When we first laid our eyes on the work of finnish illustrator Annu Kilpeläinen (b. 1985) we would have guessed that she spends most of her time strolling along the sunny beaches of California. Every bit of her illustrations are covered in tropical patterns, flowers, swimming pools and sunshine, which stand in huge contrast to her nordic roots.
It definitely seems like the creative mind of Annu Kilpeläinen is stroked by eternal sunbeams. In her works Annu depicts tropically urban landscapes, cars and people encapsulated in vibrant patterns, done in an always bright and bold color palette of flamingo pink, sunburn orange, palmtree green and blue-sky blue. During a visit from an american relative Annu experienced a growing curiousity for the exotic, something that is completely different from the rough landscapes and long winters in Finland. “My whole family background is deeply rooted in Finland, but my grandmom’s sister lived in America. When she visited I remember thinking, that wow! people from where she comes from, must be fun because she always wore lipstick and shiny jewellery.”
Even though she, as a kid, never dreamed of a life outside of Finland, Annu ended up taking a degree in illustration at the University of the Arts in London, where she also lived for eight years, before moving to Australia, just a couple of days ago. We have caught up with Annu, just while she is in the process of starting up her new life, to a talk about trying out new things, scribbling down ideas in the middle of the night, an old car and her big dreams for the future.
What made you choose your current path?
My parents always said “try out stuff and get new hobbies” and so I tried playing Finnish baseball, piano and dancing ballet, and somewhere along the way I got more interested in arts. I started studying Graphic Design but it didn’t seem to fit, so after my first year I moved to London and soon after I started to study there. And then, years after graduating, I noticed that I can actually support myself with this, so why not go see the world? And that’s what took me to Australia.
Can you tell us about your working process?
I have a small sketchbook and I always snap photos with my phone. I also write little texts on my phone; like when I wake up in the middle of the night and have a great idea, I tend to scribble it down and when I wake up the next day I have a note on my phone with some random words like “smoke umbrella“. Then after some time I go through the photos and notes and if there are any good ideas, I do some loose sketching and then I get on to the actual artwork. I sketch outlines with pencil and then I just fill in the areas with Poscas or acrylics. It’s pretty simple really. Sometimes I think it’s fun to play around and splash some acrylics on to the paper and try out other types of materials too – if I fail I don’t need to share it with the world (just the good things).
Do you have a project that you are especially proud of?
Well I painted a car last summer in Finland. I was drawing all these cars on paper and felt like I should do one in real life too. There is plenty of old field rally cars back home, so I went to Finland and found this lovely lady who gave one of her cars for me to paint. It belonged to her 12 year old kid and his only rule was “No flowers!” It was a bit of a trial and error, like everything always is, but I really ended up loving it. I also went to see it in the winter when it was covered in snow. I think the best thing about it is that now it’s just there and that young boy is rallying around the fields with it.
What are your biggest source of inspiration/influence at the moment?
Before coming to Australia I did a show at FISK Gallery in Portland, called Ocean of Possibilities, and spent 3 weeks in America. It was my first time in America and it’s my first time in Australia now, so it is a lot of wandering around. So anything really; the nature is always a great source and just people doing their things. I do love exploring the internet greatly but sometimes it gets really repetitive. Book shops are great – all kinds of book shops. We stopped at so many book shops on our trip in America.
What are you working on right now?
Well it’s my first week of actually getting back to work, after my trip to America, so at the moment I am working on my emails, haha. The office work of a freelance illustrator takes quite a bit of time! Before America though I was working on a new book that is coming out later on this year, my solo show at FISK and a big group show called New Nordic Fashion Illustration vol. 2. So, all that was quite a bit to take on + planning a 3-week trip and moving to the other side of the planet. And it is all done now so I had a few beers and gathered some energy, and now I’m starting up quite a few new things.
What are your hopes, dreams and plans for the future?
Just to do what I am doing really. Meet people, see new things. Get a nice studio at some point and a nice dog too. My big dream would be to do some big scientific discovery! I have a visa in Australia ’till February so after that I will go to London or somewhere else in Europe maybe. In general it would be great to be involved in a variety of projects and do alot of fun things within illustration.
Do you have any piece of advice for fellow creatives?
Just do a lot of stuff, whatever it is. Draw a lot, dance a lot, walk a lot, watch too many documentaries, listen to good and bad music… and then do nothing for a couple of days. It’s good to sleep well. And when you really get yourself worked into something, you’ll find new things and when you get a bit of sleep your brain will work a lot better.
Rikke Luna (f. 1988) og Matias Albæk-Falk (f. 1988) er stiftere af idoart.dk, og driver derudover formidlingsbureauet I DO ART Agency samt forlaget I DO ART Books. Rikke og Matias bor og arbejder i København.