Young Guns 18: Mihailo Kalabić

By Alixandra Rutnik and Brett McKenzie on Nov 18, 2020

Highlighting the creative superstars that make up the class of Young Guns 18

2020 has been one rollercoaster of a year, but fortunately, the spirit of creativity can't be dampened. Want proof? Check out the winners of Young Guns 18!

Beginning with our largest and most diverse jury in history, acclaimed creatives from across the globe spent three months reviewing hundreds of submissions from insanely talented young professionals seeking validation for all of their hard work. After narrowing down the field to 83 top-notch finalists, the jury engaged in virtual discussion and debate, deciding who will win one of the most career-impacting honors in our industry.

In the end, we are honored to present the 31 incredible winners of Young Guns 18, a diverse collection of artists, filmmakers, animators, designers, illustrators, and others, all of them representing some of the very best that their fields have to offer.

We invite you to learn about all 31 Young Guns 18 winners in this series of interviews.






SEE Mihailo Kalabić'S ENTRY

When did Young Guns first pop up on your radar?

I can't remember the exact moment, but I think it happened in some rabbit-hole research about one of the past winners.

You're a first-time entrant — congrats! What made you enter this year?

I think it's a clear case of "turning 30 crises just in time for the entries."

Young Guns is as much an exercise in self-curation as it is in sheer creative talent. After all, you are only allowed to submit six projects. How did you go about deciding which pieces to submit and which to leave out?

I've been doing graphic design for many years now in various design fields. A few years ago I started experimenting with various approaches and softwares which lead me to a certain style. Slowly through personal projects, piece by piece shifted my work in the illustration and animation field, so the works submitted are the ones that are a result of that style in particular.

What went through your mind when you discovered that you won, knowing how difficult it is to make it into Young Guns?

I definitely have a fantasy about winning the Young Guns award for years now, but it seemed distant since I'm from a smaller country and we have limited access to certain platforms. I was also waiting to advance more, to be "good enough". Somewhere around my 30th birthday, there were Young Guns adverts and posts in my feeds, reminding me every day the cold truth that I'm turning 30, so yeah that was the sign I guess.

If you had to pick one of the six projects that you entered as your favorite, which one would it be and why?

That's a tough one. I will go with the "ABC" letter illustrations since that was one of the style-finding breakthrough pieces.

If you had to describe your creative style, the part of your work that’s most distinctively “you”, what would it be?

I consider my style to be an illogical blend of parameters that work for some reason. I love that moment of "misusing" 3D animation software for making 2D traditional graphics that feels like a weird cousin of the socialist ex-Yugoslavian magazine illustration.

Who are some of the biggest influences on your work and career, people who may have had a hand in mentoring and supporting you?

Besides the design and artist superstars that we all admire, the Serbian creative scene has a big influence on my work. My first sensei, while I was still in my teens, was my older fellow designer Branko Bobic, also a big influence would be my mega-talented buddy Vanja Vikalo with his mind-twisting approach to illustration and work. I am also a big fan of Bratislav Milenkovic, Braca Burazeri, Marko Vuleta (@floating.bastard), Stefan Stanojevic (@tonystar__), and some older guns like Mirko Ilic and Jugoslav Vlahovic.

Now that you’re in the Young Guns family, are there any past winners you look up to and admire?

I am a big fan of Braulio Amado (YG13), that guy is from another planet. I also admire the style of Max Loeffler (YG17), Alex Trochut (YG6), Max Guther (YG16), Grilli Type (YG13), etc.

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a pretty crazy year, with a global pandemic and social upheaval shaping so many facets of our lives. Aside from the positive news of winning Young Guns, how has this year been for you?

This is definitely the start of hard times for all of humanity, but if I focus on the positive aspect of it, a valuable moment happened when the world stopped for a second. It was an opportunity to reflect and think from another perspective on all the important good and bad life aspects that we are usually to busy to see.

Name a creative/professional dream that you have yet to fulfill — hey, maybe Young Guns can help propel you in that direction!

I would love to continue my career on this train I hopped on and get in contact with some professional agents and continue to evolve together.

Any last words about winning Young Guns 18 that you'd like to share?

It is a true honor to be in this crew. Thank you for making me feel the taste of hard work making sense. I must send a huge thanks to my girl Ana for endless support and honest feedback on my work. Besides the people I've mentioned earlier, big shoutout to Sanja Bulat, all the people sending nice words online, 23rdC crew, Polimorf crew, Jagnjeca Brigada crew, and all my friends and colleagues. Words of wisdom to other creatives - Invest time and energy to find what makes your gears go, and then work hard to keep them moving.


"Mihailo's illustrations are striking, to say the least. His stark use of colour in conjunction with gritty textures and surreal approach to objects makes for profound visual storytelling, drawing the viewer into the labyrinth of detail he puts into his work."

Ashwin Chacko
Illustrator & Designer

"Mihailo was able to take an object as familiar as the apple and present it in a way that will leave you starting in the produce section of Whole Foods hoping that one of the fruits spontaneously morphs into the image we are presented here. Being let into the mind of Mihailo was quite a thrill ride, and I look forward to what’s next."

Brandon Drew Jordan Pierce
VP, Executive Creative Director

"I have no idea why Mihailo's work makes me feel like a kid again. His creativity is so full of bizarre poses, rough particles, and mysterious spatial relationships, I could hardly wait to finish them all. Really hits the spot, I mean. So hey, boss, what’s next?☝️"

Guang Yu
Art Director, Co-Founder
A Black Cover Design

"Mihailo Kalabié knows how to compose an impactful design: the relationship between illustration and typography is perfectly executed. The organic shapes he draws take us into his universe, sometimes strange, sometimes retro-futuristic. His artworks are like paintings: the colors and textures he uses take us into another world and appeal to our imagination and our capacity to dream."

Margot Lévêque
Art Director, Graphic & Type Designer

"Mihailo's work is literally in its own world. What I love about it is not only is it a breath of fresh air with its unusual color palette and unique organic abstract forms, but also the surreal universe that's created. It's so wonderful when you see a piece of illustration and it takes you to a different place, a place you would have never imagined."

Zipeng Zhu
Designer, Art Director, Illustrator & Animator
Dazzle Studio
Young Guns 13 Winner



Make sure to check out all the Young Guns 18 Winners in the archive!

Young Guns 18 Archive



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