Interview: Janine Rewell – Illustrator & Designer

How did you get started doing what you do?
Illustration was always my favourite thing as a child. I went to a visual arts high school in Helsinki where I got to explore different fields of visual arts. At that point I wasn’t sure if I could make a living out of illustration so I chose to study graphic design- that seemed like a more secure choice. While studying at the design university in Helsinki, I started to illustrate as a freelancer to small magazines in Finland, and after awhile my vector style got so popular that I was basically financing my studies with it. I noticed soon that I could express myself more through illustration, so graphic design was left to the background. When I graduated I already had a lot of connections and experience, so it was easy to continue freelancing full time. I still enjoy illustrating letters and headline typography, and icons come really easy.

How would you describe your creative style?
My style is characterised by fluid vector lines flirting with decorative details that bloom into bold and colourful compositions. Filled with gleeful characters, my fantastical illustrations escape from paper onto human skin and into commercial campaigns and art galleries, stretching over categories and across dimensions.

Interview with artist, Janine Rewell on Jung Katz
Interview with artist, Janine Rewell on Jung Katz

What’s your inspiration?
A creative person can build unusual bridges between different observations and associations that then triggers insights in the brain. This process is what I call inspiration. So it is not any specific things around you but rather an imaginative way to look at life.

What does your typical day look like?
I like to take it easy in the mornings and wake up gradually, so being a freelancer really works for me. After running some errands I typically do my emails and go to lunch. The actual creative work happens first in the afternoon and continues all the way to the evening. Most of my clients are from different countries and time zones so having an evening based work rhythm is not a problem at all.

How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
I work mostly on fairly short projects, varying from a week to a month.

Interview with artist, Janine Rewell on Jung Katz
Interview with artist, Janine Rewell on Jung Katz

How do you keep motivated?
I always keep at least one personal project on the side of the normal commissions to keep my motivation up. This allows me to explore new media surfaces that don’t yet have a commercial demand and develop my style. The personal projects have varied from dollhouses to body paints and exhibitions.

How would you say your surroundings have influenced your work?
In history, the Finnish design field has been affected strongly by the structure of our welfare society that tries to minimise differences between different social classes. High-end design markets haven’t had demand here in Finland because we have never had a rich upper class that could spend a fortune on fancy design objects. The law of demand has been created by the big middle class, and to reach the audience Finnish designers had to have a very functional and pragmatic approach to design and I can identify with it.

Interview with artist, Janine Rewell on Jung Katz
Interview with artist, Janine Rewell on Jung Katz

What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
I would encourage myself to move abroad and become familiar with different design scenes and perspectives around the world. Helsinki is after all a small city!

What are your thoughts on art school?
I respect education a lot and hope that everyone would have a chance to attend art schools if they wanted. In countries with private schools and tuitions the art scene is twisted, leaving out all the creative people from lower income classes. School is a good place to test your limits and develop creative working methods.

Interview with artist, Janine Rewell on Jung Katz
Interview with artist, Janine Rewell on Jung Katz

What’s your process like?
I do rough sketches with pencil, but the illustrating always happens with a computer. I have never been very good at drawing by hand and as soon as I learned to use the right softwares I knew that they would be the tool for my creation. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without my computer. I draw the vector shapes in Illustrator and sometimes I continue texturing them in Photoshop. Even though the creation process is mostly digital, the outcome can be very three dimensional, depending on the medium.


Follow Janine Rewell on Twitter and Instagram.


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