While musical notation is a fascinating feat of typography, admired by musicians and non-musicians alike, each person sees something different in the printed staves and notes of a page of music: the musician reads melodies and accompaniment, while the uninitiated can only see strange dots and quirky lines. Russian illustrator Lena Erlich however takes the whole concept a step further, by reading notation as a landscape on which she can draw colourful stories in a very personal style that pays tribute to the good old days of hand-drawn illustration. Erlich herself lives in a village near Novosibirsk, Russia’s third-largest city situated right in the heart of Siberia, where she runs People Too design studio together with illustrator Alexey Liapunov.
The “On Note” series, as Erlich calls them, are her own personal project and began when, one day, she started doodling what she saw around her on a page from a music book using coloured markers and pencils. Erlich has since developed the concept using the spaces between the notes and staves to draw romantic or humorous scenes from the city and the surrounding countryside. She sometimes even gives her drawings a theme, as is the case in “Forest Adventure” where we follow a family and their black-and-white cat as they spend a day in the woods, or in the funny “CrossFit” illustration where little figures run up and down the page while doing their cross-fit routines amongst the notes (indicated to be played at the lively tempo of allegretto vivace). Beautifully drawn and coloured, these miniature illustrations are definitely the work of a skilled illustrator, one that can conjure a sense of place and story within the confined space of a few bars of music.