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illustration

2017

The year is coming to its end, and although my blog has been hibernating in the past months, I felt like I should somehow wrap 2017 up in writing.

After summer, I resigned from what had been my daily 9-5 job for 1,5 years. I had been very unfulfilled by that job already for a while; yes, it was stable and paid the bills alright, but it didn’t feed my creativity in anyway nor did it give me a feeling of learning or growing. Although I had already figured that I wouldn’t necessarily need to be a full-time illustrator in order to feel satisfied with my daily work, I was definitely missing some kind of creative challenge.

Soon after quitting I started as a graphic designer and content creator at a start-up that creates tools (e.g. online games) for teaching 21st century skills and programming to kids. I can not even begin to tell you how happy I was to a) get to work for a company whose mission I find important and b) contribute my skills knowing that I could be useful. The nice thing about the job is that although I work a lot with design and also have illustration tasks every now and then, the style is very different from the one of my own. That keeps things exciting and leaves me energy and motivation to work on my personal illustration projects, too. (Unlike when I was freelancing – illustrating first for clients and then for yourself was often a bit too much to ask from my enthusiasm.)

Overall, this year was quite alright illustration-wise. I didn’t make much progress with the bigger personal projects I had planned for 2017, but other assignments kept me nicely busy: I helped with a re-design of a book, made many custom portraits, worked on some personal pieces just for fun and designed materials for one of Finland’s 100th Independence Day events. Surprisingly enough, I hardly felt guilty about not working as much on my personal projects as I had initially planned. During the year I came to terms with the fact that having a day job and trying to freelance next to it or do anything that could in itself be a full-time job can really wear you out in the long run (How surprising!). It’s okay to not force yourself forward if you need a rest or just some brainless spare time instead. It took me 29 years to realise that, and although it might not be the most mind-blowing realisation to many, it is actually a pretty big mental milestone for me.

Instagram is getting filled with Best Nine 2017-photos, so let’s finish with that. Here’s to quitting, starting, learning and taking it easy every now and then – Happy New Year!

Favourite children’s books: Astronautin rusinapulla

Ladies and gentlemen, let me present you the third book in my archive of inspiring children’s books: a rhyming Finnish poetry book (which unfortunately hasn’t been translated to English) written by one of my favourite children’s book authors, Jukka Itkonen.


Astronautin rusinapulla
Loosely translated: Astronaut’s Raisin Bun
Written by Jukka Itkonen, illustrated by Matti Pikkujämsä

Badge of greatness for playful rhymes and matching visuals


astronautin-rusinapulla-lasten-lorukirjaI love, love, love rhymes, and when I first came across the children’s books of Jukka Itkonen, it was literally literary love at first page. The prolific Finnish writer has written multiple rhyming poetry books for children under different themes, and now I will present you one of them: Astronaut’s Raisin Bun. The theme of this collection of poems is food: where it comes from, who makes it and how it is eaten. The poems introduce a number of different characters and their food-related stories. There’s a picky eater, a real culinarista, a secret agent and a pizza baker, just to mention a few. The characters are exhilaratingly recognisable and the choice of words in the poems are sure to give the reader – young or old – the giggles.

astronautin-rusinapulla-lasten-lorukirjaInstead of focusing on fantasies (although Astronaut’s Raisin Bun does feature a superman), the books of Itkonen tend to give a witty spin to perfectly normal things, portraying them from a humorous point of view. As you might remember from the previous book feature, I’m a huge fan of writers who have this kind of realistic yet amusing approach to their stories. 

astronautin-rusinapulla-lasten-lorukirjaWhen it comes to illustrations, Astronaut’s Raisin Bun is not the only book that Jukka Itkonen and the illustrator Matti Pikkujämsä have collaborated on. And if you ask me, that’s no wonder – the raw brush strokes of Pikkujämsä go really well with the uncomplicated, humorous text. Also the typographic choice of hand-written titles combined with a typewriter font compliments the style of the book well. All in all, I think the written and visual elements of the book compliment each other beautifully, making a great, coherent package.

astronautin-rusinapulla-lasten-lorukirjaastronautin-rusinapulla-lasten-lorukirjaMy favourite poem in the book is about a grandma, who reminisces her childhood in a pizzeria. It was so wonderfully fun that I had to make my own grandma read it, too! To give you a taste of the poems in the book, here’s a snippet of it (in Finnish):

Isoäiti pizzeriassa

Muistot tulvii mieleeni,
ja kerron vähän tästä
minun lapsuudestani
ja maalaiselämästä.

Ennen vanhaan eläminen
oli erilaista.
Ei meille ruokaa lennätetty
kaukaisista maista.

Kirnupiimää hörpittiin
ja syötiin piirakoita.
Ja kun kermaa kirnuttiin
niin siitä tuli voita.

Vanhat ajat, niistä kyllä
riittäis kertomista.
Tarjoilija, olkaa hyvä,
tuokaa pizzalista.

Oh boy. Did I already mention how much I love rhyming poems…?

Illustrated geboortekaart

When someone asks me what kind of projects I most enjoy working on, I always give children’s books as an answer. However, there is also another type of assignment that is very close to my heart, and that is illustrating custom-made cards to mark the special occasions in the lives of my good friends.

When a friend of mine had her first child a few years ago, she commissioned me to illustrate a geboortekaart aka birth announcement card for the baby. (Geboortekaarts are cards that parents in the Netherlands send out to their families, friends, neighbours, colleagues etc in order to announce the name and the strategic measurements of their new family member.) I was honoured to be trusted with that kind of special task and really enjoyed working on such a personal thing. So, when my friend got the happy news for the second time around, my hand was already raised, volunteering for the geboortekaart-job again.

I had drawn a giraffe for the card of the first baby, so I decided to stick with the same concept and draw an exotic animal for her sibling as well.

Here’s sneak peek of the illustration process of little Otto’s* tiger!

*names and information on the card have been changed

sketch-tigerInitial sketches of the character

geboortekaart-tiger-sketch-birthcard-illustrationThe final drawing ready to be made digital

illustrated-birthcard-geboortekaart-tiger-by-Emmi_OjalaVoilá, finished illustration!