Interview with Illustrator Stina Persson

Stina Persson illustration-Tina

Tina, watercolour, part of the Perfectly Flawed exhibition

Artist Stina Persson studied fine art in Perugia and fashion drawing in Florence and has a degree in illustration from the Pratt Institute in New York. Born in Sweden and currently living in Stockholm, and having lived and/or worked in Italy, New York and Tokyo, it truly feels that this worldly palette is part of what gives so much depth to her impressive creations. Stina employs different mediums, ranging from watercolour paints, inks and acrylic, to Mexican cut paper, photography and handwritten technique, to create original, vibrant, filled with emotion illustrations that strike the right balance between beautiful and edgy – captivating your eye with the craftsmanship promise of a traditional piece of art and the intriguing appeal of a modern one.

Stina’s clients include Louis Vuitton, DKNY, Nike, Target, Uniqlo, Bloomingdale’s, Penguin Books, Godiva Chocolatier, Sony Music, as well as publications such as Harper’s Bazaar, Elle UK, Marie Claire, Madame Figaro and Vogue Nippon. It was her beautiful pieces that fascinated me at first and then it was her mention that she hoped to work exclusively by hand one day that definitely sealed my love for them. I am flattered that she accepted to give me an interview.
Stina Persson illustration - Never Look Back
Stina Persson illustration-Concrete Jungle

Top: Never Look Back / Bottom: Concrete Jungle, ink drawings

You use watercolor, ink, gouache, cut paper in your works. Is there a specific medium you prefer? Why?
I really love black indian ink the most. I love the contrast it creates on the white sheet of paper.

You have a very original, identifiable illustration style. How did you develop your style? Has anyone in particular influenced it? Where do you draw inspiration from?
I don’t know how it works for other people, but my style is what comes easy to me. It’s not planned or calculated in any way. It is what comes naturally so to speak. I sometimes wish I had another style, but I cannot really change it too much. I do try pushing my boundaries with materials or scales, but artwork is a bunch of choices that you make throughout the process and I can only make the choices that I see fit.

I get inspiration from old movies, where often every frame is a piece of art in itself, nature and all its organic shapes, vintage books, magazines and fabrics I find in flea markets, as well as original pieces of art, where you see traces of the human hand and error.
Stina Persson illustration-Filomena

Filomena, cut paper

You have lived and worked in different parts of the world. Has your multicultural background left a mark on your illustrations?
I think it’s impossible to live in a new country without getting influenced. Everything from looking at the different packaging in the groceries stores to the different way people look is hugely inspiring. Out of all the places I lived, New York has to be the most inspiring.

Is there such a thing as a favourite project you have worked on so far?
I usually have many things going on at the same time and they merge into one another. There are definitely better periods and times that are less fun. Lately I have had a lot of fun projects, but none that I can yet disclose as they aren’t out in the market yet.
Stina Persson illustration-Mango

Mango, watercolour

I particularly like your works of women subjects. Besides being expressively beautiful, do I sense a melancholy, a pensive mood in them? How would you describe them?
I would describe them as someone I’d like to meet and hopefully like. Someone not too perfect and with integrity. The melancholy is maybe similar to the one found in sad music. It just feels quite good and honest with something sad or serious rather than smirky happy.

Your Perfectly Flawed exhibition in New York, featuring handmade, digitally unaltered works, was a response to this age of overly digitalized, retouched, photoshopped images we are fed to or choose to surround ourselves with daily. Can illustration be an answer to a change of perspective, especially in relation with fashion photography? How big a part does hand-work and digital, respectively, play in your drawings?
I try to work as much as I can on paper. Once something works on paper I scan it and, if necessary, fix or add something digitally. One day I hope to not work digitally at all. I am not sure I will ever get there, but it’s a goal. We have enough perfect already.
Stina Persson illustration-Perfectly Flawed exhibition

Watercolour illustration, part of the Perfectly Flawed exhibition

How much does fashion influence your work?
Not so much the actual garments, but the colours, prints and shapes inspire me tremendously. But I can get equally inspired by something from the 50’s or 2012 as what seen on the catwalk right now. Even though it always is intriguing to see what they come up with every new season.

Do you have a favourite designer?
I think Miuccia Prada always has an aesthetics that appeals to me. I like her looks, even though I would never buy a piece myself.

Stina Persson illustration-Hermes

Stina Persson illustration-Vuitton

Top: Hermès / Bottom: Vuitton, watercolours

Tell me about your personal style. What does style mean to you? Anyone you have always looked up to? How do beauty and style make the world a better place?
I believe in trying one’s best. And if we all try to make our surroundings pleasant and inviting, that must be better than not doing so.
Style to me is how you carry yourself, your posture, your choice of colours and pattern when it comes to clothes, and, most of all, the overall look.
As I live in a country with six months of winter, am a mother of three young boys, as well as an illustrator that works in a messy, drippy way, I wear a lot of jeans with second hand tops and blouses and boots.
Stina Persson illustration-ChinatownStina Persson illustration-Butterflies

Left: Chinatown / Right: Butterflies, watercolours

I am a big movie lover and I would like to ask you if you happen to share an interest in cinema (I love your Chinatown illustration). Any all time favourites?
I love older movies like North by Northwest, 39 steps, Una Giornata Particolare (with Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni), as well as some newer such as In the Mood for Love and Timbuktu.

Your favourite moment of the day.
My two morning coffees. The first at home with the family which is beautiful, but chaotic, the second one at work while starting my first drawings. It does happen that I dip my paintbrush into the coffee a bit too often for it to actually be a great idea.

Stina Persson illustration-Marc Jacobs

Marc Jacobs, watercolour

photos: courtesy of Stina Persson

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