Saturday, 7 March 2009

Jonas Bergstrand Correspondance

Jonas Bergstrand is an Illustrator and graphics designer that I contacted a week or so ago for some information about how he works.
I was of course interested by his confident well rendered and varied work, but aslo by the way he describes himself on his webpage as valuing and being close to his friends and family as the most important thing to him.

When I posted off my list of questions to him I didn't neccessarily expect any kind of reply, but what I recieved after waiting so anxiously can only be described as thorough and thought provoking. I can't really thank him enough for being so generous with his answers and providing me with so much insight and so many avenues for further research and inspiration.
His replies have been amazing, as you can see;

Hi Chris,
Thanks for your kind email. See my answers in red below.
First a few thoughts on age... I was 27 when I started freelancing and that was about average then I guess. I was not the youngest nor the oldest beginner.
I don’t know if students at college level are younger now compared to ten years ago....perhaps some are since tools of the trade are available in a greater way now than before...
Many, if not most, households have a computer and software and typefaces are fairly easy to come by.

People can start toying around with design early on, detect an interest for it and start pursuing a career at younger age.
This is not all good in my mind though.

In the end what we work with is communication, not images. That’s just our way of presenting ideas and thoughts.
A designer and illustrator must be able to communicate with all groups of society. We’re hired guns and must adapt to the commission at hand.
One week you may produce images for a children’s book and the next it’s wine labels, editorial stuff about the financial crisis, logotypes and so on...

Being 30 should be seen as an advantage. Having a bit of life experience will serve as a big help when you have to produce communication aimed at a broad range of groups.
Compared to society as a whole you’re still young. Our world does not revolve around twenty year olds even though media always hype youth.
Good design and experience go hand in hand.

Hi Jonas,
I am a mature (30years) student of illustration at Stockport college. I have been admiring your work lately ( It's original and inspiring) and I am interested in how you work for various reasons.
I was wondering if you might help me out by being kind enough to take the time to answer a few questions for me.
I would be most grateful for any reply you can give me. I have listed the questions below.

On your home page you talk about being a home body, something I can definately relate to.
Does this mean you work from home? If so, how hard is it to divide your time? Any tips in this area?

I share a studio with a handful of other illustrators but also work from home whenever I feel like it. Not having the studio to go to would in the long run drive me crazy.
Ours is a lonely profession so having a place where I can meet fellow illustrators is vital. We can then give each other support and input.

Dividing my time between work and play is not easy. This is a hobby that turned into work and part of the joy of drawing is always with me.... I often get stuck in front of the computer during evenings and weekends too.
The trick is not to let clients know this because then you’re getting briefs on Fridays and deadlines on Mondays.....

Do you still have to spend a lot of time visiting prospective clients to promote yourself? Is this achieved by other means? Does most of your work come though central?

I have agents that hunt down work for me. From time to time I get assignments via my own website or through friends in the business but agents bring in most of my commissions.
After ten years I seldom visit clients in order to show my portfolio.

Could you tell me a little about your working method? Your style is original and striking, I suppose this is informed by a certain amount of retro cool with a contemporary edge. How do you incorporate your ideas into your work?

Hmmm.... Personal style is a 3 legged organism I guess...First of all it’s limited by one’s ability.....I can’t paint like the masters so my style has got to be line driven. Drawn – not painted.....
Then it’s a question of taste. What would one like to produce.... I’m more into Hanna-Barbera than Rembrandt....

And finally it’s about input. What one is exposed to. Sources of inspiration and guidance.
This third leg is by many left up to chance but I believe it’s vital to take control of this cornerstone. If you see something you like then dig up more of the same, trail it back to it’s origin, investigate.
Perhaps you’ll stumble across new exiting names and styles along the way...? This kind of explorations are easily done with the internet.
By constantly be on the lookout for new input you’ll ensure your own continued progression.
The more one sees the more refined the personal taste gets. And that directs ambition and leads to increased know-how. The method is a positive circle movement where inspiration is always close at hand.
Without curiosity there’s only stagnation.

Please note though that new input is not by default contemporary design.
New means new to you. Labels and trends is not something one should be concerned with. That leads to stagnation for sure.
I found, when I got my education, that most of my classmates were only interested in contemporary stuff whereas I discovered past masters too.
I believe I got a head start since I got myself a broader base of input and many of my classmates still haven’t been able to catch up.

Ideas incorporated in my work....hmmm.....sometimes a brief is open enough to allow me to contribute with ideas....sometimes I just have to follow orders. The latter always produces poor results.
Mainly because closed briefs are often put together by people that know shit about image making. People that think inspiration is an unprofessional streak in humans.
As if work in order to be professionally carried out should be detached from feelings.

Your sense of line and shape is awesome. How much time do you spend moving from initial ideas to the final piece?

The roughs I present to clients are often done in half an hour and look like crap. Those are never, ever very close to the final image. They’re made to show the very basic idea and layout. Nothing more.
Sketch deadlines are often quite tight so initial sketches can’t be that elaborate. There’s simply no time for that. Client’s must let the image evolve during the stage where I have most time to work on it.
Makes sense, right?

Who are you major inspirations? There seems to be evidence of Abram Games as well as other designers from the 60's & 70's.

There are two kinds of inspirations I think. The one that shines through and the one working in the background.
I adore Ben Shahn, Al Hirschfeld, Shepard Fairy, Reid Miles, the drawings of Christo, David Hughes, Piet Zwart, Herbert Leupin, George Lois, Ronald Searle, Jack Davis etc but I guess that’s not so evident in my work.
You’re right about Abram Games. What a guy! Check out Hans Schleger alias Zéró. Lund Humphries published a book on him in the same style/series as their great title on Abram Games.
Also you must look into the work of Saul Bass (much to see on You Tube), Paul Rand, Charley Harper, Miroslav Sasek, Martin & Alice Provensen, Olle Eksell, Alvin Lustig....
There are lots and lots of contemporary names to look up too of course but the world of today
moves so fast it’s hard to keep track of what’s going on....
Sara Fanelli is great, Jamie Hewlett, Barnaby Ward too.....

Two great sites to visit: An online gallery where people post their favourite images and designs found on the net. Huge site. Great blog/site on animation and illustration.

Is illustration you only source of income? Have you found other ways to sell your art? How easy was this?

Yes illustration is my only source of income. Though I now and then venture into what would probably best be describes as graphic design. To me graphic design and illustration are the same thing though.
Both disciplines deals with the same problems. Contrast, colour, clarity. A good illustration is a layout in itself. It’s planned — designed. It just doesn’t happen out of the blue.
To me it’s ultra-stupid to separate graphic design and illustration in college studies. That creates boundaries that in turn undermine the quality of future graphic design and illustration.
A look in the rear mirror shows that the giants of our business did both and that integration can’t be beaten nor equalled by a rigid role splitting system.

Best of luck with your studies and your career.


Here is the link for the studio he works with;

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