Get to know Antti Kalevi -
Interview with the illustrator and artist
For this spring, we had the pleasure to collaborate with a rising star in the fields of illustration and graphic design, Antti Kalevi. Last week saw the launch of Prints by Antti Kalevi collection, featuring five lively prints designed by the celebrated artist.
Some may recognize Antti Kalevi’s work from Samuji’s earlier collaborations with him: the watermelon curtain design gracing the corridor downstairs at Samuji House and the beloved Samuji Poster.
Besides Samuji, Antti Kalevi’s clientele includes Apple, Vanity Fair, Wired, Häagen-Dazs, The New York Times, YOOX and Universal Music. His work has been exhibited in Tokyo, Seoul, London, Paris and Helsinki.
To better introduce the artist, we asked him a few questions about his background, inspirations and approach to design.
For how long have you worked as an artist and illustrator? Have you studied these topics?
I started working as a freelance illustrator and designer right after finishing my BA on graphic design at Aalto University in 2014.
What made you choose this career?
I have always liked to draw - I remember being interested in different kinds of patterns from a young age. I have some early memories of looking at our living room curtains and marveling at the repetition of different shapes on them.
As a part of my studies in Aalto I did an exchange year at Iceland Academy of the Arts in Reykjavik. This was a very inspiring time for me - the mountain views, colourful houses and wonderful people there made a big impression. One could say that the idea to focus on doing illustration was born right after the year spent in Iceland.
Before Reykjavik, I had mainly done graphic design and works for others. I got a bit tired of it and remember thinking how nice it would be to combine artistic expression with commercialism. As a result, I wanted to take all the art courses that were available at my school which led to the prolonging of my studies by a couple of years.
Around this time I was really into serigraphy and often evenings turned into nights at school as I was working on my own projects. Sometimes the guards came in and asked if I should get going as the air conditioning had been switched off for the night.
What inspires you?
I think I’m pretty visual as a person - I’ve only recently noticed how the way I look at my surroundings might be a bit different from others. There’s almost always something interesting in sight when I look around, so for me inspiration can be found anywhere.
I often observe colours, shapes and shadows. My senses are the most active when I get to visit a new place but there’s a certain appeal in familiar corners as well. In the latter case, the eye gets focused on smaller and smaller details.
I also like getting to know new cultures and their cuisines. And, I listen to a lot of music.
What’s your design process like?
It really depends on what it is that I’m doing and for whom. My personal work often starts with just doing, from the chosen materials and format. For a long time now, I’ve had the habit of drawing on a daily basis without any specific plans.I like to try different techniques even if most of my work right now is digital. I often draw with my fingers and try to find new ways to do things. This often results in something interesting.
Perhaps, the most interesting stuff happens when there’s no plan, sort of by an accident. A few times I’ve been able to achieve this also with assigned work which is really rewarding.
Where do you prefer to do your work?
I draw anywhere and everywhere, but to be able to concentrate I need my own peaceful space.
Do you have favourites amongst the Samuji Prints by Antti Kalevi collection’s prints?
I’m really pleased with all the prints in this collection but if I had to pick a favourite it would be Girona. I have really fond memories of how the print was born and on the final garments the print looks elegant and relaxed. I also really like the Aallot pattern.
What’s next for Antti Kalevi?
I’ve been going through different kinds of drafts and sketches lately. Maybe they will form a new set of some kind, let’s see. One of my dreams would be to design spaces, for example tiles and their colorings.
Discover Prints by Antti Kalevi collection here.