Help our followers get to know you. What does a typical day in the life of Maria Ljungeld involve?
The constant elements seem to be coffee, smiles, hugs, cries, dog-walks, food, diapers, sleep. Every spare moment of precious me-time awake I dedicate to my illustrating, mostly for the online colouring book Black White Mustard and some for commissioned work and other projects.
When did you first become interested in illustrating?
When I was six years old my grandmother, who was a talented amateur painter, invited me to join her for an oil painting session. I ended up painting a colourful self portrait, which I wasn’t too satisfied with, but I think that experience lit a passion for art for me. My own creative energy has previously been channeled into crafts, knitting, sewing, gluing and cutting, as the perfectionist side hasn’t been satisfied with the outcomes of my endeavours in drawing. Luckily motherhood changed that and the creative energy my child unleashed became the start to my career in illustrating.
What are your favourite things to draw?
I especially like nautical themes and bits and pieces of architectural elements. I enjoy challenging myself and pushing boundaries; if I find myself thinking that I can’t include something because I can’t draw it, I immediately know that I have to do it - and usually it works out better than I ever expected. I often hear the determined yet nurturing voice of Tim Gunn (of Project Runway) in my head saying “Make it work”.
Where do you find inspiration?
I find that inspiration is everywhere and for me it’s an ongoing process. This spring I was very inspired by early 20th century architecture, houses in Helsinki center. I try to allow myself to stop in my tracks when I feel inspiration knocking, take a moment to see the details, feel the nuances. It is the small things everyday that make out our life.
If you weren't an illustrator what would you be?
When I was a child I wanted to be a hairdresser. I have a past in business, human resources management and development, so that’s the alternative path for me.
Why do you think adult colouring books have become so huge?
People are looking for ways to express their creativity in the hectic world we’re surrounded by. Colouring books offer an opportunity to step back, halting in "the now”, listening to oneself and concentrating on a very tangible task at hand. I find the biggest power in colouring is in the meditative part, in the letting go. Colouring is a sanctuary for the mind.
What does your working environment look like?
I keep my desk very simple, just a white table on which I place my pens and paper when I start. Always the same pens, always the same manner of starting the process, it has become like a ritual. From that seat I have a view of the sky, which I often stare at for inspiration and focus, and next to me is one of my favourite paintings. It’s also black and white, ink on paper.
Do you listen to music when you work? If so, who/what?
It’s fully dependent on the mood I’m in. In the designing phase I never listen to anything, but as I’m executing the final version, really concentrating on drawing each line, I often rely on personal power song favourites. I’ve mentioned Sia’s Chandelier earlier in my blog, and I’m still caught up on that one. I take brakes for spontaneous singing and dancing in my seat whilst I’m drawing. Right now I’m into jazz, listening to the new album Love Bullet by Timo Lassy.
What are your favourite things in life?
On a fundamental level it is the unpredictability of life. Being true to myself and personal development are important to me. On a more daily note I really enjoy good discussions with people, the smell of the ocean, surprising smiles from strangers, love, coming home, health and a good red wine.
Finally, please give 3 words that describe your work.
Mandala-esque, inventive and quirky.