You can come across the cheerful style of Swedish illustrator Ingela P Arrhenius almost everywhere—on tableware, posters, prints, wooden figures or in a museum. In this guest blog, she talks about the projects she starts and what they bring her.
Now and then I get e-mails from art students wanting guidance on how to find their own style, how best to improve and how to avoid becoming stagnant. One piece of advice I give is: have a project of your own to work on, alongside the commissions.
Even though I love my job and find most of my commissions fun to do, I sometimes get the feeling that something is missing and I find myself thinking about working in a different field. When that happens, I simply create a project for myself where I can explore that particular field.
It started about ten years ago when I was tired of working on the computer. My style is very graphic, working with flat colors, and is often very exact. I felt I wanted to show my clients – and myself – that I could paint, that I still knew how to make something by hand. So I started to paint portraits. A LOT of portraits; 142 to be exact. They were based on a book of black-and-white photos from the 1930s. And the idea behind creating so many portraits was to be able to try different painting styles, all in acrylic colors. When I was done, I held an exhibition and made a book.
Another time, I wanted to make posters. So, after a trip to Italy, I made about 20 large posters based on the memories from that trip.
A couple of years later, I was drawn to creating work that was more three-dimensional. As I didn’t know exactly how to make it, the easiest thing for me to do was to go the lumberyard, and get help chopping up some wood blocks. That project resulted in 100 wood-block figures, another exhibition and another book.
Projects like this often lead you in a new direction. The wood block one, for example, resulted in me working more with children´s products, which was exactly what I wanted.
My latest project has been to re-use old packages and paint them. I have painted quite a few now and I should really stop, but it is so much fun! I can´t go into a store without seeing unrealized characters when I stand in front of all the packages and bottles.
It’s always worth starting a new project. Not only do you reap the joy of creating something that’s fulfilling your own need, it will also, as already mentioned, lead to something else – even if you don’t know what that may be at the precise moment that you are doing it.