I genuinely have a love for a variety of different types of graphic design, (I think I mentioned a little something about my love of graphic tee-shirts?) I also love illustration and character design, be this; a birthday card that catches my eye in a stationary shop, a child’s book or a cute plastic Japanese toy…as such, I happened-upon the work of this chap, Mikko Walamies and I am utterly blown away by his designs. So,. I thought I’d email him and see if I could attempt an interview, of sorts, but I’ve never done this before, so if I goof it up (and I probably will) just act natural and go with it…
KIT: First-off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Where you grew up, went to school, where you currently live/work?
Mikko: I was born in a small town in Southern Finland called Kuusankoski, but I was one of those kids that had to move around a lot with their parents so I’ve lived in a bunch of places. I currently study at University in the city Oulu, where I run a one-man design micro studio called MW82. I have only a little formal training in the field of illustration or graphic design so, for the most part, I’ve had to learn the craft myself. However, I do have some training in traditional, non-digital art. Drawing and painting with different materials, oil paints and such. Even if nowadays my work is mostly digital, it’s been very helpful to know a bit about analog printing methods like lithography and screen printing.
KIT: When did you realised you had this amazing ability to draw such fascinating characters – and were your early characters on the cute-side or the more macabre?
Mikko: I’ve been drawing more or less my entire life, pretty much ever since I could hold a pencil or a crayon. One of the earliest memories I have, related to my career as an artist, is when I won an international children’s drawing competition in elementary school. I got a diploma, all the way from New York. I didn’t really realize what had happened, but my parents were excited and the winning piece was displayed in a museum of my then hometown. I guess I realized I had some talent as an artist after I had heard encouragement from a number of people that I should make graphics my profession. The characters I drew in the beginning were mostly cartoon-like animals. I did make a few A1 size drawings filled with tons of different characters.
KIT: At what point did you go from (I assume) ‘pencil and paper’ to ‘computer and Wacom tablet?’ – Can you describe how your chosen ‘tools’ or methods of work affect your art…?
Mikko: Pen and paper are my first choice when it comes to creating ideas. I sketch the first rough versions in one of my sketchbooks. Still, computers have been a part of my process for a surprisingly long time. I could say I started making digital art with my dad’s Mac Plus and Mac Paint. From that I moved to a program called Color It! – I have fond memories of that old piece of software. I currently mostly use Photoshop, Illustrator and Flash. After I got a Wacom tablet, I realized I could really draw stuff on a computer. I mean, there’s only so much you can do with a mouse. I don’t think I would have gotten so far if my work was solely analog. It’s great that I don’t have to worry much about buying traditional art supplies when I work. Experimenting with ideas is a lot easier and cheaper. This is especially true when working with vector art.
KIT: What inspires you? – I find your work is such a great mix of subtle and funny – do you sit down with a specific goal in mind or…?
Mikko: I don’t think there’s just one thing that inspires me. It’s more like a passion to create I was born with. Ideas just pop into my head, and usually multiple ideas at once. Often I have these creative moments when I’m out jogging or just about to go to sleep. It’s a bit annoying that the ideas come at these times since I have to wait or get up, respectively, to jot them down. When a client approaches me with a very clear idea of what he or she wants, then it’s a different matter.
KIT: and finally, as now a ‘fan’ of your work, can you tell me ‘what’s next’ for you, any future plans you want to share?
Mikko: Thanks for being a fan. Last year and this one have been great for me, so far. Artistically, I want to keep improving my work, experiment with new things and try to keep my style as fresh as exciting as I can. Professionally, the biggest thing that’s slated for this year is creating artwork for Rolando 2, a video game for the iPhone. The first title I made with HandCircus, Rolando, was a big hit, so I can’t wait to see what kind of a reception the sequel gets. I’m open to creating graphics to pretty much anything so I’d maybe like to work on a type of project I haven’t before.
Many many thanks to Mikko for agreeing to do this and for his kind permissions to show some of his wonderful designs here…