guys, meet Staffan
and he does stuff like this
and we like that, his sensitive, melancholic, almost poetic and ever-growing portfolio of works,
so we thought it was only appropriate to probe him a bit on
VT: How do you get ideas for a new illustration? What is around you that inspires you? Music, people, situations?
SL: I usually get ideas when leaving my comfort zone of everyday life. If I make a wrong turn on a street by purpose or take a long way home, the brain starts working in a different way and things around me tend to become very inspiring all of a sudden. This could be a new smell in the air, colors coming off walls, how the light changes in the street or the mood in general. I like words and I read a lot and sometimes a sentence or a memorable passage could be a starting point for something new. This also adapts to music which is a big source of inspiration, all kinds, especially because melodies can evoke memories and feelings that somehow transcend the barrier between ideas and realization.
VT: Can you describe the processes you go through when working on an illustration commission from start to finish? Tell us how an illustration or a character comes to life.
SL: The client usually contacts you with pinpoints that refer to something you have done before, so the first thing I do is to make sure that I understand what they want, in order to make things easier. Otherwise it is quite easy to just rush into something and end up on the other side because you are excited and in a rush, and you have to start all over. Secondly, there is always research that has to be done. Perhaps you need references or further understanding of the context. The older I get the more I do. It helps because it´s what usually makes the work more dynamic.
After that I write down key words from the brief or things that I have learned through the research in a workbook and then I start sketching. I work on A1 sheets so can have all the elements that I draw in front of me.
I usually send a draft to the client after one day and if its accepted I start for real, adding details, then colors and layers to the illustration. It’s really important for me to have a good dialogue with the client, otherwise I get tensed and nervous and stress reflects poorly on my work. After the second referral you often have to change some minor details, but usually by this stage it’s all just fun and the feeling of not wanting the project to end starts coming.
VT: Your work has a romantic and somehow melancholic touch, can you describe us your research process?
SL: I collect memorabilia that I sometimes use in my work, also things Ive heard or read that have a poetic quality. I´m also fascinated by textiles and I draw a lot of inspiration from old interiors or interior design. I’ve always been into photography and I love taking snapshots of things that are aged yet mesmerizing, anything that has stood the test of time and is still beautiful. I think that’s where my interest in details and all decorative things comes from.
VT: What is your favorite medium?
SL: From sketch to finished piece I use pens, coffee, watercolors, ink pencils and a bit of acrylics. I then use the computer to clean things up and to add minor details, however I find myself working more and more on big scale to create originals that I don’t have to rearrange as it looks so much better. The feeling of doing something thought-through and enjoying the process, the craftsmanship are very important to me.
VT: Are there stories behind your drawings?
SL: A few, some of them come from fleeing emotions due to own experiences, but most of them are fiction.There is a lot of longing and a sense of nostalgia in my work that comes from living abroad since I was young. I am from a small town in Sweden and I grew up at the countryside, so the power of nature is something that still fascinates and thrills me.
VT: We are curious about your daily routine. How does a regular day looks like?
SL: I get up at 7:30, make breakfast and listen to the Swedish Radio. I check my mail and then I go for a stroll in my neighborhood in Berlin. I usually start working around 9 and then stop for lunch around 1. I then resume drawing till about 5 when my energy dries out. I need my routines to get things done, however if some days I don´t feel like working I don´t, because there is no use, and some days if I´m excited and on a roll I might work all day and night. It´s the luxury of this job, it’s up to you how or when you want to work. But you need to be disciplined, otherwise it is easy to slip into ambivalence, and things start to crumble.
VT: It looks like there is a lot of patience behind your illustrations, how much time do you spend in average on a drawing?
SL: Between 3 days and a 2 weeks depending on how focused I am.
VT: Can you please give us a quick visual tour into what surrounds you when you work – your favorite place to draw, your desk, your tools, maybe music, environment, etc.?
SL: I now live in my studio which basically consists of one big white room with high ceiling that has big windows on to the street, so its a pretty bright space. I have a regular white surfaced desk that I work on. In the shelf to my right are all my materials and on the desk is the computer and the scanner to the left. On the wall in front of me I have a lot of current work, ideas, pieces of paper, sketches and scribbles taped up. I listen to music or radio when I work. Anything that suits my mood. At the moment the new Beach House album is on repeat, and on the radio there is a wonderful 4-part documentary about beauty and sublimity.
VT: How do you keep your work fresh? Do you need to consciously adapt your style or does it progress naturally?
SL: I try to be true to myself and to be patient. If you believe that what you are doing is right, it gets so much easier. This sounds pretentious but it´s true and it takes a lot of time to get there. But once you find yourself in that position, you realize you have a certain palette to work from and the means to take it further. It´s almost like you have made certain choices and you have to stick to them to be satisfied.
VT: Blockages and lack of inspiration happen; how do you get over them?
SL: I stop, take a break and see my friends. People are very important because this can be a very lonely profession, and even if it´s important to go into a cocoon to get things going, it’s easy to get too involved and lost in the work.
VT: What is behind the messages that you share? Where do they come from?
SL: I don’t think there is a message in my imagery, it´s just pretty images… But if I could impose something, I think I would want for people to just stop for a while and look at things in a different way, there is so much going on that we don´t see because we are too preoccupied. If we take a closer look, if we come closer, there is so much to see, so much to feel.
VT: Where would you like your work to lead you? What are you aspirations or plans for the future?
SL: It would be nice if I could continue to live from what I love doing. I know it might all go away tomorrow so I have some kind of struggle for longevity in me, whatever that means. When I was younger I wanted to be a teacher, and that´s something I could see myself doing in couple of years, maybe help kids learn how to express themselves through drawing.
VT: Thank you so much, Staffan.
check out more of Staffan’s work here
how do certain people put out such an awesome product out, make things happen, bring ideas to live? over and over again? what is their way of producing things, the path they go through, the pattern of their efforts, the daily grind, the tools and habitat, the pivotal points, the discipline and the purposeful chaos?..
this post is one of a method conversations we have a variety of remarkable people doing stuff.
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