In the enchanted world of Heikala’s illustrations, there is always a story coming to life, eager to be told. We’ve had eyes on her works since the early days, and have seen her illustrations grow tremendously into full-fledged masterpieces, complete with detailed backgrounds and characters that bring out emotional qualities.
This year, we’ve had the great privilege of working with her to produce a couple of new cover designs. We speak to her in this interview about her meticulous process and inspirations. Read on to find out more!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m an illustrator/artist from Oulu, Finland. I love creating paintings traditionally with coloured inks and watercolours. My favourite pastimes are picking mushrooms and berries, as well as cooking.
Who or what are your inspirations?
I’m inspired by nature, travelling, and especially by other people’s art. I collect art books and go through them whenever I feel uninspired.
What’s your creative process like?
I start off by drawing a matchbox-sized sketch in my sketchbook. Then, I scan that sketch, enlarge it, and print it on a larger paper. After that, I add details to the sketch, trace it onto a watercolour paper, and make outlines with a brush pen or a water brush filled with coloured ink. Once the line art is dry, I colour the piece.
How long does it usually take for you to complete a piece?
All of this takes me anywhere from 5 to 10 hours in total, depending on the complexity of the piece.
What is the inspiration behind both of the new cover designs?
During the sketching process for this project, I had lots of ideas with nature as the main theme for the covers. I wanted to have characters interact with their environments in interesting ways—conveying the connection a person has with their surroundings through my paintings.
Many of your works contain Japanese elements, why is that?
When I was a child, I was hugely inspired by the handful of anime they were showing on Finnish television. The first for me was the Moomin series, which started airing a year before I was born. I remember watching it—I was practically glued to the TV screen—and insisting on seeing the same episodes over and over again. After that, Pokémon and Ranma ½ also played significant roles in shaping the way I drew. To this date, I’m greatly inspired by Japanese popular culture and my travels to Japan.
What is it like to be an independent artist and relying on your works as your main source of income?
It certainly has its ups and downs. I feel that over these three years, I’ve been leading the life of a small business owner. I learned a lot through facing many different challenges. I’m incredibly lucky to have had the support from my followers who have purchased my works, as it has allowed me to concentrate on creating my own art and also have the freedom to pick and choose the freelance projects that I enjoy the best.
When did you start sharing videos of your painting process?
I first started sharing process videos of my works in in 2017.
What prompted you to do so?
I started by making short videos of me doodling onto copies of my artbooks that people had purchased in my shop. I realised that my followers really enjoyed those videos, so when Inktober started that year, I decided to film every single one of my ink illustrations. Hence, in addition to posting a daily painting, I also posted a short video every day to accompany the completed piece.
It seems that for almost every process video, you’ve worked with Ryan Camus’ (@rycamus) music, and it really fits perfectly to your works. Could you possibly tell us how this collaboration started out?
During the 2017 Inktober, Ryan contacted me as he had seen some of my pieces from the first days of the month. He was the one who suggested his music as the background music. I had fallen in love with his dreamy music instantly and have been using them in my videos ever since. It’s great to look back at our collaboration—I’m proud for having the opportunity to illustrate the cover of his debut album that released this July.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t be so focused on finding a ‘style’ for yourself, concentrate on the basics and focus on learning new skills, you’ll find your own visual voice eventually.
Tell us a secret.
I actually lied about my favourite pastime—it is actually sleeping. I just love to sleep.
Our new Artist Collaboration cover designs illustrated by Heikala are now available for pre-orders. They're available for all Planners, Notebooks and Sketchbooks. Get one today!