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An Interview with Annya Marttinen

I've followed Annya Marttinen for years. From a distance, I've observed her artwork undergo nuanced changes, favoring earth tones as opposed to pastels, more digital work instead of strictly hand drawn, and uncomplicated structure prevails over extravagance in her later work. But none of these discrepancies have affected the way I view her work, because the ethos behind the illustrations have remained the same; if anything these alterations have made her work more closely match her ideology and have heightened the visceral response viewers have to it. Annya's drawings have always made me feel at home. They evoke in me a feeling of serenity but not in a paradigmatic way; she does not paint pastoral scenes or landscapes of equable lakes, still and unwavering ("natural" scenery that ironically in no way reflects the peaceful chaos of the real natural world). Rather, Annya's work reflects the tranquility of everyday life, which isn't flawless. The comfort her paintings offer is entirely because of their familiar elements. Whenever I look at her work, I feel an immediate sense of home. Her illustrations are, at once, both a form of escapism and a consoling depiction of reality. There's a magical component to them as well, but a magic that seems fitting, a fantasy that seems like it could be accomplished in actuality. Her work has a distinct hygge (a Danish concept of comfort and familiarity) ambiance and talking with her was a similar experience.

Where do you get your inspiration?

So many places. A lot of my vision comes from movie sound tracks and books (mostly of the fantasy genre). I'm obsessed with folklore and myths. I like to dream up ideas in the early morning just as I am falling asleep because I feel like I enter a more calm mind set where new images and ideas can flow through me instead of forcing them. Nature is a large inspiration to me as well of course. I love drawing new plants and animals and also inventing new ones that sort of fit within the rules of pre-existing ones.

Would you say that your personal style mirrors your artistic style?

I would like to think so! Personally, I feel like a considerable amount of making art compelling or appealing is just making style choices and a lot of those choices come from my every day life. Style choices are the biggest part of creating a piece of work so that an audience can see themselves in it.

What work are you most proud of?

For a while now, I have definitely been most proud of an illustration I did called "Floating Books." A lot of people have told me that they saw themselves in that illustration and it granted me a lot of new eyes on my work. I think I love it so much because it was the first piece I ever truly loved when I had just started working digitally. The mood and style of that painting guided me to other works that I loved just as much and towards works that I am still creating. I feel like that illustration also helped me launch my Etsy store and get serious about selling prints.

Who are your favorite artists?

Painting and illustration-wise I have a ton of love for Gary Bunt. His work captures little moments in ordinary life that I find comforting and familiar. I love when illustrators paint older characters and what it is to grow old because I am fascinated with time and how our bodies and minds react to it. Tove Marika Jansson is an absolute genius when it came to the Moomin characters so I absolutely adore her work as well. I also love the fantastical works of Amelie Flechais. Gyo Fujikawa is my biggest inspiration when it comes to children's books illustrations. Beatrix Potter is also endlessly fascinating to me and the first person I think of when I'm asked this question but I decided to mention her last to change things up.

I've noticed that your style has shifted a bit to be less pastel and pink and girly to be a little more earthy and cozy. I was just wondering if there was a reason for that slight change?

I was always going in between the two styles my entire life but I feel like I have grown up quite a lot after I turned 20 and living on my own has caused me to appreciate the coziness of home. Learning so much about health and the earth has happened since now I have to take care of myself as an adult and I feel like my work must reflect that. The short answer is I watch a lot less anime and spend most of my extra time going for walks, reading and homemaking so naturally my work reflects that shift in my life.

Some of Annya's earlier work

Your work feels very home-y and intimate. What are some things that make you feel at home?

I feel most at home when a familiar warm smell is in the air and my apartment is filled with my personal treasures. I'm very particular about everything being very clean and in-order so I feel very at home when everything is in its place. Baking is also something that makes the atmosphere of my space much more home-y. Of course my three rabbits make me feel the most at home that I can possibly be. They are all so sweet and loving I could not imagine a better feeling than knowing that they feel safe and happy with me at home!

What are your most prized possessions?

Right now I would say my most prized possessions are my vintage books, but more particularly my edition of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. My white Kitchen Aid mixer is also a baking miracle for me and I don't know what I would do without it. My biggest prized possession though is my wooden illustration desk where I spend most of my time. It just has the perfect drawers and compartments for my art supplies and I have never seen a desk more perfect for my career and lifestyle. My postcards and bookmark strangely fit perfectly in little compartments inside the drawers as well. Another item I am quite fond of is my Moomin mug that my dear friend gave me as a Christmas gift all the way from Norway.

Is your work mostly based on things you've seen/experienced or do you make up your own scenery?

I would say that a lot of what I illustrate comes from my everyday life but I will admit to having a big imagination and I use it as much as I can in my drawings. It's a messy mix of both of them because I'm always drawing what I am recently experiencing or dreaming about being.

Do you think that your artistic style will go through any major changes in the future?

I hope so! Right now I really want my work to be more simple. I'm always trying to make my work look simple but still catch someone's eye and resonate with them or make them feel a little bit of magic. It's an ongoing process of trying to accomplish this and I am hoping to make big changes towards this in the future.

When you were starting out, was there ever something you wanted to illustrate but couldn't?

When I first started out I was using watercolors and I desperately wanted to paint backgrounds. I think I was only able to pull off a few of them until I started using gouache and then I was all about full scenes and backgrounds. Gouache gave me the ability to layer which made scene making so much easier and more pleasant to look at. If anyone is out there that does watercolor backgrounds they are absolute wizards to me!

You can purchase Annya's work here.


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