In our latest feature we catch up with Norwegian artist and illustrator Kjersti Johanne Barli.
When did you first start illustrating?
I made my first illustrated book when I was seven, a little book with text and drawings made out of cardboard and bits of paper glued together the best way I knew how. The story is about a little girl who wakes up one night from the sound of a dinosaur outside her bedroom window. He is really hungry, so she feeds him carrots. The next day, her father asks her to go down in the basement to fetch carrots for dinner, and she answers that the carrots are gone. Her father goes down in the basement to see for himself, but finds that all the carrots are still there, as they were the day before. So the girl concludes that the incident with the dinosaur in the nighttime (…) must have been a dream. The end.
During high school I realized that being an illustrator was actually a profession, and I started drawing more targeted against illustration. I learned to think with my hands. I now have to start doing the project physically, by drawing, writing by hand, painting or modeling, to be able to plan it and generate ideas further. It’s really exiting in the middle of the process, and I’m always a bit sad when it’s over.
Did you always want to be an artist?
When I was a kid, I wanted to become a veterinary. Then I got a horse, and decided that I wanted to work with horses forever. Then I got really good at drawing and painting (horses) and my teachers advised me to pursue it, and I agreed. I still have the horse thing as a hobby, but for the time being I’m an illustrator. I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I think I’m closing in on an answer.
The reason I’m doing illustration is to be able to work with different topics and formats. I want the unpredicted; I want the random in the people I meet, projects I do, travels I make etc. to lead me on to new topics and areas of interest.
What's it like to be living and work in Oslo?
What's the creative scene like over there?
It’s intimate and friendly, consisting of hard working people doing good, often incredibly good work. You have to do good work to be noticed here, at least if you’re planning on making a living from it. There are some nice galleries and good museums over here, too.
Describe a typical day:
I am the master of procrastination. I work best under pressure, and my subconscious mind is very aware of this. So no matter how early I plan on start working a project, I always wait until I can feel the pressure of the upcoming deadline before I get on with it. But I actually think the final result benefits from this. Mostly I’m procrastinating either by doing necessary research and hunting for inspiration, or by cleaning my apartment. My typical day looks like:
Get up. Internet. Internet. Social media. E-mail. Painting/drawing. Internet. Reading. Reading. Painting/drawing. Internet. Painting/drawing. Watching a movie. E-mail. Internet. Social media. Sleep. In between all that I eat, and sometimes I shower.
What inspires or influences your work?
Internet is a great tool in search of inspiration of course; looking at all the good stuff other illustrators/artists are doing triggers and motivates me to make good stuff too. And of course books and movies are great sources of inspiration and influence too. If I feel uninspired or I’m having trouble getting any work done during the day, I often go for a walk, maybe even just to the next room, or just do something else for a while, and my brain starts to function again.
I’m also very inspired by travelling and nature. This spring I went to Tokyo, and it is truly an amazing city, I saw some really good stuff there. I highly recommend woodblock print museums, it’s magic. I love learning about other cultures, and I always come back feeling more reflected, inspired and motivated.
Who are your favorite artists right now?
Oh… Esther Pearl Watson, Jockum Nordström, Corita Kent, Tove Jansson, Angela Dalinger, Keiichi Tanaami, Hiro Kurata, Clementine Hunter, Mari Kanstad Johnsen, Øyvin Horvei, Dalí, Frida Kahlo, Magritte, Sam Doyle, Antoine Marchalot, Luke Best and many, many more.
Whose an ideal client you would love to work with?
My ideal client would be a publishing house that gives me the freedom to publish artist books and illustrated children’s books as I please. Perhaps they would even give me some money for it too.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?
It’s hard to predict, but I dream of travelling the world, of course. I have even made up a new word for what I want to do. I’m going to be an “illustreporter”: travelling the world, and documenting it by drawing and painting as I go. I’m sure my ideal client will help me finance it all.
Right now I'm listening to… Drake – Started From the Bottom
My guilty pleasure is… Chocolate.
The last good movie I saw was… The Color of Pomegranates by Parajanov. Such an inspirational film, amazing colors and a really good lecture in storytelling and narratives.
After a long hard days work I like to unwind by… Working some more! I rarely stop working/procrastinating until 1–2 a.m., unfortunately. Ask my friends, if I still have any.
If I weren’t doing this I'd be… Riding horses all day long.