Today, the candy of the year for me, lets talk with Hanna Karlzon, the author of the crazy popular Dagdrömmar, Sommarnatt and Magisk Gryning books. Hanna is a Swedish coloring book superstar, I’m her biggest fan for sure, if you don’t believe me, just watch my blog, it’s like 80% Hanna party here, it’s downright boring how great I find her work. So I for one am really excited, hope you are too! Come, join me and lets chat with Hanna!
Iris: How old were you when you started to draw?
Hanna Karlzon: I have always been drawing, since I was a kid and art was my favorite subject in school. I actually have an art teacher degree but I ended up running my own business instead of teaching. I must say I haven’t been drawing continuously all my life, I have had periods when I have been more into painting, sewing, photography, screen printing etc. It goes up and down, you know how it is, but I have always been a creative person, that’s for sure. Drawing has been a big hobby of mine all my life but during the last few years it has become my profession, instead of my hobby, so I seldom draw at my free time, after work, anymore. That felt kinda sad in the beginning, I was like “What to do with my time now, when I don’t draw anymore?” but now it feels kinda good, it has given me an oppurtunity to evolve other and new hobbies instead, and thats fun! Like now I’m into root binding, it’s an old handicraft where you make small baskets and jewelry etc. out of thin birch roots. So much fun!
I: What was your favorite subject to draw then and what is it now?
HK: When I was a kid/teenager I liked drawing people and clothes, I wanted to be a fashion designer for a while, and well I still really like to draw people as you might have noticed. And if you combine the people with lots of sparkling jewelry its even more fun, I like it when it’s kinda over the top. I can find my inspiration in Marie Antoinette, Madonna’s 80’s style or a viking ornament, and I just mix it all in together in my drawings.
I: How did you come to creating coloring books?
HK: It wasn’t really planned, I got an email one day, (in November 2014 I think it was), from the Stockholm-based publisher Pagina and they asked if I was interested in making a coloring book with them. They had seen my illustrations on Instagram and felt that we could make a good team. I had actually been thinking about making my own coloring book, just for fun and sell to friends, but as you can tell, making a book with a publisher sounded way better so I ended up flying down to Stockholm for a meeting with Pagina and after that I started drawing my first book Dagdrömmar that was released in May 2015.
I: Do you paint or draw for other projects as well? Can you show and tell us a bit about it?
HK: I have been running my own business for 3-4 years now and yes, I have been doing a lot of other things, other than coloring books, like pattern design for textiles and wallpaper, posters, illustrations for magazines, murals etc. But for the last two years the coloring books have been taking all of my time, I can’t fit other jobs in my schedule right now but in a year or so I hope to get some more time to make some fun new stuff. If you want to see some samples of my previous work you can do so at my homepage: www.hannakarlzon.com
I: Which of your books is your own personal favorite? Why?
HK: Well all the books are special in different ways but I think that my latest book Magisk Gryning is my own personal favorite. I have learned a lot about the whole book making process, making Dagdrömmar and Sommarnatt and that made the whole process with Magisk Gryning a little bit easier so to speak. So, I’m just happy with the way it turned out, the illustrations and the combinations of motives and from what I have been told, most people seem to like it so that feels good!
I: How do you create a coloring page? What is the process for you?
HK: I come up with an idea, either it just pops up in my head or I go to Pinterest to find some inspiration, and then I just draw it, simple as that. I draw about a page a day, give or take, and when all the pages are done I scan them, make adjustments if I need to and then I put the printing files together in InDesign. It might sound quick and simple but it’s a long and time consuming process drawing 100 pages, scanning them, making adjustments, printing files, book covers, going through test prints etc.
It takes about 5 months to create a book (that’s with the artist edition and postcard book included in the process) and I do it all myself, everything from coming up with the ideas to making the final printing file so as I said earlier, it’s a lot of work. With my first big coloring book Dagdrömmar I decided everything myself, the size of the book, hardcover etc and that took a lot of time coming up with what I felt was the perfect book, but I was happy with how that book turned out so I have used the same layout for my other books after that and that saves me some time. And, doing a few books have made me more used to the process overall so everything goes a little bit smoother now comparing to my first book.
I: What are the challenges of being an artist for you?
HK: Being an artist is my full-time job and that is really amazing and I’m truly lucky! I have the opportunity to work with something I love and I’m so grateful for that but at the same time it’s challenging because I’m just one person. I myself do all the work, I make all the decisions, I make all the updates in social media, I answer all the emails, handle all the finances etc…it’s time consuming and I could work around the clock, there are always things that need to be done when you run your own business, so it is sometimes challenging to keep a balance between work and family. But I think I have become better at not taking on too much work so I can spend my free time with my family instead of working or worrying about work. This coming summer I will actually have my first long summer holiday in years and I’m really looking forward to that already, summer can’t come quick enough!
I: Can you describe your day as an artist?
HK: I leave my kids at school/daycare at 8 in the morning, then I have a 10 min bike ride to my office, where I then spend about 8 hours working. The days can be really different for me depending on what kind of work I do but I often start the day answering emails and going through my Facebook page and Instagram and after that I draw. I listen to music or different podcasts while drawing and the day tends to fly by quite fast. Some days I do the bookkeeping or other administrative work, I might do an interview for a magazine or if I have just released a new book there might be book signing events in the weekends. So there is a lot that has to be done but it’s really fun at the same time and it’s great to be able to decide for yourself what to do and when to do it.
I: What are the tools you can’t live without?
HK: I draw everything by hand, pen and paper is what I prefer, so I can’t live without those, but at the same time, my computer and phone are also things I can’t live without. I use my phone to make Instagram updates and my computer for putting my books together so I would be kinda miserable without these things.
I: Do you have any tips for complete beginners in coloring?
HK: If you want to become good at coloring, it’s all about practice. It’s like learning a new instrument, you have to practice every day, nothing will be given to you for free believe me, I have practiced my drawing skills for years and I still learn new things. You can join coloring groups on Facebook or watch Youtube tutorials if you want tips and help from others. But in the end I think the most important thing is to have fun! Forget comparing yourself to others or the pressure about making “amazing art”. Just draw to make yourself happy!
I: Who are the people that inspire you? Why?
HK: I’m a history nerd and find most of my inspiration looking back in time, in art nouveau, the viking age, baroque, 70’s punk or 80’s pastels…well, as you can see I’m all over the place when it comes to inspiration but that’s how I work, I take bits and pieces from here and there and put it together. So it’s different eras that inspire me rather than specific people but when it comes to artists, a lot of the ones I love lived and worked in the middle/late 1800’s and the beginning of 1900, Mucha, Beardsley, the pre-Raphaelites and so on.
I: Is there something in the works for the future as well? Can you share a bit about that?
HK: I am working on a new coloring book right now, called Tidevarv, that will be released around May 2017. It’s a book with a four seasons theme so the book will be divided into four parts, spring, summer, fall and winter. There will also be a Tidevarv postcard book released at the same time.
Thank you, Hanna, for taking the time to chat a bit and I for one can’t wait for Tidevarv! And I too think Magisk Gryning is the bomb 🙂 If you by some odd chance haven’t seen it yet, read the review and see the flip through HERE.
Hanna’s books are available from the Pen Store, Bokus, Adlibris and the English versions also on Amazon and Bookdepository.