For this article in the international artist series we turn to Sweden, featuring six illustrators and designers who create fantastic work. I asked each artist how their country and culture inspired their work, and they delivered fantastic answers. Enjoy!
Anneli Olander Berglund
Anneli is a painter and illustrator based in Nykvarn, Sweden. Her work is expressive, telling stories of girls and lovely creates in ink and watercolor. You can check out more of her artwork on her website and see a small selection of it below.
Gossip Over Tea
"Sweden is a land with lots of forests and lakes, it would be natural to say the art today here would be very intricate and nature-inspired -- yet a lot of recent art is quite minimalistic. I've never personally really liked minimalism until I stumbled into the magical minimalism of anime and manga art. Without realizing it I became more Swedish in my painting and drawing by being attracted to the Japanese art and comic scene - mixing my folklore inspiration with the minimalism I had come to love.
Illustration for Pale Cloud
"We tend not to be religious, we pride ourselves with being hard working. Swedes have some kind of younger sibling syndrome, we want to excel and make an impact not only in our own country - on a lot of areas. I am personally a little bit tired of the lack of belief in something bigger than ourselves, in the overly appreciated status-hunt and the importance of having a lot of money, so I allow myself to step outside that grid.
New Work 2010
"In my art I try to break free from that fear of implying I'm anything. I imply a lot: I'm a sexual being, I'm a thinker, I'm out of control, I'm angry, I'm sad, I'm a goddess of everything, I'm a goddess of nothing. I try to play with everything I'm afraid of, things I love and things I hate. After all, what is the point of the freedom of art if you are still all tied up and you hold back on all the stories you want to tell?
"I think Sweden has been a great place to grow up in, it has given me exciting stories and wonderful nature, the people may be slow to open up but you can still make unexpected friends. This country taught me to work hard and expect nothing for free. But nowadays I also enjoy breaking a few unwritten rules with my art."
Paulina is an illustrator and character designer currently based in Stockholm, Sweden. Her fun and engaging work can be seen in full in her portfolio as well as in a small selection of pieces below!
"Sweden and Swedish culture influence my work, most of all through the country's beautiful nature and minimalist approach to form.
The End of the World
Characters Set 2
"Since I moved to Stockholm my characters started to have simpler shapes and my color palette has become vibrant and joyful."
Fruits & Veggies
Jonathan is an illustrator and animator based in Stockholm, Sweden. His work is vibrant and filled with life, especially when it's animated. You can check out more of his work in his full portfolio as well as in the selection of works below.
"My school system probably has influenced me a lot. I went to a high school focused on art and went on and studied art and media at other schools. Art schools have been a great opportunity to just play around and explore whatever captures my interest in the moment. Since the education is still free in Sweden I felt that I could focus on developing my interests without a huge pressure that it would amount to a career.
Robin Run Cycle
"I never really believed I could work with illustration and animation, and back then there wasn’t many career options. So it’s good example of just trying to follow your heart, work hard and things will work out pretty good.
"This is an interesting question and a bit hard to answer. Coming from the countryside and spending a lot of my early life in the far north of Sweden might have influenced me to have an appreciation of nature.
Sailor Walk Animation
"Trees, mountains, and animals are always nice to work with. Otherwise my influences are very western pop culture, maybe with a Nordic minimalist touch."
Naomi Nowak is a painter and designer based in Sweden. Her work carries an ethereal aesthetic, inspired by nature and fantasy worlds. You can check out more of it on her Facebook page as well as in the small selection of works below.
"My favorite thing about Sweden is nature. Deep forests, windy craggy islands, mirror lakes...being afflicted with a love of these things and not knowing what to do with the intense emotion can lead one down the dangerous and awful 'artist' path.
"Swedish winters are long, cold and dark too so it's a sparsely populated country with one part of the year suited for roaming the countryside and the other for staying in, reading and drawing (unless you're a fan of winter sports, which I never was). Because of the wilderness here there is rich folklore surrounding trolls, giants, fae and other more specifically Scandinavian beings like Näcken or the Huldra.
"I'm grateful to have grown up in a country with such a beautiful and mystical connection to nature and the nature spirits. This combined with mythologies and art from my other cultural heritages has helped open me up to see what I need to do in order to paint, I think.
"On the flip-side I suppose I could add that this place can be cold and closed off; it's easy to feel a little isolated in Sweden and I think that contributed to my lifelong interest in art as a means of connection not just expression."
Björn is a creative director and letterer based in Trelleborg, Sweden. His work is masterful, transforming type into illustrated brilliance. You can see more of his work in his portfolio or in the selection of works below.
Hand-Drawn Typographic Cover for Magasinet NEO
"The easy answer would be that my work is influenced by the simplistic design ideals of Scandinavia. And that is partially true. I keep my home as I do my logo and lettering work - clean and strong. Being surrounded by minimalistic designs everywhere as I grew up has affected me on a subtle level.
Logo Design for Good People
"I am drawn to keeping things simple. My work is most often bold, simplistic and free from unnecessary stuff. But there is more to the equation.
"In my early days I found a lot of inspiration from stuff like graffiti, 80s action movies, Lego and Swedish illustrators like Gunilla Bergström (Alfons Åberg) and Jan Lööf. Old sayings and proverbs were a big influence for me as well. It was really big in Sweden back in the days.
#Designquote III for AIGA's Eye on Design Blog
"I guess it's one of the main reasons why I today have a real soft-spot for short, well-written and strong messages with a twist. A good quote really gets me inspired! The alphabet interested me early, I remember the illustrative text in carton magazines' speech balloons, the simplistic streets signs of Sweden and I also recall handwritten letters from my grandmother as something fascinating. And we played a lot of Scribble in the family.
#Designquote II for AIGA's Eye on Design blog
"Sweden has changed a lot since the 70s when I was born. Nowadays it is a melting pot made up of all sorts of nationalities and cultures. This, together with the Internet, makes my inspiration sources nowadays so much more versatile and multi-faceted. Good times for a freelancer indeed. This helps me to create something unique for every project, every time."
Andrea is a concept artist and illustrator based in Stockholm, Sweden. Her work showcases not only fantastic design work but an excellent understanding of light, shadow, and bringing characters to life. You can check out more of her work in her portfolio.
Living on the Edge
"I get very inspired by Swedish nature, which you can easily tell by some of my paintings, especially paintings of foxes that are very common around here. Even though I paint other subjects as well, I most often tend to lean towards forest scenery and red foxes if I can choose.
Valentine's Card 2016
Kids & Storybooks
"I get incredibly inspired by the nature here in Sweden, I like the seasons and each of them spark my inspiration. Especially during spring and summer!"
Short Story: The Wolf
Many thanks to the artists featured above who took time out of their busy lives and work schedules to answer my questions about how their country and culture has influenced them and their work.
You can check out more of the work in the links below: