~ My Creative Life: Camilla Engman ~


It's with great pleasure that I share a magic-maker with you all today. When I started blogging hers was one of the first artistically-inspiring blogs i found, and I felt an instant connection to her art and vision. She often collaborates with other magic makers, including Karin Eriksson, Maria Vettese and Elizabeth Dunker, and has undertaken some fabulous commissions from the likes of The New York Times, Google and Converse. I still click on her blog religiously, as i like to take a peek into her day-to-day life at home in Sweden.

Ladies and gentleman, please welcome the inspiring Ms Camilla Engman…

Camilla8 Did you always know you were an artist, even as a child? Could you tell us about your path into this career?

I can't say I did. I remember I wanted to be a nurse when I was around four years old. I wanted to be a nurse and named Maria. Around 5 I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher and my name would be Eva. During this time I also wanted to be a princess named Rose-Marie. Then there was a period where I wanted to be Agneta, one of the singers in Abba. I dreamed about long straight blond hair. My mother always had my hair cut very short. If I could have three wishes, having long hair was one of them. To have a horse, to ride to school was the second one. We lived in an apartment on the second floor, but I figured the horse could stay in the bathroom. Its name would have been Silver or Baron. The third wish was for more wishes – very clever, I thought.

Around twelve I wanted to be a hairdresser. My mother worked as cleaner in a school and my father worked in a factory building cars. Hairdresser was as much as I could imagine, the most creative profession I could come up with. I got the opportunity to help a woman that had a salon so I worked on Saturdays washing hair and sweeping the floors. This ended my hairdressing dream and career.
When I finished school I knew I wanted to study art – the problem was I had to move to another city as there were no art schools in my town. So it took a while. In that time I worked as a cleaner for a year and then at the car factory for another year. I hated it! It was there I decided I wanted a job I wanted to go to, not one that made me feel like crying every morning before going to work.

I moved to another city and went to art school for two years; after that I applied to the School of Design and Craft, Gothenburg University, HDK. It took me three attempts to get in – in the meantime I was cleaning trains and aeroplanes at night. After five happy years at HDK I graduated in 1995 with a Master of Fine Arts degree. I've been self-employed ever since, except for two years when I worked as a Creative Director for computer game company. Most of these years I've been working as a graphic designer using my own illustrations. I started to call myself an illustrator at the same time I started my blog, in 2005.
Camilla1 Please describe a typical day – do you have many routines?

I wake up, brush my teeth in front of the computer, eat breakfast and leave home for a walk with Morran for about 40-60 minutes. We end up in the studio where we start the day with small dog treats thrown all over the studio for Morran to find. Then I do something for about an hour or so, like packing orders. Then it’s time for my daily and very important cup of coffee. I drink that while looking at what I am working on, trying to find my way into it again. If I'm not working on anything in particular I read a magazine to get some inspiration. Around 3 o'clock Morran thinks it's time for another walk, so that's what we'll do. After that we go back to the studio or home. I don't have a computer in the studio so there’s always a lot waiting for me when I return home.

You’ve teamed up with artist Elizabeth Dunker to create Studio Violet – can you tell us a little more about this partnership?

Elisabeth Dunker and I moved in to a studio together and Studio Violet was born. First it was to get money to pay the rent, but even before we started we knew it was more than that. We have so many ideas and creativity together that smoke comes out of our ears. The hardest part is concentrating on one thing at a time. I'm also very pleased to have found a forum for my more cute work. It feels like we have just started and we try to do what feels the most fun and create things that we would like to have ourselves. We not only want it to be nice to look at but also to touch. We want it to be perfect, but in our own personal way.
When starting a new project, how do you begin to gather your ideas?

When making an illustration for a given purpose I usually start with writing down words that I find important for this specific issue. Then I surf, glance through books and take walks – that part can take a while. I want to get acquainted with the subject. Then I start to sketch and hopefully I'm on the right way.

Illustration, painting and paper: which is your favourite to work with and why?

I like them all, in different ways. Illustration because it involves other people, has a given frame and provides a quick creativity fix (for the junky I am). Painting because I'm free to do whatever I want – I learn a lot about my self, which is always good but not necessarily fun – and it is fun to exhibit. Paper is like lightweight painting, slow and very intuitive, everything can happen.

What (or who) inspires you the most?

Music comes first on my inspiration list, then film. I would guess anything that make y
ou feel a lot. That opens the door to your mind, memories and feelings.

What books/music/artists etc do you love? Could you share some recommendations?

I think it is different every day. It depends on what I need, which mood I'm in or which mood I want to be in. But Radiohead always works for me. Right now I'm reading the book The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle written by Haruki Murakami and I like it a lot.

What achievement are you most proud of?

Right now I'm very proud of my poster for the Gothenburg Film Festival (above). It’s a very prestigious assignment and I am very happy with the outcome, which doesn't happen very often. I'm very happy about being where I am, but more happy than proud.

Being self-employed can often mean you’re working 24/7 – how do you maintain a good work/life balance?

I can't say I do. I think I have a hard time taking time off, to get the brain to take a break. I think it is hard because I love what I'm doing so much and am having so much fun doing it. So if I don't know what to do I work. My work is also my hobby so to speak, and I think that's a problem. But luckily enough I have Morran and she craves long walks and attention (and so does my husband ;)

I’m always so happy to see Morran in your Flickr stream – is she your furry muse?

I love Morran! She's making my life and myself better, but she is also making my life more difficult and maybe even me a worse person. But I would love to keep her forever. We are together almost all the time and I can't imagine my life without her.

If you weren't an artist, what would you be?

That's a very hard question! Being creative somewhere else. I love
cookies so maybe I could make cookies, beautiful cookies and cupcakes.
Or maybe something with dogs? I recently found some papers as I was
going through some really old stuff – there was information about
training to be a dog psychologist in there :-)
Camilla11You're having a dinner party and can invite six famous people from the past or present – who would you choose and why?

Strange, I have never even played with this question…I have no idols or people like that. Michael Parkinson to start with, so if I'm not a very good host he can take over and talk to the others and ask them clever questions. My dad, who’s been dead for a long time – I would like to meet him now that I'm a grown-up. Why not David Attenborough, I love the way he talks. Maira Kalman, because I love the way she talks and definitely the way she illustrates. Hmm… this doesn't sound like a very fun dinner party, does it. I would rather have a dinner party with my friends, if that's ok.


* * * * *

Camilla, thank you so much for sharing with us today! Her answers are as delightful as her art, don't you think? Of course, now i can't decide whether i want a horse called Silver, or a Danish/Swedish farm dog of my own – i was tempted to illustrate the entire interview with photos of Morran!

[photo of Camilla by Elizabeth Dunker – all other images by Camilla Engman]

11 responses
  1. Roxanne

    I have wanted a llama, or a dolphin and have mused they could live in the bathroom. I have often secretly wished that I could have a ‘band’ of different kinds of pets, that would all get along … and that I would be some odd Doolittle character.
    I enjoyed reading this interview, Camilla has sparked me just a tiny bit.

  2. Paris Parfait

    So interesting. Love Camilla’s illustrations!

  3. deciphertheday

    wow thanks for the fantastic insight into a very inspiring artist. Her work is brilliant!

  4. kylie

    A really fun interview with Camilla. Thanks for posting.

  5. pixie

    I love this interview and I know I’ll have to come back and read it about ten more times because it’s so lovely. I love Camilla’s *voice*.
    She might like to know that when I was six years old, I brought our young colt, Princess, up the back step and into the house which was just on the other side of the bathroom. I couldn’t get the door closed, then my mother came to shoo her out.

  6. Nechepurenka

    Very interesting!
    Thank you!

  7. barbara

    i love Camilla´s work… Beautiful interview!!!

  8. Angie

    Camilla’s work is fabulous – really whimsical but very grown-up at the same time, and so unique!
    Great interview! x

  9. Andrea Tachezy

    Thank you for a very interesting interview with Camilla.I think, we all love her work!

  10. Petergaye Kisielewicz/yahgie

    Great posting. Love all the illustrations!

  11. Corinna

    Thanks so much for this glimpse inside Camilla Engman’s world–she’s just as cool as I expected. I have four of her prints hanging on my wall and I adore her work.

Comments are closed.