© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist.
This Weekly Fantasy Art post has as guest one very talented artist, Kirsi Salonen
. Kirsi Salonen
is a Finnish artist, focused mainly on digital art. She graduated in 2001 from Valkeala High-School and in the spring of 2006 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from South-Carelia Polytechnic Art School. She is working for over five years now as a professional artist and illustrator. She illustrated the covers of a number of novels published by Altair Australia Books, worked as concept artist for Osmo Production, Tuonela Productions and Black Halo Entertainment and she also illustrated role-playing cards for Fantasy Flight Games.
Her works were featured in a number of art exhibitions and some of her works were published in the titles published by Ballistic Publishing
, “Exotiqué” and “Exposé”. Kirsi won several prizes on different digital art sites, “Golden Panda” won Silver (Excellence) award on “Exposé 6”, “Recall” won the Choice Award in CGTalk.com and “Handling Chaos” entered April’s Hall of Fame in CG Gallery at itsartmag.com. She is working now, among other projects, at an own fantasy novel, “Ordera”. I confess that I eye-picked this project and it looks promising. With such talent I believe that Kirsi Salonen
has a bright future.
Interview Kirsi Salonen
Kirsi, first of all let me thank you for your amiability and the opportunity of this interview.
It's totally my pleasure, Mihai. Great that you asked me for this.
Dark Wolf: Do you remember when you had fallen in love with art? Can you remember your first drawings and at what age did you make them?
Kirsi Salonen: Many ways I do. I've always been a drawer, even from the age of 2. It's actually interesting that all of my drawings were like fully illustrated stories and more like comics before I was turning 10 or so. The consuming of paper was enormous in our household, *laugh*Dark Wolf: Which are your favorite artists and which one of them influenced your works?
Kirsi Salonen: I'm quite picky what comes to selecting favorites. I like many individual pieces that have inspired me through the years, like John Collier, Rembrandt, Caspar David Friedrich, Rubens, just to name a few of the classical masters. But that list would get way too long if I'd start piling them all up here. A few modern artists have inspired me greatly over the years. Many of their works and amazing visions have pushed me to to do concept art and create creature illustrations of my own. These masters for me are Larry Elmore, H.R. Giger, Christophe Vacher, Dave McKean, Justin Sweet and Ashley Wood. Nowadays I mainly search my own thing instead of looking ways of others, but I will love their unique and ground-breaking styles and farsighted minds. The all represent a kind of career and status I'm aiming for as well.
Dark Wolf: The art techniques evolved in time and nowadays we have a great number of works digitally made. For you which is the preferred style of work, the old or the modern one?
Kirsi Salonen: Of course I'm a digital girl! Somehow I've known that from the first time I went through a basic course of Photoshop's use. That's now over 5 years ago. But in other hand, I respect the old ways of classical painting, handling lights and anatomy more than anything. My artistic history comes from a traditional school of art from where I graduated as a Bachelor of Fine Arts. So in one way, I am a traditional visual artist also none-the-less. It's funny.
DW: Many of your works are Fantasy art. What attracts you towards this theme?
KS: Easy to answer; imagination. Everything I do is about exploring imagination in ways of others might have not done before. I see 'reality' art not in many ways so flat and uninspirational, so that's why I rather choose another reality for my works. But many of the themes in my fantasy works can be brought to regular way of life too. It's all about what kind of thoughts and emotions the piece can cause in a viewer, and that matters me the most that people can see more than just a pretty picture.DW: Speaking of Fantasy, do you like Fantasy literature? If yes which are your favorite writers and novels?
KS: Yes, very much. I've read them since very young age. It's totally unsurprising to reveal that my first fantasy novels were Dragon Lance-saga. These days there are so many new additions to that series, and I feel quite old and out of date to return with those anymore. Along with Lance, was of course The Forgotten Realms -saga. I was a huge fan of Drizzt Do'Urden for many of my teenage years.
Now as a realy grown-up, *laugh*, I'm more into intellectual fantasy, like Neil Gaiman's production, for example “Stardust”, “Neverwhere” and “Good omens” are amazing books. At the moment I'm reading “American Gods”. Also I like Terry Pratchett's impeccable sense of humor and storytelling. I really like his 'Grim reaper' and 'Mort' – pieces. All of these examples are just a tip of the iceberg. I could go on and on.
But there is also a line of books which are not fantasy, but more of the adventure-side which I really like too. Great classics like Eiji Yoshikawa's “Musashi”, Victor Hugo's “Les Miserables”, Henry Sienkiewicz's “Quo Vadis”, as examples. Also one of my top favorite is Brett Easton Ellis's “American Psycho”. Even though it's so gross, there is an amazing layer of genius humor and sarcasm that really hits me whole-heartedly.
Strangely, I didn't enjoy much reading Tolkien's “Lord of the Rings”, even that I read it before the movies came along. As comparison Michael Ende's “Story without an end” (better known as Neverending Story) is a thousand times better and appealing to me.
DW: I know from your website that many of your works have a story. Do you think of the story after you finish your paintings or sometimes the story comes first?
KS: Both is true in this case. I don't really know how much my subconscious 'plans' the works ahead before adding more story into it all. It's very hard to explain in a logical way. As I paint, I only try to be in my character's head, living the scene like it/him/her and make the atmosphere based on that. In many occasions stories are just a natural extension to the story already begun in my head.DW: You told me that you are writing a fantasy novel and if I’m not mistaken it must be named
“Ordera”. Can you reveal something about it, please?
KS: Of course, I'd be most happy to. It's a story that I started working on last year's July. As you know by now how I like to tell some extra lines with some of the artwork, so this time I took it all as a big step further. The name “Ordera” comes from the world's name, and it's a good process name for the whole concept. The book will be divided in two or maybe even three parts as it gets to the publishing phase. So it's a big novel indeed, and it's something I'm very passionate about at this moment.
In short and striking, the main theme is about survival and seeking out justice. In many parts it's like living two kinds of histories and it's a growth tale of two very different species and their heroes and leaders. I want to show how good and evil are not plain to see and how horrible things can be done even by the most noble ones, when they believe it's just. How evil is merely just a word and how hard is to see something else behind all the visible hatred.
There are no actual humans in Ordera, but main characters are consisted of human-like species called the guroae, sangrae, shawan and sentini, which last one is least humane. Plus there are several additional races along the way. I've decided to be a total renegade with this story by leaving out certain classical fantasy creature types and even humans. Frankly, the elves, orcs, dwarfs and super evil wizards just bore me to death and the world is so full of them by now. I wish that these new kinds of heroes and villains will be accepted as a fresh breeze in fantasy literature. Of course all this is only possible, if the book gets a green light for publishing and takes off by conquering the whole world! Laugh!
I am planning an introductory website for Ordera, to be launched presumably before Christmas, it so much depends on my work situations. The website is to show the main storyline, dive into character profiles, share some interesting short stories and of course sharing many illustrations me and a colleague of mine have made so far and are still yet to come. After the website, I hope it will not be too long until the book is available. Only thing that pains me that I have to get it out in Finnish before it can be translated into English. This whole process is very time consuming and requires a solid funding, nerves and some iron will before this all can come true. So many of my international friends, colleagues and fans have asked to purchase this book once it comes out and it will be a great day if and when I can deliver it to them, by mail and with a hard cover would be just ideal.
DW: I’ve noticed that many of your works have animals pictured. Are you fond of animals? Seeing your works, are the horses your favorite ones?
KS: Indeed I am a devoted animal lover.. I can't remember the time I wasn't. In these uncertain days it's become more and more evident to see how us people should pay attention to our surroundings and environment. If I can make even a slight difference by making art that's about important themes, such as animal cruelty or endangered species into people's attention and evoke thoughts and emotions through them, then I am very happy to be alive today. I have a dog of my own called Wario, he's a Belgian sheepdog and I consider him as my best friend, no doubt. I don't have favorite animals, they all deserve that privilege in this world.
DW: I also enjoyed some of your paintings that are centered on religious themes. Where from comes the inspiration for this works?
KS: That's quite a complicated question and hard to answer.. Ok, what I generally think about religions and beliefs is that it's a personal choice how you look at life, death, morals, beauty, good and bad, jin & yang, heaven & hell, etc.. At one time I was a raging atheist, as a teenager I mean. I had to go through that certain phase, and I it taught me a lot. Now years of growing up and life overall has proved me that it's totally useless to put energy into that kind of open negativity like 'I hate all religions, there is nothing out there because world is such a shitty place, stupid people believe in something that cannot be explained, etc etc'. I just think that sort of talk is such a waste of time. It not only decreases quality of life and ability to learn new things, but increases more uncertainty and self-loathing, which both leads to depression and useless angst. What I've learned so far that there is nothing wrong about whether you choose to live with or without religion, as long as you feel content and comfortable with your inner self.
Anyway, there religious themes are like conversations I like to take inside my head.. about what's in the soul and what is important and worth reaching out to during in this lifetime. It doesn't mean that I believe in resurrection and holy bible, I just see Christianity for example very inspiring to study from the artistic perspective. I like to separate certain controversial characters from the bible's common context and study them purely from personal point of view.
At one point I also noticed a certain repeating aspect in many of my paintings.. I'm meaning that often I make someone rescue another from some horrible fate. I haven't still totally figured out why I feel so strongly towards that theme. Maybe I just like to think there are still real heroes in this world, who will show how to do things plain and right.
Like in many Japanese animes and many oriental stories, people like to think high about brave self-sacrifice and love that is beyond life, it's a goal to prove one's worth. Naturally it's wonderful to believe that even the worst mistakes are forgiven by those we love most and in the end we could be true and vulnerable around each other without fear. Believing in such things lives in the depths of the human heart and exists in the back of our minds. That is also many ways the essence of religion and best beliefs, it makes us dream about being better and wiser than we are now. I think it's a beautiful thing as a idea and those utopic principles will never be fully replaced with scientific facts, technological benefits, or just saying 'I don't care, people evolve'.DW: Other works are focused on human emotions. Do you believe that people are attracted by cruelty and suffering more than kindness and compassion?
KS: You make very interesting questions.. and challenging ones too. Well, as I said before about being true to ourselves, it's the same as painting emotions to my characters. It's like mirroring another being based on just imagination. It's always been a rewarding challenge to achieve the feeling I'm looking after before I start the work. Sometimes those emotional pieces are born accidentally, and those are nice surprises for me.
But to answer your question about cruelty versus kindness, I think it's more depending on media of today. Tv and media really love the fact that there are ongoing wars, nature's disasters, terrorism and unthinkable cruelty happening all around the world. It's because the media thinks that people are more interested about those things. In my opinion it's just sad and gives a false image of the world. I really believe media feeds on people's suffering and that only brings more unnecessary depression and aggression to people's lives. It affects the worst to the young kids, who have to grow up amidst all that useless information, that takes them away from their individual search of happiness and meaning. It's hard to let yourself be happy and innocent these days.. it shouldn't be like that because nobody deserves to suffer on behalf all planet and all misery that happens out there. Maybe it's the constant pressure and guilt that's passed on from our parents and banged in our heads that it's just plain and easy to 'enjoy' the violence and things that attract to angry emotions.
DW: Sometimes my mother (she is a passionate painter) draws on small pieces of paper or on paper napkins. What are you doing if your inspiration comes in an inappropriate place for drawing?
KS: *Laugh*, don't draw in inappropriate places.. that's one rare part of me that behaves in society's appropriate manners. Last time when I sketched something outside my house was a year back or so when I was supervising an art exhibition and was very bored. But that's not inappropriate to do, since it was in a gallery already, right? ;)
DW: Which one do you consider to be the most rewarding time in your career so far?
KS: Oh man.. there's so much to be thankful about and so much that's still ahead and waiting to be realized. But for now I must say that the past year I've spent with “Black Halo Entertainment”, making comics and concept art for them is been a blast. We still work together even thoug we live across the globe, so it's wonderful to share that kind of almost psychic connection with great clients.
Also, must be honest again and say that in just personal point of view it's been my book project that's felt the most rewarding, since it's opened many new ways of thinking and approaching things. It's brought a whole new field of passion along with visual arts and I really want to pursue towards this dream of having my own story brought to life as a full book. It brings weird vibes even to I think about it!
DW: I know that this question is like asking a parent to choose between his children, but of all your works do you have one that is closer to your heart?
KS: A few, yes. I am selective what comes to my 'children', as you nicely put it, hehe. There are few works which I see succeeded just as I intended and wouldn't change anything in them. These are pieces like “You sang to me”, “Recall”, “Celestial Brothers”. “Golden panda”, “Alpha” and “Stay with me”. Those are very dear works to me, but of course I might forget some others too.
DW: You are involved in many interesting projects, working with the Finnish metal band “Teräsbetoni”, with Black Halo Entertainment at the comic “The Story of Victoria DeLorme” and with Remington Scott at the concept art for the movie “Cockfighter”. Can you tell me, please, a little about these projects?
KS: Yeah, there's quite a few different projects that I've put my head into! As I mentioned a bit before, I'm still working with Black Halo Entertainment and currently I'm illustrating their first full-length comic of Victoria, a character that belongs to their own Black Halo series. It's fun and should be very cool to show around when the project finishes.
Teräsbetoni's commission was a shirt illustration, which was made especially for Eurovision song contest this year, to promote their song “Missä miehet ratsastaa”. It was fun to make and great to be a part of advertising Finnish good o'fashion heavymetal-loving culture.
“Cockfighter” is also an ongoing project, which has just started its long journey last June. The story is based on Remington Scott's original screenplay and it's an amazing an original type of fantasy fairytale. I'm designing the preliminary concept artworks and hopefully next year it's able to go into production. This is very exciting for me to be part of and it's like stepping into high strappy shoes after gotten used to slippers, the opportunity is awesome ;)DW: So many projects must take a lot of time. But how do you prefer to work, on a tight schedule or on a most relaxing manner?
KS: Sometimes relaxing way is great and sometimes it makes me just lazy. I try to find a middle ground in my timetables, so there wouldn't be too long delays or problems with different clients. And of course I sometimes require time for myself and then I might just go crazy and work all night through.. or play PS2 or Wii for a week in a row to recharge my batteries.Anyway, I am a hard worker and rarely take full vacation off-work, since making and thinking art is a way of life for me. Most of the time I don't even see it as a profession, it goes along with me no matter where I go or what I do.
DW: Which one will be the dream project for you? Would you like to work with someone in particular?
KS: Dreams are in so many different forms and shapes and many of them change and disappear over time. At one time of my life I really believed that my future is destined to be in game industry. But then things changed and I thought about priorities in my life. It was close I didn't move out to another country for a certain vacation in a game company. Now I'm glad how things turn out, it feels like I am doing the things I value and love, not just to entertain and forget the reality through games, but to share thoughts through images and stories, that makes you wonder like a child again. Stories, that makes me really tick. Stories through either images, live footage or on paper, either way is great, as long as it has a real and significant message to share.
I have two dream projects now. One is to see my book turned into a feature film one day, rather at the time I'm still alive to see it, haha! Other is to make a loooong and comprehensive series of paintings, which shows all kinds of people portraying with a very rare animal. It's a calling which would be amazing to do with WWF as example.
DW: What projects do you have for the future?
KS: Now I'm pretty much concentrating on these comics I have been doing and also there are a few interesting commissions waiting in line. Freelancer's job is never dull, I always expect the unexpected and looking forward gazing into the blurry future. I only know that I enjoy life in full at this moment and wouldn't want to change a thing =)
Thank you very much for your answers and time, Kirsi. It has been a pleasure and I wish you the best of luck with your projects.
Thank you for this wonderful interview Mihai. Was a real joy talking about these kinds of subjects. I hope we can talk again like this sometime in the future =)
© The artwork presented on this post is used with the permission of its author. All the artwork is copyrighted. Please do not use the images without the permission of the artist.