An Interview with Silje Marie Kristiansen [Pt. 1]

Today we bring you part one of our interview with Norwegian illustrator, Silje Marie Kristiansen. Look out early next week for some free goodies courtesy of Silje and if you enjoy the interview why not drop her a tweet @siljemariek

Lemonade Magazine: Ok, so the first question is pretty straight forward, for those who aren’t aware of you or your work, tell us a little about yourself.

Silje Marie Kristiansen: I am a 23-year-old Norwegian illustrator, recently graduated from an illustration degree in Falmouth, England. As a teenager, I fell in love with music, and my pencil and I became best friends drawing portraits of all the musicians I worshiped. Later on when I started studying art and illustration I started using other mediums and more colour and began looking for inspiration in other places. There is still a strong link between my passion for music and passion for illustration, but I also love nature, animals, and shapes that are geometric or abstract.

Currently, I’m based back in Norway, trying to work full time as a freelance illustrator, which is almost working. One day I hope to use art to do some good for the world.

LM: Tell us about a typical working day for Silje? 

SMK: A typical working day is usually turned into a working evening and night. I’m not nocturnal, I love getting up early and having a productive day, but I usually end up working half the night. I get very distracted during daytime with other people, nice weather etc. Late nights are great for illustration with good music, candles and a cup of tea. A typical working day consists of me sitting still for hours drawing or painting until my knees hurt from being in the same position for too long, and my hand aches; the finger where my pencil lays always lack nail varnish. My illustrations are usually made up of mostly traditional medium, most of it is hand drawn or painted, and that takes up a lot of hours. Then it’s all scanned and worked into digitally, by putting pieces together, adding colour or tweaking details.

LM: Let’s talk about some of your work; your portfolio is very exciting and full of interesting pieces. One of our favourites, of many, is your Jónsi vinyl sleeves which are highly conceptual and expressive pieces. Tell us a little about your inspiration for them and the design process you went through.

SMK: The Jonsi project was based on a D&AD illustration brief, asking you to present music in a new way. I decided to present it on old vinyl sleeves as a concept of recycling, since the majority of people today buy music digitally instead of vinyls, I thought this would be a good approach. I illustrated two songs, one where I focused on the melody of the song and presented it as an abstract timeline, moving across the sleeves. With the other, ‘Boy Lilikoi’, I was influenced by the lyrics, and illustrated it as a large figurative image using the sleeves together as a large canvas. In the lyrics, single words, and combinations of several inspired me, and I illustrated my interpretations of their meaning. I used animals together with geometric pattern, shapes and paintings of galaxies. In my head, the creatures rise from the pattern and run free and wild.

LM: That’s a really interesting way of working, do you approach all your projects like this or do you try and approach each project differently?

SMK: I think every project is different. Sometimes I start experimenting with visuals and then work out a concept from that. Actually, that just happened once, but it worked out well for me in the end. I usually brainstorm and research background information and visuals, before sketching and doing the final artwork. I always try and plan out the image before I start it, but my sketches are always so rough, that not many, sometimes including myself, can tell what they are. Therefore my final artworks often don’t turn out as they look in my head, and there’s always some impulsivity in them.

LM: So which artists would you say have been an inspiration to you?

SMK: Mark Ryden was my first artistic obsession, which emerged from his Michael Jackson – Dangerous cover art. I do love a lot of the famous artists from the past, but I find my inspiration from mostly contemporary artists and designers. Sara Blake aka Zso and Leslie David are amazing. And I feel very patriotic with my other favourites being Robin Snasen, Oh Yeah Studio, Martin Kvamme, Commando Group and the people at Anti and Anti-Sweden.

LM: Speaking of Anti-Sweden, We recently interviewed Kjetil Wold and he told us that you produced some work for their new range, Anti-Sixteen. How did that working relationship come about and what inspired the work that you created?

SMK: After graduating I sent my portfolio to Anti hoping that they would have a look at it and consider me for future projects. I was exceptionally excited when they told me that I could contribute with some work for Anti-Sweden, which I am a big fan of. All the work was art-directed by them and their previous work was the inspiration for the outcome. I love their dark image, their influence from Black Metal and how it is presented through fashion. It was a really good project to be a part of.

LM: You mentioned Black Metal as one of the main influences on Anti-Sweden’s range of clothing. We have been writing a series of articles focussing on the art inspired by Black Metal and it would be interesting to get a Norwegians take on the impact the genre had upon the country. It’s known as being Norway’s biggest musical export but for those people out there that have never bothered to read about it properly, it can paint quite a bleak picture. Just how influential is the history of Black Metal on the Norwegian people and is this morbid stereotype true?

SMK: Black Metal has been the music of hatred and with that culture came controversy, anti-Christian attitudes, crime, burning of churches and even murder. When the wave of black metal arose in Norway in the beginning of the 1990s, it pinned Norway’s music culture to the map for the rest of the world to see, with the genre becoming the most well known export. I don’t think that the majority of Norwegians immediately tie Norway to Black Metal, unless you are in the centre of that culture, even though a lot of people abroad might. But I do think it opened up a new and different side to the country showing independence, individuality and diversity away from the traditional national characteristics. I find a lot of the visuals within Norwegian Black Metal, their outfits, art and photography of the musicians, really interesting, and I think it’s intriguing how Anti-Sweden has been influenced by this type of mood, atmosphere and darkness in their designs.

LM: We are fascinated with finding out about new towns and cities because of the new experiences it brings and we have started work on a new series of articles entitled, Origins, aimed to explore this interest. You wrote the first article for our new series, how did you find writing an article about your hometown, Hønefoss?

SMK: It was surprisingly a lot more fun to write about that certain topic than I had expected. Not being much of a writer I worried about what to write, and how to write it. I posted my dilemma on facebook asking for suggestion for the content, and the majority of the feedback from locals didn’t really put this town in a great light. And after laughing at how right they were, I thought of the reasons why after living abroad for three years I always looked forward to going home for the holidays. Hønefoss is a small town cliché, and I think I love that. It was fun to put pen to paper and make letters instead of drawings. I really look forward to reading the next Origins articles.



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