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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!

Sneak peek into my illustration process

scenic-couple-portrait-illustration

Ever since I can remember, the dude I share my life with has been fantasising about travelling the world free from worries and obligations. One of his dreams is us going from one place to another on a motorcycle, him driving and me sitting next to him in a sidecar. We would have everything we need with us and could spontaneously decide to wake up in a new place every day if we wanted.

Since I started making comics (which go by the title “couple comics” – how original!) about the life in our household, my boyfriend has been asking me to illustrate us travelling in the motorcycle-sidecar combo. So, a couple of weeks before his birthday, I sat down with paper and pencils to visualise this dream. Although the comics I’ve previously drawn of us have been just simple pencil sketches, I decided to put some more time on this one and make it full colour with a scenic background.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek of my illustration process from sketch to the final piece:

1. Raw sketch

I started the drawing from the wheels of the motorcycle and didn’t realise I was getting way too close to the top edge of the paper…hence the floating head.

scenic-couple-portrait-illustration
2. Polished sketch with shadingscenic-couple-portrait-illustration
3. Digitalised version, enhanced with Photoshop

The creepy floating head has finally found the body it belongs to!

scenic-couple-portrait-illustration
4. Coloured versionscenic-couple-portrait-illustration
5. Now we need something for the background…scenic-couple-portrait-illustration
6. Et voíla, the final piece with some additional shading and a mountain scenery!scenic-couple-portrait-illustration

PS. See the cherry tomatoes? We are currently growing multiple cherry tomato plants, so obviously they would need to join us for the journey. Healthy self-grown snacks on the go, you see!

What happens in 279 hours and 30 minutes

When working on a project, at some point you are likely to end up staring at your computer screen till 1 AM and penciling your days, nights and weekends away, either because of a deadline or just insane enthusiasm. On those moments, when everybody else is asleep and you just keep on going despite everything that your parents ever taught about sensible bedtimes, it’s fun to toy with the idea of finishing the project and ponder how you will celebrate it. Maybe a dinner at your favourite restaurant? A weekend full of absolute nothingness? A movie night with friends? Skipping all the healthy options in the morning and going for a fresh croissant instead? Whenever I’m in a swamp of work with a deadline that temporarily kills my free time, thinking about all those nice things helps me ignore the fact that my eyes are hurting from all the drawing.

Sketch by Emmi Ojala

This week, I finished a big (massive!) project that I have been working on since autumn. It’s a children’s book, and although I won’t be able to reveal too much before it’s going to be published in May, I can tell you that it has been one of the most laborious but also one of the most fun projects I have ever worked on! It took 279 hours, 30 minutes and one sketchbook to complete. Me and the client, an incredibly sweet and passionate Australian author, exchanged 549 emails of which roughly 50% were spiced up with smileys and one included pictures of puppies. Her morning was my midnight and my daytime was her bedtime, but surprisingly enough we managed to communicate very smoothly. I sent her illustrations and she replied with feedback right before going to bed and the first thing in the morning. It has been great working for someone who is so dedicated to the project that a solitary freelancer like me feels like she actually has an invisible colleague right here…despite the fact that we are literally on the opposite sides of the world. (Isn’t that strange…? Two people can complete an entire book by being connected through the Internet…oh the wonders of the World Wide Web!)

For the past few weeks, I have squeezed all my illustration juices into this project to get it finished on time. I spent many late nights working and fantasising about the moment when all the illustrations would be finished, thinking about how I would reward myself. Now the book is finished from my part, and it’s time to put those fantasies into action. I shall celebrate with home-made hummus (eaten straight from the jar, because that’s the way, aha aha, I like it) and tea with a friend!