Instagram: @leenakisonen
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Website: www.leenakisonen.com

 

1. What’s your story? Where are you from?

I’m a graphic artist and I come from Helsinki, Finland. I mostly work with commercial and lifestyle illustration. I ended up being a designer because my high school art class teacher saw some of my works and told me that I should apply to a design school. Being so young I didn’t even properly understand what it meant, but I followed his advice because it sounded so interesting.

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2. Tell us about your aesthetic.

I work in the mix of handmade and digital graphic arts. My style actually got its’ start during my exchange studies in Cracow Academy of Art in Poland. I discovered the traditional Polish paper cuts during my stay and really loved how they looked. I started to make my own paper cuts and have been working with the technique ever since. I love the quality of work achieved this way. Generally I love to look at folk art for inspiration, because it’s straightforward, genuine and not too serious. Also Japanese aesthetics often work as an inspiration to me.

3. What is your favourite medium and why?

Different types of paper. I love the possibilities – it’s tactile and easy to modify into anything.

4. What is your artistic process like?

My final artworks are all vectors, but their beginnings are always handmade. I think it is essential to have something handmade in your work, because that’s what adds personality to your style. People around the world work with the same digital tools nowadays, but handmade is something local and personal.

I don’t really sketch much with pen and paper, because my style is so different from traditional drawing. Instead of a lot of planning and sketching, I usually just dive directly into the work and let the process shape it. Sometimes it can be a bit stressful not to have a proper plan, but so far it’s worked for me.

5. Who and/or what inspires your work?

People who have created their own world and aesthetic, such as David Bowie or Diana Vreeland.

I love to travel, so seeing new places and cultures is an big source of inspiration to me. And also ethnographic museums are fantastic places to see how people in different countries have created their own aesthetic in their everyday life.

6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?

For me it’s how I approach everything around me. In my opinion you don’t have to go to a museum to see art, you can see it anywhere. Or you can make up your own. I think the world is full of inspiring and exciting things and anyone can learn how to see them. I myself make notes of all kinds of little things I see in the everyday life – patterns, shapes and color combinations. Most people maybe see such things as something very uninteresting or ugly – but I like to spot them and get some kind of weird joy out of them.

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7. Where did you study?

I first studied at Lahti Institute of Design, where I got my BA in Graphic Design. I’ve also got a Master’s degree in from Aalto University in Helsinki. I’ve also studied at Cracow Academy of the Arts in Poland and at KISD in Germany.

8. Where do you see yourself in five years? Working in an agency?

I spent 10 years working in different agencies in publishing, architecture and corporate comms. It paid the bills, but little by little I got totally tired of the monotony. Last year I decided to go solo and started my own business.

I hope that in 5 years my own business has grown bigger and that I’ll still be surrounded by fantastic clients and colleagues. I also hope I’ll have more projects where I can work with space and the big scale, which I’m working towards to now.

9. What about in ten?

I hope I am somewhere where I can look back and think I’ve done the things I really wanted to do, not the ones that are just compromises.

10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?

I want to be a counterforce to the negativity that too often surrounds us. I hope that my work manages to express that the world is a wonderful place and you can choose to approach life with optimism.

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11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?

I don’t think I have one, but it needs to have coriander and avocado!

12. Favourite book?

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

13. Favourite genre of music?

Minimal techno.

14. What are your hobbies?

Running and trying to learn Japanese. Is eating a hobby?

15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

As a child my dream job was to be a travel guide, so let’s say I’d be working with travelling and languages somehow.

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