Patrik Svensson

Tell us about yourself.
I was born and bred in a small village in the south of Sweden. After having studied lots of different subjects and spent some years at dead-end jobs, I finally managed to build up enough confidence to explore the creative business professionally. Since a few years back, I work full time as a freelance illustrator, primarily in the publishing and advertising industry.

What is beauty to you and how do you define beauty?
Uhm, I think beauty is a thing that makes you loose control for a moment–something that causes an instinctive smile on your face and manages to pause reality for a while.

Were you always creative growing up?
No. I was very much the regular kid, I think. My family was a very average, non-artistic family. I went to school, came home and had pancakes, played soccer in the evening. However, as a grown-up, I sometimes recall moments from my childhood that indicate that I was drawn to art in some way. I remember my dad singing a song for me and my sisters when I was 4 or 5. I was obviously too young to realize what the song was about, but I remember that I started to cry. It can also be abstract things like finding a specific spot in the forest extra nice. To me, being creative isn’t necessarily practising, like drawing or playing the flute, but things that happen within.

What was the defining moment when you realized you wanted to pursue art occupationally?
One summer some years ago, I worked as a freight forwarder. The job consisted of pressing a key on your keyboard, type some numbers in a blank field on the screen, and then press another key. After having done that 200 times a day, I saw my future dissolve in front of my eyes. One morning on my way to this hell, I came across an ad for a graphic design class. I applied, was admitted and finally started to breathe again, so that would probably be the defining moment–realizing life is too short to not do things that make you spark, basically.

Tell us about your work for SvD Kultur – how did you come up with the final design and the purple color scheme?
Hm, it’s difficult to talk of when and how you came up with an idea. I wish I could be less abstract here, but I just try things out in my head or on a piece of paper, throw it away, try it again and so on until it works. Sometimes, I accidentally see something while working on a design, or am out walking for that matter, and I think it’s important to be responsive to these random chances. The purple color came pretty early on as I knew I wanted a sort of nightly vibe to it.

More specifically, let’s talk about the concept of the image. How do you think TV and technology affects the literary industry? Or, we can broaden the subject range to all technology: do you think we are too reliant on technology?
I think I consider technology a tool more than anything else. To me, the actual work happen somewhere else–in your mind. In my work, I never care for having the latest version of a software or anything like that, in fact I hate updates. That said, technology is super important to me as it lets me make changes gradually and in hindsight, play around with different colors and so on. Regarding TV shows’ impact–generally, I think the trend of dividing a story into different parts as you do with a TV series, might be connected to peoples’ need for kicks. These days, it’s essential not to bore people since there’s so much information going on, and one way to do this could be drip feeding rather than just pour it all at once.

One of my favorite projects is the image of the zebra and the prisoner. What’s the story behind this project?
Aw, thanks so much! That one is a personal piece. I like the alternation between working on commercial and personal projects, personal stuff let you explore new fields more freely. Anyway, I’m usually not very keen on explaining my illustrations as I think it only creates limitations.

You have a very simple design aesthetic to your illustrations. How do you define minimalism?
To me, minimalism is a way of feeling calm. I get easily distracted, especially if there’s too many things going on. Also, I usually approach my illustrations with a concept in mind and they often contain a visual trick of some kind, and if I’d fill the image with lots of things, the idea might be lost. At the same time, aesthetics are as important as the idea–things that are concept based only sometimes tend to feel a bit sterile. I enjoy things that “just look nice” too, and they don’t have to be minimalistic, of course.

I love the little captions beneath your images, like “Writers writing about writing.” How do you come up with the aphorisms?
Thanks! Well, they’re basically just a few words to wrap the image up in a context. I work a lot with editorials, so it might just be the headline from the magazine, the crux of the article etc.

What illustrators and artists do you respect or look up to?
Oh, so many. I try to take influence from as many fields as possible and not narrow it down to illustration. For instance, I love the work of photographer Gregory Crewdson. Among the classical painters, I’m a fan of Edward Hopper. To me, he has this sensitive way of wrapping his characters up with warmth and dignity despite their loneliness.

What are the differences in the art industry in Sweden versus America?
So far, I feel I haven’t worked in the States long enough to give you a fair opinion. But I mean, America is such a huge market compared to Sweden, which leads to several differences–tougher competition, bigger money and so on.

What are some unchecked items on your bucket list?
Regarding my work, I’m very content of where I am right now. Most days, I wake up happy just being able to do what I do and make a living of it. I honestly can’t think of a more fun job than this. For many years, I was convinced working was something you just had to do while your spare time was “real life.” But yeah, I’d like to publish a book some day and have a solo show if the right opportunity comes up, but I don’t feel any rush.

As far as my personal life, I don’t have a proper bucket list like that. I’m a simple man, and I know it might sound like I’m a 80 year old or something, but as long as I and the people I love stay well and I’m able to go on a trip once in a while, I’m more than happy. Of course, I have wishes yet to fulfill, but I’m trying as hard as I can to be here and now and let life take me in whatever direction rather than running around chasing some vague dream.

What are your favorite locations in Gothenburg?
This past weekend, me and some friends had a few drinks at Yaki-Da, which is a combined nightclub and restaurant with four floors. It’s lovely, looks like an old British hotel from the 19th century or something. Apparently, I was late to the party (pun half-intended), ’cause everyone I talked to about it just yawned and rolled their eyes behind my back. We also have a really nice art museum, Gothenburg Museum of Art, although I haven’t been there for a long time. Slottsskogen, a big park, is great for a stroll if you’re like me and fancy seeing the seasons shift.

What songs are on your personal playlist?
Here are five songs that provide goose bumps at the moment:
Souvenir / Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark
Säg nej till mig / Kristian Anttila and El Perro Del Mar
RE: Always On My Mind / Hello Saferide
Halo / CEO
Kathy’s Song / Paul Simon


For more of Patrik’s work, check out his website and Facebook.