, a couple of years ago.

Got off the train to switch to another metro line on the way to a doctor’s appointment and ended up in one of those long tunnels that connect metro stations under the city. It was mostly me and the thick odor of piss at first, but a few more people popped up from the other side to share my fate. One of the silhouettes caught my eye and I started doing my observation thing, where I try not to stare at a person like a pervert, but still get as many details as I can to draw them later. It was a girl in a huge rectangular looking furry coat. All I could see was her pretty face, cuddled between her big headphones and a pair of black platform shoes shouting their statement at every step. The rest was completely hidden by the messy brown fur. Even from far away I could tell she had big blue eyes, but they seemed to double in size by the time she got closer. They were focused somewhere in front of her as she was deep into the music and was kind of quietly singing, letting only a few lucky notes escape her seemingly giant lungs.

We passed each other quietly, squeezing a crack of a smile and I continued to my side of the station, repeating in my head all the visual notes I made about her so I wouldn’t forget. She appeared on the other side of the tracks, waiting for the same train but in the opposite direction. I went through my list, double-checking I got everything right and did one last mental snapshot as she boarded the metro and disappeared into the tunnel.

That’s what I love the most about the women of Paris, each has her own style, her own choice of expression and they carry it with such confidence it makes them fabulous, no matter if you agree or not. There is no trend, it’s all about personal choices and how they see themselves. Confidence is the backbone of sexuality and the women of Paris seem to have written many books about it!

A few days later I caught myself still thinking about her character and decided to sketch it quickly. I attached a little story to go with it for my friends on Instagram and posted. The audience took it well, a few great comments and it soon become one of the many sketches on my wall as I kept drawing and posting other things.

The Sketch
Courtesy of Viktor Kalvachev.
Almost a year later…

Those who follow me know that I have this tradition since 2014, where each time a thousand more followers join, I do a lottery and a randomly selected follower who commented on the announcing post will get an actual original from me in the mail. Seriously, I do that. More than 150 people have gotten drawings from me so far and I plan on continuing the tradition as long as it lasts.

Time had come, and I did one of those “THANK YOU” posts where I usually get about a thousand comments all from people hoping to score an original. I don’t read everything, but I do skim them occasionally to see if anyone picked up on the hidden joke about my wife’s crepes I had in that post and that’s how I got to that strange comment. It wasn’t the usual “pick me” line, but it did say “I know the girl in the fur coat”. Well, do you now? Of course, I replied, and the persona answered “Yes, that’s my girlfriend”. “Oh really?!” We moved to private chat, and he shared her IG account and to my biggest surprise I saw the same girl with the furry coat and big blue eyes. I offered to give them the drawing as a gift because it would be really cool for them to have it and he seemed stoked. We started chatting and I asked if he was also an artist. Turns out he was a musician, and he was in a couple of bands, one being a bit more famous than the other, “Senser” he said… That rang a bell but didn’t quite hit me until I searched for it and saw the cover. Holly shit! It was of my favorite bands from my early 20s!

Shawna, the girl with the Furry Coat
Courtesy of Viktor Kalvachev.
After a few minutes of me trying to collect myself of who I was talking to I went full-on, wide-eyed fanboy and blabbered all sorts of fanboy stuff.

Long story short, this was the none other than Heitham, the front man of SENSER! I’ve listened to him thousands of times and now we were chatting.

We eventually got together and become really close. I didn’t even have to think for a second WHO would be writing the music for the Blue Estate NFTs. Heitham killed it! I couldn’t be prouder and happier about the results.

It is so wild how life works. If someone would have told me while we were raving to his music “Hey, you and the guy that’s yelling on the microphone will be really great friends in Paris one day” I would have laughed them out of the room. Look at us now…

I love you, buddy! Thank you for all the great times you gave me and my friends with your music when we were young! Thank you for the friendship we have today.

The album I loved
Courtesy of Viktor Kalvachev.
A few words by Heitham

The first form of visual art I loved was comics. When I was a kid, I would lose myself in Belgian, American, and British comics. I’ve watched them evolve into graphic novels over the years. I’m of the generation where the comics matured as I did, and I never had to “grow out of them”. When I’m touring, being a vocalist means I’m always the last to soundcheck. This means I’ve been able to hit comic shops in more or less every city I’ve played in. So, I know an incredible art style when I see it.

I’d been stalking Viktor’s beautiful work on Instagram for a couple of years, when one day he drew someone whom I recognized unmistakably as my girlfriend. I didn’t get round to contacting him till…well you’ve just heard that story.  I met him, then his beautiful family…Without getting too gushy I feel so fortunate to have met him and count him as a dear friend.

So, when he asked me to create some music for this project, I got very excited. The idea of conveying the mood of a visual universe in three 20 second loops which can all run together was a very appealing challenge.

I wanted to make something as dark and seductive as the criminal underworld Viktor describes. Sounds which echoed the first wave of film noire and 70’s crime movies. I deliberately didn’t re-listen to any of those soundtracks though. I didn’t want there to be a direct influence. I left some space so that I could just channel that mood by looking at the images.

Technically speaking I wanted it to be slightly de-tuned so you couldn’t easily play along to it, reflecting the crime world just beneath the one we see. So, nothing is in concert pitch and the instruments are tuned down slightly by ear. The “neo” part of the noire is mainly from the beats which are layered chopped breaks at a specific, menacing tempo. I could go into minutia, but I don’t want to spoil the magic. Suffice to say I’m very happy with how it turned out and doubly so knowing that Viktor is.

Heitham at my place showing me how it's done
Courtesy of Viktor Kalvachev.
Viktor Kalvachev

Starting in Bulgaria, where at the age 24 Viktor Kalvachev produced and art directed the biggest clip art production in the world. Leading a team of 200 artists and creating over 60,000 original vector images over the period of a year. He got his master’s degree from the National Academy of Fine Art in Sofia and moved to Los Angeles to continue his career in the game industry.

Since then, Kalvachev has worked on titles for Stephen Spielberg’s foundations, Pixar, Disney, Netflix, DC Entertainment, Nickelodeon, Marvel, Warner Brothers, EA and many more. 

He was commissioned by Kevin Eastman to do a 78-page graphic novel called PHERONE for Heavy Metal Magazine, which launched Kalvachev’s career in comics. He has worked on titles like Stranger Things, Batman Beyond, Wonder Woman, B.P.R.D, Men of War, DMZ, Green Arrow, to name but a few.  

His most passionate work to date however is Blue Estate. The success of the book earned him 2 Eisner nominations for Best Cover and Best Color Artist. Blue Estate achieved something no other comic book had done before – weave 13 different artists’ styles into one cohesive look, where the visuals change when something significant happens in the story, be it in the middle of the page or even inside a single panel. 

The Blue Estate story didn’t stop there. Kalvachev moved to Paris, France to create Blue Estate the game, an over-the-top rail shooter which quickly became a fan-favorite on Steam, its unpredictable ridiculousness and SNL-style humor setting it apart from its peers. Little known fun fact: there isn’t a single bad word in the entire game.

In 2019 Viktor Kalvachev launched a successful Kickstarter campaign which collected his Moleskine sketches into a large, elegant art book called INSPIRE. His online presence and successful career are the reason he’s been giving many talks and workshops around the world at both private and public events like THU and Lightbox. He also has a successful class called “DECONSTRUCTED: Drawing People with Viktor Kalvachev” on the popular platform Schoolism.

Currently Kalvachev is the Studio Art Director of Moon Active, one of the biggest mobile game developers in the world, working with his team to achieve the dream of making it the “Pixar of the mobile game industry”. 

He works from his home in Paris, France where he lives with his wife, two children and a lovely old dog named Bucky.

kalvachev.com
instagram.com/viktor_kalvachev