For this article in the international artist series, we turn to Finland, featuring six artists who create fantastic work, from beautiful nature illustrations to conceptual art and more! I asked each artist how their country and culture inspired their work, and they delivered fantastic answers. Enjoy!
Esa is an artist based in Jyväskylä, Finland. His work reflects his love of transportation design and features stunning illustrations of conceptual car designs. Check out a small selection of his work below, or see more in his portfolio.
Toyota FT1 Wide Body Kit
What I love about Finland is the long summer days, the nature, and its four seasons. Besides that, I really enjoy the fact that Finland isn't huge population wise, so everything here is pretty much under control. Also, I'm really grateful for the Finnish education system. Going through one of the most efficient school systems and studying transportation design debt-free is very nice indeed!
I think the biggest influence on my work is the very successful motorsport industry of Finland. I think that's why I have very strong interests in efficiency and performance. I think practicality for most people here is more important than looks, so design is very function driven.
Toyota FT1 Wide Body Kit
I don't actually know much about the general art community here, but the design community is great. People are very willing to work together even though Finnish people are known for their lack of communication. I have to mention that the Finnish car design community is not very competitive, so if you want to become a successful car designer from Finland, you need to start looking abroad for more challenges.
Johanna is a freelance illustrator originally based in Helsinki, Finland. Her work showcases her love of all furry creatures and features extraordinary digital paintings full of life. Check out a small selection of her work below, or see more in her portfolio.
I currently live in the UK but I regularly visit Finland for quite a few weeks at a time. We might not have mountains or anything like that, but I've come to appreciate the vast forests and lakes and how they're always so present around you. The best time of the year is summer, I feel like the whole country wakes up and feels so cheerful and relaxed.
Cats for Catamancer
I grew up in a suburban area where we regularly traveled to the countryside. I've been an animal lover since I was a child which is what most of my subjects are about but I never had any pets growing up. I always enjoyed going out to watch birds and other wildlife. I also took photos of birds, read lots of books about the Finnish wildlife, and tried to draw the animals from all those books.
The environments in my artwork have become a bit more global, but I still have a big affinity for Nordic nature. I mostly enjoy painting organic shapes, such as flowy fur, plants and trees, and clouds.
The Sunny Spot
I've been involved in a Finnish online art community since I was quite young and I've met many of my best friends this way. There are lots of talented and super motivated people in Finland. Many of the other artists I've grown up with are also interested in drawing animals, so it's been great drawing inspiration from each other. Finns tend to stick together since there's not that many of us on a global scale, so it's great to find each other online or see someone get recognition. We've even created a bit of a local meme here for when Finland is mentioned somewhere.
Daniel is an illustrator based in Hämeenkyrö, Finland. His work features amazing conceptual illustrations full of powerful symbolism. Check out a small selection of his work below, or see more in his portfolio.
Being in Finland at the start of my career, which is now almost ten years ago, has given me a good amount of calmness to concentrate on what I want to do. If I had lived in a bigger city in Germany, my country of origin, I may have been more distracted or less focused on my work back then.
Finland also helped me discover contemporary illustration in the first place. I saw the work of many great Finnish illustrators that became successful in the early 2000's like Klaus Haapaniemi, Kustaa Saksi, and Pietari Posti.
You Want It Darker - Illustrations
I do not feel Finnish, but my native country of Germany becomes more foreign to me every time I visit. I have a strong bond to Finland and surely have adopted some traits from it here. I dislike generalizing, but I like how people are often down-to-earth, matter-of-fact, and even unflappable.
My drawings are usually published in non-Finnish magazines. The subject matter is mostly unrelated to Finland. To bridge this gap, I created several personal projects in 2014 and 2016. I tried to make a drawing every day to record my daily life and it is called “Dear Diary.” There are a lot of local things in these drawings and people who live here or are familiar with rural Finland will hopefully recognize a few things.
In Tampere, close to where I live, there is an active art scene. There is also a great tradition during the summer of art exhibitions in Finland. Some are organized by museums, but great quality art can also be found in small places in the countryside. Even Helsinki people sometimes come there.
There is also an illustrator’s organization here where we have started to meet with illustrators from the Tampere region, which I am very happy about.
Ilona is an illustrator based in Helsinki, Finland. Her work features unique illustrations inspired by her dreams, witty humor, and fascination with double meanings. Check out a small selection of her work below, or see more in her portfolio.
Aurinkolinnut Picture Book
I love the seasons and the stillness of nature here. Even though it is cold most of the year, I find the changing seasons inspiring. It also makes you appreciate the short moments of sun and warmth. Nature is important to me, so I always have to spend time in our summer cabin every year. In Finland it’s so easy to just enjoy the outdoors.
Finland definitely has influenced my work. I spent my childhood in eastern Finland along the countryside and I think my love for nature and solitude comes from there. I’ve always enjoyed my own space and being a freelance illustrator has made that possible. I can decide when I’m in contact with other people and when to hide under piles of paints and paper. Saying that, I also enjoy bringing joy to people around me, and I think creating illustrations is a great way to do just that. When thinking about the visual language of my illustrations, I tend to make them with closed eyes or no eyes at all to keep the distance. Then I bring out some positivity by using bright colors and joyful postures.
I think the art community here is quite lively but small. Maybe that’s just a positive thing. There’s definitely always something to do and someone to meet, so you don’t feel like you're always alone with your work.
Sami is an illustrator based in Helsinki, Finland. His work features vibrant illustrations filled with fun, charismatic characters. Check out a small selection of his work below, or see more in his portfolio.
Avoid Bad Life Poster
I love the society that our grandparents have built for us overall. We are safe, we have free education and healthcare, and there are equal opportunities for everyone.
On top of those things, I also enjoy the Finnish summers. The amount of light traveling all throughout the night has a really magical feeling to it, something that I don’t quite get in other European countries. There’s also this saying that goes something like, “the Finnish summers are short, but there’s only little snow.” I think this describes the summers perfectly but also the kind of dry humor here that I also enjoy.
I think the Finns are often seen as quiet, a bit shy, and with the small-talking skills of a rock. I’m really shy at advertising my work and even struggle at sending my portfolio to previously unknown people. But understanding this has led me to concentrate more on my actual work and focusing on long term goals instead of short ones.
I like to live in this naive belief of the art world, where if your work is good enough, someone will eventually pick you up from your home while stuffing your pockets with gold and treasures.
Reaching for Happiness
Even though it's not a big country, I personally feel there’s a separation between the art and illustration communities. My personal experience of the art community is mostly through the exhibitions where I mainly concentrate on eating free snacks and drinks. The illustration community is a bit more familiar to me and I feel like there are a lot of opportunities, but I just don’t use them to my advantage as much as I should.
Jenna is an illustrator based in Helsinki, Finland. Her work features energetic illustrations of cool kids with their awesome robots. Check out a small selection of her work below, or see more in her portfolio.
Bo's First Robot
Finland is home to me. I have to say that I love how nature is always present here. Everybody knows somebody with a cottage and we always take weekend trips with our friends to enjoy Finnish nature. Helsinki is lively too, especially during the summertime where flea market day turns the whole city into a big flea market. On top of that, Finland is a very safe place to live.
Finnish culture has definitely influenced my work, even if my style seems mostly Japanese influenced. My personal perspective comes from Finnish culture. The color schemes and patterns are something that I would describe as "northern simplicity."
Boy and Robot
Under the Bridge
There are only 600,000 people in Helsinki, so in the Finnish art community everyone knows each other. Everyone has gone to the same schools and there are only a few places where you can study art and design or receive a master's degree. So I would definitely call it a tight-knit community.
Many thanks to the artists who took time to answer my questions and share a bit about themselves and how their country and/or culture has affected their work. You can check out more of their work in the links below: