Mia Meets… Annu Kilpeläinen

Interview by Mia Kingsley

Annu’s work is probably the best I could post at this moment in time, with this sneaky slice of Spring upon us what could be better than illustrations bursting with tropical colours, girls in hot pants, cruising cars and visions of fruit and flowers? I don’t think there could be any better. Illustrator Annu Kilpeläinen was born in Finland, moved to london when she was 20 and has now been living and working here for the past 8 years. She use to be really into Finish baseball and even had a cookie making stage, but now she is pouring her creative self into incredible illustrations that beam with vivid colour and instantly make me want to catch a plane to some far away land. Obsessed with painting cars, describes her work as ‘ Fun and Flashy’ and just finished a series of skateboard designs, meet the amazing Annu Kilpeläinen…

So how did you get into illustrating?

When was a kid I was interested in about hundred different things. I tried out ballet, theatre, Finnish baseball, kickboxing and painting. It was all a blast but I never thought any of them could be actual professions – though I got really into Finnish baseball for quite a few years. Later I got interested in fine art but in terms of eating and paying rent I thought graphic design would be better option and enrolled to a uni near my hometown. Quickly after a year of learning to do corporate logos I realised it wasn’t not for me, quit and moved to London. I continued drawing and did illustration degree at LCC and then things started making sense..

Have you always been creative? You use to make cookies too right?

I think rather than being creative I have always been interested in everything. So I have tried a range of things – one of them being the biscuits. With my friend Hannah we still do them sometimes. We did a little blog when we started having all these pictures of the biscuits on our phones and thought would be fun to gather them somewhere.

Your style of illustration is so cool, I love the block colours and patterns, how did you develop this style?

Thanks! My style has evolved and changed quite a bit within few years, which I think it’s important just to keep it interesting to others and mostly to myself. I actually think making all those biscuits helped this process quite a bit. I used to do very detailed black and white drawings as well as paintings with loads of colours. Then trying to simplify images for the biscuits, just using couple of colours and simple shapes crept in to my illustration work too.

Who are your inspirations?

There are so many! Generally people that are really into what they do and go on doing without worrying too much. But just to name few amazing artists: Ken Done, Shirley Jaffe, Jonas Wood, Jordy van den Nieuwendijk, Guy Yanai, of course Yayoi Kusama and David Hockney and as a kid I loved Moomins and later on obviously discovered Tove Janssons paintings too.

You use such vivid and bold colours, what is it about these colours schemes that attract you?

In Finland everything is covered in snow half of the year and then the summer comes and everything becomes colourful and alive it’s just insane. I think bright colours in general represent big feelings of happiness and new beginnings. And it is great how bright colours are always linked to cheap adverts and childish things too.

Where do your ideas come from and how do you go about the process of putting them onto paper?

Usually just from seeing interesting things on the streets or from researching the subject matters. I do a lot of research on little things I might find interesting at that minute, like the fashion around people tuning cars or Madonna’s hair. And I also look at current things like whats showing at Tate or whats new on the fashion weeks. And then from these come ideas and new interesting researches. Then I sketch little notes and start drawing shapes and outlines on big paper trying out different colour combinations as I go.

What are you favourite materials to use?

At the moment I mostly use Posca pens and acrylic paints as with these you get nice thick and bright pigments and textures. Would be great to get a big box of art materials and a month to just have fun and make a mess and discover new things.

Your really into cars at the moment, tell us why…

Yes! I am not that into the new models, more to those rusted old ones that have been with their owners for years and then theres this big culture of tuning cars. It is so cool how guys do up their cars by putting in led lights and massive speakers to fill the whole back of their cars and how creative they are with it. Theres all this masculinity and technicality around cars so I wanted to do some cars that just looked fun and flashy so I painted few with bright patterns. Then I got introduced to BMW:s art car range and I was blown away – that is surely one of my life goals to paint one of those some day.

You also are currently working on a ‘Girls and Cars’ zine, tell us a bit about it…

I did a print for Tan&Loose Press exhibition in Chicago of a car driving to a pool. Then started thinking of an idea for a zine and as I was drawing a picture of a girl I thought it would be interesting to do a set of artworks around the whole world of ‘cars and girls’ as it really has its very own precise imagery linked to it. So instead of drawing girls pointlessly laying on cars wearing very little I wanted to draw strong cool girls working with their cars wearing very little. So I am drawing those up now and the zine will be published by Tan&Loose Press later this spring.

When I look at your illustrations I just want to go on holiday, are you inspired by travel?

Always, it’s that feeling of not worrying and having an open mind for all good things that are about to happen – thats what I am inspired by. Would be fun to go somewhere exotic and warm for longer period of time and see whether I would start missing the snow and rain and start doing monochrome paintings with just greys and whites.

Your originally from Finland, Its your 8th year in London now, Does the London city inspire you differently to Finland?

I think the notion of moving here 8 years ago without knowing anyone then hovering around for few years trying to fit in really made a big difference in me as a person and I am sure shaped my illustration work too. The city goes on in such a fast phase, it has so much energy and so many different people going about their everyday lives its hard not to get inspired. But its always super inspiring to go back home too, people are great the seasonal changes are so amazing.

Do you think your work reflects you as a person? 

Yes definitely. Maybe I am not that all out there as all the colours I use. But I like fun things and I wish I could wear all the patterns I draw.

Describe your work in 3 words?

Heh it has to be the ‘fun and flashy’

You’ve illustrated on cookies.. Now on skateboards too! Tell us how you got into that.. Do you skate yourself?

Well I’ve been snowboarding since I was a kid and then to have fun in the summer i got a skateboard too, just to cruise around and do fun things. And yes I got contacted by Creative Agency Rosie Lee as they have been working on this Deck Chair project and got commissioned to create artworks for 3 skateboards. Was so much fun doing that!

So cool! We look forward to seeing the boards!! Whats next for you Annu? Any more cool projects to look forward to?

Well I am super exited of being part of the Pick Me Up Selects at Somerset House this April. And I am also working on a colouring book on Evolution published by Cicada Books, thats coming later on this year. To be honest I am just really exited to get to draw all the images that I have had in my head for a while as it is just my second month freelancing now. There has also been some ideas of printing fabric with Peckham Print Studio so maybe soon I will dress up like the characters i draw too.

All sounds very exciting!! Thanks so much Annu! 🙂 If you would like to check out more of Annu’s work follow the links below, some really cool black & white illustrations too so worth the click!

Instagram: @annukil

If your interested in those cookies too:

The next ‘Mia Meets…’ will be out this coming Thursday but until then for more ‘Mia Meets…’ or more Mia Kingsley:





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