Young Voice from Denmark – Interview Illustrator Michelle Carlslund

As a kid Michelle Carlslund wanted to be a glass blower, but today she works as an illustrator who would like to illustrate children’s book in the future. However, I’ve asked Michelle about the past and the present as well because her design work is already worth a mention.

I would like to start with a sort of silly, but interesting question. What did you want to be when you grew up? I’m asking that because I assume people usually don’t imagine working as an illustrator as an adult, but maybe I’m too old-fashioned.
When I was little I wanted to become a glass blower. I guess I was fascinated by the transformations of the materials. It is not too far from what I do now as an illustrator. Making things – transforming ideas to drawings. In high school I saw myself studying philosophy or English. I have no clue why; I guess I didn’t believe that I could make a living as an illustrator. I still can’t believe how lucky I am.

When and why did you decide to become an illustrator?
I actually started out as an amateur photographer and I wanted to do huge staged photo shoots with costumes, animals and glitter etc. I did not have any money so I figured that I could start photoshopping all the crazy stuff into my photos instead. Clever! From there, the illustrations slowly took over photography.

Have you enrolled in an art programme or have you educated yourself?
I followed some different shorter programmes – some photography, some design – and I recently went to the Danish School of Media and Journalism here in Copenhagen to study Graphic Design.

Where do you find inspiration? Do you have a special method, ritual or something?
I don’t really think about it actually. I guess anything inspires me. I know for a fact that if I’m working on a new assignment, my mind automatically starts focusing on things that are relevant for that particular subject. Sort of when girls that are super ready to have kids see pregnant women everywhere. I’m just trying to keep my channels open! Ideas often come to me at times when I don’t have the opportunity to write them down. When I’m (almost) sleeping, when I’m at a concert or at the gym. Really inconvenient! Then I start sketching; sometimes my final illustrations look more or less similar to my first sketches. Other times I have to redo them for quite a few times. It’s not really the same process every time. I often google things, too. I wish I was that kind of illustrator that could draw everything from my head. If, for instance, I have to draw a fox, I have to look a real one up. I simply don’t have the proportions and the realistic look of it in my head!

Do you prefer working by hand or using computer software or digital tools?
It really depends on the project. If I’m doing something for an exhibition I always do my illustrations by hand. I like to exhibit original works. If I’m doing something digital, an album cover that is only released on the Internet, for instance, I might just do something on the computer. Other times it is a mix: I start off by hand, and then scan my work into the computer and do the rest there. Sometimes when I have done a lot of computer work it is sooo liberating to turn all electronics off, clean my desk and just draw, paint, cut and glue. I miss the cmd + z though!

What do you do when you don’t have any idea or meet some obstacles during the design process?
If I get a brief from a client, it usually takes me some time just to get used to the ideas and to go over the thoughts in my head. Then I start writing down words and sketching a little. If I get some sort of block, I just keep on sketching or writing down ideas. I think it is about ignoring the block a bit. If you give too much attention to it, I think it will take you over entirely. I wouldn’t want that!

What kind of challenges do you look for?
I would love to do a children’s book. This is my biggest dream. I had to turn down one offer this summer because I had some troubles with my drawing arm, and I’m still sad about it. The perfect job for me would me a book of children’s rhymes. I would love to do illustrations and hand lettering for the rhymes. A Danish author called Halfdan Rasmussen made a book of rhymes for every letter of the alphabet. The book was published in 1967. If someone asked me to redesign it, I would happily do the job!

How do you describe your style? Would you say that it is related to the Scandinavian style to a certain extent?
The sort of clean and minimalistic style, in a way, reminds me of the Scandinavian design tradition, but it is not something I aim for. I guess I’m just influenced by the things that surround me in my everyday life.

What or who have influenced you the most? Do you think it’s possible for an artist to find a recognisable voice in our chaotic and eclectic world?
It is so hard to say what I have been influenced by the most. There are so many talented illustrators around the world; I get inspired by a lot of different styles and motives when I browse the web or flip through some of my books with illustrations and graphic design. I can’t pin one in particular. It is so hard not to get influenced by other artists. Sometimes I get carried away with a style that I like, but in the end the most original work will only come out when you try not to think about what you’ve seen; somehow you begin to trust in your own ideas and style.

What are you working on right now?
Actually I’ve just had a meeting with an Australian child psychiatrist who wants to do a children’s book about two bears. If everything goes well, I’ll be doing the illustrations. ☺

Michelle Carlslund’s homepage
Michelle Carlslund on Behance
Michelle Carlslund on Facebook

Interview by Barbara Majsa

Originally published at HYPEANDHYPER, 13 October 2013

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