1. Introduce yourself. My name is Riikka, I also go by the artist nickname “Midorisa”. I am a fantasy artist and illustrator inspired by mythology, nature, and fairy-tale themes. I have soft spot for stories, and I love classic JRPG’s, music, books, nature, and cats for example. I enjoy doing colorful, magical, and decorative work.
2. Tell us something about your art. How it all started. I was always fascinated by art and creative things as a child and drawing and painting were one of my favorite hobbies. Things like animated movies, TV-series, manga comics, book illustrations and games greatly inspired me. They light the spark in me of becoming an artist. One very distinctive moment I remember was when I watched my big sister play the original 97’ Final Fantasy 7 and Final Fantasy 9 (I was too small to play them myself at the time). Something just “clicked” then, and I was absolutely fascinated by the stories, characters, artwork, music and the whole games as pieces of artwork. I experienced a very strong feeling that I wanted to be an artist and be able to create characters and windows to these “other worlds” and also reach a professional level to be fully able to express myself. Those games are still very dear to me for this reason as well.
I had times when I wouldn’t draw for many years thought because of personal reasons, but I picked up the pencil and paintbrush again 7 years ago. Soon after I started to take art and improving at it more seriously and decided to pursue my childhood dream.
3. Your favorite software? How long does it take to work on a project? My favorite software still is Paint Tool SAI 2, and I started digital painting with version 1. It is fast and lightweight and still has almost all the brushes and tools you need, and the interface is simple yet effective. I also use Photoshop CC to do the final polish such as color adjustments, add filters if needed, and sometimes to do some minor painting of details, but I do most of my main painting in paint tool SAI.
How much it takes for me to finish a painting really depends on the painting and how complicated/detailed it is, but mostly it takes me from 2 weeks to 2-3 months, it really depends.
4. Show us your favorite art from your portfolio. Any special reasons for creating them? This is a tricky question, as I am often so focused on just getting better technically, it often results in me looking at my own work very critically. I am never 100% happy with my work, as my ‘artistic taste’ and even observational skills are always ahead of my actual technical skill, haha. That drives me to better my skills and pushes me to try my limits, but it can also be hard to balance out and not become too critical of your own work. But of course, I like some parts of my paintings and I like my subject matters of course, otherwise I wouldn’t paint them. I can see my work kind of like a journey, it is not perfect, but I always do my best and keep improving. I am still quite happy with my Mielikki and Autumn Fairy piece from a few years ago, even though I would do many things a bit differently now. But I do like the colors and the overall atmosphere in those and how I got a chance to include animals in the paintings.
I wanted to try my skills with these paintings, and they were my first, bigger paintings in this style. I wanted to challenge myself to paint bigger, detailed paintings with a more detailed background and I also wanted to explore the mythological and fantastical themes and see how well I was able to paint my ideas.
5. Do you love to work on any particular theme while working? I definitely have favorite themes when I paint personal work. I love painting nature-inspired elements such as plants and flowers for example. I generally enjoy exploring mythological and nature-inspired themes in my work. When painting characters, my most favorite part is painting faces, hair and jewelry.
6. Since how long have you been working in this field? I have been painting for 7 years, and for the last 2 years, I’ve been also doing some commission work.
7. Do you draw directly on your computer or do you start with traditional drawing and then work on digital software? When I paint digitally my whole process is digital, from the initial sketch to the final painting, using a Wacom tablet. I also do traditional work with inks and pencils, and I keep a traditional sketchbook.
8. Do you follow any references to create your art or is it all from your imagination? When I start a new painting, I often do the first rough sketches without reference to get the basic idea down. This way I feel I am not limiting myself to any particular reference too early on in the painting process and I can freely try different ideas very roughly. After this step, I collect reference pictures, sort of a mood board for the painting. I collect inspiration images for the color scheme, light and references for the pose and anything that I feel I will be needing. This step often takes some time, as especially recently I have realized it is important for me to have quite a solid plan and it saves tons of time when you do all the “heavy lifting” as early as possible. I collect my references and open them in a program called “PureRef”, which is free and super helpful. Some things I have painted more, so I sometimes reference the reference picture quite loosely or sometimes might not use reference, but if for example, I am painting something for the first time I will definitely use a lot of references so that I understand the subject that I am drawing. I think it is always important to use reference and I actually started to do that a lot more just recently and it has made my process so much more efficient. To be able to create things from your imagination, you need to understand how your subject matter works and looks, and have a lot of knowledge, so I think to achieve that using references and studying them is very important. Over time, you start to build a “visual library” in your mind, when you have painted and studies your subject matter so many times that it seems you can create something out from your imagination. But truly I think it is the hard work of years of practice, gathering knowledge and studying and muscle memory that shows there. And even then, you have tons to learn.
9. Do you have any favorite artists? How do they inspire you? I have so many artists who paint and draw in different styles that I look up to and who inspire me in different ways, too many to name all of them. Instead of having one absolute favorite artist, I might like how one artist handles painting eyes or renders metal and maybe I like the colors or stylization of the other one, and so on. I often try to analyze why I like a certain painting or drawing, what aspect of it ‘speaks to me’ the most and why, and I try to merge all those multiple inspirations into my own art.
My earliest influences were definitely anime and manga style (both shonen and shojo) and their often very decorative and/or stylized aesthetic. I also liked these old children/ fairytale picture book illustrations, illustrated in a more golden age style, and I have always liked Art Nouveau art and Alphonse Mucha’s artwork and the decorative shapes and lines, as well as plants and flowers of his work. I mentioned Final Fantasy game series, and I really liked Yoshitaka Amano’s colors and drawing style and still do. I was always into fantasy art and books and I like studio Ghibli movies, especially their nature art. Later when I discovered digital art and started to draw again, I found a lot of artists. The most recent inspiring digital artists I have to mention are artists such as Viktoria Gavrilenko, Bo Chen, Zeen Chin, Krenz Cushart, Livia Prima, Anna Steinbauer, Jana Schirmer, Kilart, and Charlie Bowater. I could continue this list, but it would become too long. I like the work of these particular artists because my artistic taste gravitates towards imaginative & fantastical art that has nature-inspired elements such as animals, plants, flowers and greenery, details and decorative elements, fantasy subject matters, colors and I also like fairly ‘tight’ rendering style. Each one of these artists has some aspect(s) in their work that I find very inspiring. I try to look at all kinds of art and surround myself with art and learn from them. For example, I am also interested in classical fine art painting and how the classical painters handled color and light, composition etc. I have yet so much to learn!
10. What advice would you like to share with the new artists? I will give the same advice I actually tell myself quite frequently: never stop learning, challenge yourself, compare your art to your older art and not too much to other artists, to see and appreciate how far you’ve already come, as everyone has a different path. If you’re having an art block, remember why you started to do art in the first place and be inspired by all your favorite things, paint your comfort zone stuff or try something new, and rest. Take care of yourself and your health, take brakes and have hobbies and life outside of art. Paint what you love. Work smart and always practice and hone your understanding of fundamentals such as color and light, anatomy, perspective, value, composition etc.
Focus on your artistic goals, both short term and long term goals, practice visualizing them, then head towards them, taking small steps forward. Focus on working when you work: avoid using too much social media or being unintentionally distracted. Social media is effective and good as ‘a tool’ but bad as a host if it takes too much of your time every day. Try to find your own network of supportive people who have your best interest in mind and try to be part of the art community. Try not to tie your own self-worth to your art and for example social media likes, it is not healthy and you are more than your art. Instead, try to focus on strengthening thoughts and habits that make you feel good about yourself and your art. Don’t give up, take your time, remember to take those brakes and take care of yourself, and happy painting like Bob Ross haha. You got this!
11.Anything else you want to share? Thank you very much for the interview, I hope anyone who reads this finds this interesting!