Today you will get to meet with the illustrator Beata Boucht. Beata is the star behind the illustrations made for one of our newer brands, Oii. In the interview she shares her go to places for inspiration, how to become an illustrator, how to get good at drawing and which her favorite items from the collection are.
When did you realize that you wanted to become an illustrator? Did you always draw and paint, or is it an interest that has grown later in life?
I’ve always drawn. Ever since I was a kid it’s been my way of expressing myself. When I was bored with nothing to do, I could choose between drawing or cleaning my room. Guess what I always chose? (And still do.) Right there and then my own little creative chaos was born. If you’re encouraged early on in life to observe the world with a pen in your hand, you will continue to do so. I’ve always felt the need to express my creativity, but illustration wasn’t always the only way. I come from a family of artists and photographers, and there was so many things I wanted to do! Eventually I realized, through the world of books, the unlimited possibilities of illustrating thoughts and ideas, and ever since it’s been my main form of expression.
How do you become an illustrator? What did you study?
I went to several art schools in Stockholm, one of them was Nyckelviken, before I eventually took my master at Konstfack in graphic design and illustration.
There are of course a million ways to go about becoming an illustrator today, but I strongly encourage everyone to study, to get a chance to really immerse yourself into the field, and spend time with it.
We still lack diversity in the industry. To make sure we don’t end up reproducing and upholding the same old ideals and standards the industry needs people with different backgrounds and experiences – just like all groups in society.
Illustration is not necessarily about drawing and wanting to share your fine art with others. It’s about interpreting and communicating ideas, and visualize not only your vision, but others too. Create new worlds that no one has ever seen before. It’s one thing to have your own ”style”. But another, equally important part of the job is to know and trust your own voice, and use that to share your knowledge, experiences and creative eye in big projects where many different opinions and wishes want to be heard.
To be able to work with international clients and within areas I never would have gained insight in if it wasn’t for my job, is what makes me wake up curious every day.
You’re sitting in front of a blank piece of paper with a pen in your hand – how do you start? What inspires you?
Whatever you do, don’t put yourself in front of a blank piece of paper! The picture of the white paper and the artist just waiting for inspiration to strike is a bit of a myth. It rather leads to performance anxiety than inspiration. At least it’s hard if you work with illustration for a living, and have to do it day in and day out – inspired or not. You’ll learn your own process over the years, what gets you going. Usually the process of drawing starts well before you actually sit down with the pen in your hand. Maybe you’ve been out on a walk, saw a cute dog, overheard a conversation on the bus, stumbled across a beautiful photo somewhere on the internet, listened to a debate on the news, or just have a subconscious idea ready to be tried out.
My work often starts with a brief, it can be a theme or a text, which makes it a lot easier and more fun to start the research process. Depending on the character of the job, you might need to visit a museum to study a certain kind of weaving technique, or go to a florist and buy a bouquet of exotic flowers.
There’s always something to spark your imagination, you just have to figure out what works best for you. I tend to get inspired by a mix of low and high culture.
You’re the creator behind all the patterns, symbols and characters in the Oii SS20 collection. Which one is your favorite? Tell us a little bit more about the characters, we want to get to know them! Who are they, and what do they like to do?
As this was the first ever collection for Oii, I made tons and tons of drawings trying out different directions, just to find the right tone and feeling – the right Oii!
Together with the wonderful team behind Oii we eventually fell for these characters and patterns. They all have their unique personalities and traits, but are part of the same family.
I look at the colorful Oii pattern as characters as well. I like them simply because they make me happy, and they’re not perfect. I’m used to drawing very much in detail, so being able to let loose with colors and technique and create something more abstract was very liberating.
Stina the Sailor is incredibly strong. And brave. She’s mischievous but reliable at the same time, and is always looking for an adventure. When she’s out on the sea and the sun rays are too strong, she dips her hat into the big blue and put it back on her head – filled with water. Once she even happened to catch a mackerel. Stina loves to sing, to anyone who will listen. If you’re ever by the sea and hear the echo of someone shouting OOOOIIIIooooiiiooiIIIIiiii you can be sure it’s Stina, out sailing in her boat.
Kent the Jellyfish is a sensitive little creature, he often find himself tangled up in his own tentacles. He’s not a big fan of rain, that’s why he’s always wearing his yellow rain hat – just in case. Kent loves to tell jokes. He used to be shy, but one day he realised he is actually quite a funny guy, and since then his biggest joy in life is to make others laugh.
Märta the Shell is old. Like, really old. She stopped counting her birthdays years ago, but still loves to invite all of her beach friends to celebrate life. She loves all things shiny and colorful, and sleeps in a coffer with all of her treasures. Many want to know what Märta is thinking about. The legend says that if you listen really closely, you can hear the sea.
What is your favorite color?
Do you have any all-time favorite book or movie characters? Illustrated ones of course!
The characters and writing of Tove Jansson lie close to my heart, and also remind me of my Swedish/Finnish heritage. Her writing and telling is so timeless, and appeals to all ages.
Which are your favorite garments from the Oii collection?
I have SO many favorites in the collection. My daughter Flora wears them practically every day. I really like the colorful Oii pattern that ended up on the backpacks and a couple of tops, and we love the denim set! This weekend, Flora was invited to an outdoor birthday celebration, the perfect occasion to wear the knitted frill set. The cardigans and beanies are among our favorites as well. And let’s not forget the embroidered details on the Kent the Jellyfish garments! Can you tell I can’t just pick one? 🙂
What does your work space look like? Describe it!
When I was I the middle of the Oii project is was a massive chaos. My desk was way too small, so I had aquarelle sketches laying all over the place to dry, and other drawings in piles, all higgledy-piggledy. On most other occasions it’s actually quite tidy (and boring) during the drawing process, with nothing but my pin pencils and sketchpad on the table. On top of that I always have a scanner and my computer close. My studio in general is cluttered with things I like and brought there at some point. And of course – plants, plants, plants!
Is there any difference between illustrating for kids vs grown-ups?
I somehow find it more worth-while illustrating for kids. Catching their attention with one of my drawings makes me so happy. There are so many presumptions of what kids like or don’t like, I find it exciting trying to prove that wrong. However, most of my work has actually been done for grown-ups. But many of my drawings intended for the grown-up eye is mostly appreciated by kids, and have led to a number of hilarious questions. Kids are (believe it or not) individuals of their own, who all appreciate different things, all you can do is to follow along. I often envy the imagination children have, how there can be a whole story behind a quick drawing. They’ll tell you all about it, if you just take the time to sit down and listen.
Is there anything you find too difficult to draw? How does one become good at drawing and painting? Any pro-tips?
Good question! When my daughter tells me there’s something she can’t draw, we always try together, by really looking and thinking about what that thing actually looks like, then her doubt is gone!
My dad taught me to make portraits, not by trying to draw what I thought a nose looked like, but by actually looking at a nose. Without even looking at the paper I draw all these lines and then all of a sudden – there was a nose!
I’ve probably drawn more hours then I’ve slept in my life, haha. It all comes down to practice, practice, practice. Try not to discard anything you create as ugly. The ”ugly” is needed in order to make the ”nice” look nice! Eventually, what you first thought of as ”ugly” might end up as your favorite part of a drawing, if you just don’t give up on it. No paintings, pictures or drawings are particularly fun or interesting if they’re perfect. I don’t know many – if any – perfect people, so why should your creative work be that?
Drawing is you own thing, that no one can ever take away from you. It’s your own universe.
My advice is to not be so hard on yourself, and to trust yourself and your imagination. My second advice is to not always draw. Be creative using a pair of scissors, glue, stamp, coffee grounds – whatever! The pen is not always your best friend.
Family: Peter and Flora
Fun facts and life advise:
–I live by the words “more is more” and is often described as maximalist in my role as illustrator
–Alternate my job as illustrator with being an artistic advisor and founder of the choir Birdies
–I’m the person behind artist Jenny Wilson’s visual identity
–I love and live to winter swim and dress up in costumes with my daughter