Growing up a small town, Eija Vehviläinen felt a strong calling for visual storytelling. The Helsinki-based illustrator chats to us about her love of painting with gouache, aquarelle and ink, and her digital floral designs.
Q: Have you always been creative since childhood, or did you discover your talent later?
A: I’ve always had this urge to draw and create new things, but growing up I never really aspired to become an artist.
Q: Where did you grow up – and has this had a bearing on your work?
A: I’m originally a small-town girl but I moved to Helsinki over ten years ago to study arts. I do think that growing up in a small town has affected my style and creativity to some extent.
Q: Did you go to art college? Any key mentors? Key moments?
A: I’ve studied graphic design at Aalto University. The school didn’t have any specific programme for illustration back then but it was quite clear from the beginning of my studies that visual storytelling was my strength. So I focused on that.
Q: ‘If I wasn’t an artist I’d be…’
A: I'm very interested in psychology and the human mind so maybe something related to that.
Q: Describe a working day – what time do you get up? Any daily rituals?
As a freelancer, I get to choose my own working hours, so it changes a bit. But my daily rituals usually include a nice breakfast (a bowl of oatmeal with lots of berries) and a long walk in the woods or by the sea. After that, I’m ready to start the day!
Q: When is your most productive time of day?
A: I don’t think I have any specific time when I’m feeling most productive, but I’ve noticed it’s best to take some breaks here and there during the day to keep the creative energy flowing.
Q: Do you have music or radio on whilst you work, or do you prefer silence?
A: I actually don’t listen to music that often, but when I do it’s usually either something very cheerful and uplifting or super melancholic and moody.
I’m very affected by music and sometimes I feel like it dictates my emotions so much that it distracts me from creating my own work.
Q: Do you have a favourite painting outfit?
A: Anything goes as long as it’s comfy. If I want to feel sharp and super productive, I may put on my nicest shirt.
Q: What materials do you use?
A: As an illustrator I create most of my commissions digitally these days, though I usually start by sketching by hand. When creating personal work, I love to paint with gouache, aquarelle and sometimes ink.
Q: What are the main themes to your work?
A: Although I love to draw and paint flowers and other nature-related subjects, I would say my main focus is on shape, colours and the overall atmosphere when creating.
Q: Do you draw on personal experiences?
A: Each artwork is a product of my creativity and inspiration, so I think there’s always something personal in them – even when it’s a commission or a commercial work.
Q: Do you have a current/past favourite piece of your work?
A: Lately, I’ve enjoyed creating characters and focusing on editorial illustration. I’m also very interested in package design and creating illustrations for labels and such.
Q: What was the last art exhibition you went to see?
A: I went to see the Moomins 75 exhibition at the National Museum of Finland. I would say Tove Jansson is one of my art heroes.
Q: What have been the highlights of your career so far?
A: I do enjoy working together with other creatives. As an illustrator, it truly warms my heart when I’m able to bring something new to the table or make a difference through my work.
Q: What advice would you give to younger artists just starting out?
A: Be authentic. Sometimes good things take time!
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