"You can miss nature without even knowing it".
Saara lives a peaceful life in the countryside of Finland. She spends her time drawing, wandering the forests, the fields, the seashore. When she is not busy illustrating, she likes to birdwatch.
Tell us a bit about your life. When did you begin to paint, what made you decide to do illustration?
I was born in southern Finland where I've lived all my life. I have always loved drawing, took art classes as a child and also used to go to my grandmother's house every morning before school and paint pictures of her cats. Despite this I had no idea that I would be pursuing illustration as a career, I actually went to an art school to study graphic design. I kind of forgot about painting for years and worked as a freelance graphic designer mostly in book publishing field. At some point I just wanted to try and do something creative on my own, so I started painting again and haven't stopped since.
What kind of illustrations do you do? Would you like to share with us a unique experience you had when illustrating a book?
I do all kinds of illustrations – I'm still in quite early stages of my career and don't have a specific field of illustration I'm only concentrating on. My work consists of editorial, commercial and private commissions, and selling my own projects as prints and originals. I'd say the most unique and memorable experiences are when I'm illustrating something I know nothing about. It's exciting, intimidating and rewarding to research a completely unknown subject and figure out how to best convert it to a visual form.
I've been dreaming of illustrating my childhood favorite book, Vattumato (Raspberry worm) by finnish author Zacharias Topelius. It had beautiful and mesmerizing illustrations by Maija Karma. The story means a lot to me and I'd love to take my spin on it. I've also been wanting to do a series of paintings about finnish or nordic bird mythologies.
What materials do you usually use?
I use gouache paint. Sometimes I like to mix it up and use pencil or colored pencils with it.
Is there a time of the day you prefer to work? Do you always paint at home?
I love mornings and that's when I feel most productive and creative, so I try to get to work as early as possible. I always try to wrap things up when there's still some hours left in the day, so I'd have time for walking outside, cooking and relaxing in the evening. I always paint at home in my little office, with my two dogs as my office buddies.
What is on your desk at this moment?
Essential things like brushes, jars and tubes of paint, colored pencils, a sketchbook, an old botanical book and of course, a cup of coffee.
Are you currently working on something?
I'm currently working on a series of patterns. One of my goals this year is to better and expand my webshop.
Is illustration a profession for you or a hobby? Is it possible to make a living through illustration in your country?
Illustration is a profession for me, but I do graphic design projects too. It is possible to make a living through illustration in Finland, but I guess like anywhere, it takes time and a lot of hard work.
Which illustrators (classical or contemporary) have inspired you?
I adore the work of Aleksander Lindeberg, Tove Jansson, Rudolf Koivu, Edward Gorey, Mary Blair, Charley Harper, Alice and Martin Provensen and too many more to mention.
Images form imagination. When you paint do you think that images will come alive in the imagination of children?
I don't think I consciously really focus on this as I'm painting, but of course I hope that the viewer, children and adults too, will find the magic I try to put into my paintings. Children have such a strong imagination that I think it comes quite naturally to them to step inside the world of a painting.
What is an illustrator's relationship with childhood? How much do your childhood memories define your work?
I think my childhood memories have affected me so much visually that it undeniably shows in my work. I've always, particularly as a child, been easily overwhelmed by beautiful books, landscapes, paintings and objects. I remember being obsessed with Ilon Wikland's illustrations in Ronia the Robber's Daughter by Astrid Lindgren. The way the forest was portrayed in her images still takes my breath away to this day.
You very often draw pictures of every day life (girls looking for mushrooms, having a walk in the woods, wearing their socks). Are you inspired by your routine? How could you define happiness?
Routine definitely inspires my work, there's something comforting about painting everyday life. A lot of my work is inspired by quite ordinary moments that seem insignificant but are unintentionally comical or sad or important. For me happiness is in the small things and those ordinary moments in life, cliché as it might sound. Picking mushrooms, camping with friends, playing with my dogs, watching birds or painting.
What do you find inspiring in the countryside?
I used to live in a mid-sized town before moving to the countryside with my husband a few years ago. It was bizarre because I felt like I had been missing the nature and the quiet without even knowing it! My favorite thing is to wander the forests, fields and the seashore. The landscapes are just so beautiful and there's so much to see and explore, that's what I find most inspiring. Also, the stars are very bright and visible in the countryside.
In your blog you introduce yourself as an illustrator, but also a “bird lady”. What is it that you find interesting in bird watching? Is it true that birds are the most colorful little animals?
Birds truly are the most colorful little animals! I find birds endlessly interesting – there's such a variety of colors, patterns, shapes, sounds. It's a thrill to see a bird you've never seen before, or spot one of your favorites. You can watch birds from your own window or bird watching can take you places you've never been to before. There's also something beautiful and wistful about birds migrating. Most of them leave Finland for warmer climates for the winter. But they always come back.
For any information concerning Saara's work have a look here.