1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
I was born 1988 in a small town called Kramfors located in the northern parts of Sweden where I grew up with my younger brother, mom and dad. Very small town and because of the size and limited amount of activities to offer I had a lot of time to draw which I spent most of my time doing from an early age. My grandpa was a painter and very creative person and my mother is an artisan working with leather and textile crafts, so I was lucky to have a childhood with a lot of creativity around me and my family always supported me in in my interests. In school, I always daydreamed myself away doodling in my books instead of paying attention. I remember one time in primary school when I was struggling with my math homework together with my mom crying because I hated it so much haha, and I told my mom that ”I don’t need this! I wanna be an artist!”. And here I am many years later working with what I love so I guess my struggle with math etc had a purpose after all haha.
Looking back at this time I think the fact that I wasn’t distracted by a lot of other things you could find in bigger cities was important for my creativity and where I am today. I think growing up in a smaller city gave me time to immerse myself in the craft that has been very important for the way I work with my pictures.
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
I have been drawing in a lot of different ways through the years, experimenting with various styles and techniques and mixed sources of inspiration. Everything from fantasy to writing graffiti and all these chapters in my past has really been important to my aesthetic and the way I Illustrate, though in more subtle ways the way I work nowadays. But the anatomy and way I look at color have definitely been defined by my earlier studies and inspiration.
My current style started taking shape about 4 years ago. I was doodling at my parents’ place with my close friend Erik and did some character drawings on which I started playing around with reducing my outlines using felt pens and that became the start of what I’m still in the process of refining. It’s funny how an expression can evolve that fast sometimes just by using certain kind of material. Ivé always liked working with markers and different pens and what inspired me when doodling with the felt pens was the transparency that I later kept working with digitally in order to achieve a richer more nuanced palette. Visually my style could be recognized by fluid shapes and quite soft pastel colors.
I draw everything from scenes and characters from everyday life as well as pictures inspired by music, movies, fashion and just life. But somehow I think it all blends together at one way or another, whether its a commissioned piece or something self-initiated I always have to put a little bit of me into the pictures to make the process inspiring.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
When do commissioned work I use a digital tablet and photoshop since it almost always inlvolves a lot of changes so working analog would be problematic within the often short deadlines.
For a long time I used a small Bamboo tablet that I won in a drawing competition for a Swedish fashion magazine when I was 17 but a year ago I upgraded to a Wacom Cintiq 27qhd tablet with built-in screen. I had been considering an upgrade for quite long at that time and my friend Daniel told me that I should make it happen, so I finally did and a few days after I got it the graphics card on my laptop crashed when I was busy finishing a job. So I guess it was about time hehe.
Otherwise, some of my favorite materials are different kind of pens, gouache, acryllics and watercolors. Lately, ivé felt that I wanna get back to more tactile materials and start making bigger paintings.
4. What is your artistic process like?
It depends if I do a commissioned piece or if I do something self-initiated, although it’s quite similar. If I do work for a client I usually start with some rough sketches that I refine after having them approved and then clean them up to a level where they almost look like the final but with clean lines. Its kind of a circumstantial way of working but I like having the drawing well planned before moving on to the coloring and shadows. By doing this the hardest part of the image is done within the sketch and this saves me a lot of time and eases up the process in the end.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
My family, grandpa, music, mom, people and things I see around me in everyday life and my great friends that I’m grateful to know. I also like comic artists like Hergé, Joost Swarte, Vittorio Giardino as well as a lot of contemporary artists and musicians. There are so many talented and nice people out there who do amazing work!
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
First of all, I feel blessed that I can do this for a living now and this is something I try to remember myself of now and then in order to motivate myself to keep doing good work. I have been working non-stop for a long time and during this past summer, I really came to a point where I ended up feeling exhausted. This became a wake-up call for sure and it made me realize that I have to make changes to find a better balance between work and life but also listen to my body and inner voice when it tells me to slow down. I’m a perfectionist so everything I do takes a lot of energy to accomplish. My grandpa was the same and mother too so the odds of getting rid of this demonic voice doesn’t look too good I guess haha.
But at the same time as it can be hard to deal with it, it’s also a great strength to my work, and during this summer when I did 75 full page Illustrations I found a new side in me where I worked very fast and still felt satisfied with the result. So I guess I’m still learning about what I’m able to do and what I should try to avoid doing to achieve a better work situation. It’s also very rewarding when you put in all this time and effort and people show appreciation.
I found some of my work on a blog a while ago where the owner of the blog wrote something like ”have you ever wanted to become friends with a character in a drawing? That’s how I feel about Jeff Östbergs work”. Its that kind of love that keeps motivating me to draw good pictures. If I can give energy and inspiration to people with my Illustrations that’s amazing.
I think the strength and unique thing that I love about both art and music is that its a language that has the power of connecting people beyond written language, ethnicity etc. If I draw a certain model of New Balance sneakers on one of my characters a sneakerhead in Tokyo or New York can appreciate this detail. Same thing with different genres of music where people connect through songs on soundcloud or in a club and becomes friends. It’s beautiful when something personal becomes important for someone out there and everybody has a story to tell whether its a print, a song, ceramics etc. Another thing I find important in my work is to make pictures that include all people no matter class, color or gender and for me, that’s a matter of course. Unfortunately, there´s been situations when I have had no other choice than to end a project because of clients with distasteful values, luckily not that many times. But in situations like that it is my responsibility as an Illustrator to show it’s not okay and even if these people probably won’t change I know I did the right thing and I’m sure all the people I know would do the same.
7. Where did you study?
I moved to Stockholm 2008 after highschool where I did two years at preparing art schools followed by 3 years at Konstfack University of Arts, Crafts and Design where I studied Graphic design & Illustration at the Bachelor program and graduated in 2013.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Hopefully still working with Illustration, having more shows and with a better balance between life and work. Life has been very hectic for some time so I hope to achieve better structure ahead, something I’m working with all the time. At the moment I have 3 agencies, La suite Illustration in Paris, Evelina Kroon in Stockholm and my guy Alex Trimmer in UK who recently started his own thing after working at Folio Agency. No plans of becoming an agent myself, hate paperwork and negotiation is not my thing hehe.
9. What about in ten?
Hard to imagine how life will be like at in that amount of time, but I’m sure I will still be drawing and my goal is to keep developing my style and stay inspired.
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
I feel grateful already for what I have managed to achieve. My Illustrations has taken me places I never could imagine a few years ago and people seem to appreciate what I do so, that’s great! But I hope to meet more people that inspire me and just do a lot of fun projects. Maybe make more self-initiated projects and collaborate with people and things that inspire my work, like brands, music etc. I think by doing projects that I believe in myself I should be able to connect with other people that share the same kind of interests. Most importantly I hope that my work keeps inspiring people to create new great things.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
I love all kind of food really and I spend a lot of time both cooking and eating. My father is a chef so I was introduced to good food early in my life and my interest in it has kept growing ever since. I love trying out new stuff, discovering new flavors and traditions of cooking is a big part of my life. Great food is truly an art form and for me its the same thing as composing a picture the way you mix textures, colors and find inspiration from different cultures etc. I have a hard time choosing one dish but I love beef tartar and mussels! Great seafood, in general, is a big fav!
12. Favourite book?
I like a Swedish book called Människor helt utan betydelse ( people without meaning ) by Swedish author Johan Kling. It’s the story of a guy who´ve had better days, strolling around in Stockholm during one day trying to find a new job without success, having lunch at places he can’t afford with people he doesn’t like and thinking about his problematic relationship. It’s a bittersweet love story and clear-sighted description of Stockholm´s young media people.
13. Favourite genre of music?
I listen to a lot of different type of music but a lot of soulful hiphop/rnb, jazz, future beats, soul, 80s funk, latin etc. Music with great beats and that make me feel things. It all depends on the mood and I often have periods when I listen to certain stuff more than other and then rediscover something I’ve been away from for a while. I guess I would describe myself as a hiphop/soul head but I appreciate alot of different stuff really. Good music is good music!
14. What are your hobbies?
When I don’t draw which is pretty much all the time I love making music and discovering music with my friends. My music interest is just as important to me as the Illustration and its a big part of my creative process. I also spend a lot of time in the kitchen, it’s my way of meditating and have a break from the processing of ideas going on in my head.
I also have a big interest in fashion/style and actually had plans of studying fashion when I was younger but decided to continue Illustrating since it felt natural to me. But I enjoy thinking about details and outfits and I often incorporate it into my work. I think its more of a style interest than following trends although I like keeping myself updated and reading about new stuff. But its more like I get a lot of ideas of how different materials and colors would look good together rather than sleeping in a tent to catch a pair of Yeezy sneakers.
I recently went up to my hometown to get some down time and see my family.
Up there my mom helped me with creating two new coats that ivé been thinking of since last winter. I always feel a little bad when I bring my projects home to my mom but she always helps me and it feels great to have my moms craft in the details hehe. Also its a privilege to have unique pieces and being able to build my style the way it appears in my head. My next project is to get myself my own sewing machine and start learning the craft so I don’t have to burden my little mom! Haha
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
I would hopefully be making music or run a restaurant/club with my friends where I would invite inspiring people to do fun projects. Start a small fashion brand based on things I like is also on the list hehe. I always aim to make time for all my interest which can be hard sometimes, but it would be cool to combine different things I like in the future.