Petra Eriksson: Digital Nomad

Swedish-born ADC Member is our first featured illustrator of the year

Happy New Year! It’s time to start 2016 with a bang, and what better way to do it than to bring back Illustration Month, one of our most popular monthly themes! For those who are new around these parts, Illustration Month shines a spotlight on ADC Members who consider themselves illustrators, whether professionals, students or just really keen amateurs. The common thread is that they have a passion for drawing that just couldn’t be contained.

Kicking off Illustration Month (and the ADC year as whole) is a Swedish illustrator and graphic designer who gains inspiration by being “completely surrounded by things for my senses.”


Petra_portraitPETRA ERIKSSON

Illustrator/Graphic Designer
Stockholm, Sweden (but presently a “digital nomad” traveling across Europe)



Every kid’s parents has their artwork pinned to the refrigerator, but some kids were much more serious about their artwork than others. What was your childhood like, artistically speaking?

I’ve always been a bit of a compulsive drawer. I can’t have a pen and paper in front of me without doodling and I’ve always found it hard not to draw while being in meetings/lectures etc. I’ve always had the support from my parents and teachers to explore my artistic side more and I dreamed about becoming and artist/illustrator from a very young age. That said, I was also a pretty realistic and serious kid who understood that it might be hard to support myself doing this so I always had backup plans in mind like being a journalist or a vet. Thankfully I haven’t had to explore any of those options yet.

When did you think “Hey, I can make some sort of living from this”?

I think that feeling didn’t kick in until I had landed my first full time job as a designer. I had done some freelance work before and graduated a few months earlier but I still really felt like I was faking it and not at all sure if I was gonna be able to properly support myself doing this.

How would you best describe your style? Do you fight against having a particular style, or do you embrace your style as your “brand”?

I think it’s tricky to think about my style. I definitely have a style in some sense, like certain colours that I constantly come back to, and the use of flat graphic shapes and patterns. But I also like to do very detailed hand drawings or do something more rough in black/white. I want to be able to continue to explore different styles, but at the same time I want people to be able to see something I’ve done and know that it’s mine.

“I want to be able to continue to explore different styles, but at the same time I want people to be able to see something I’ve done and know that it’s mine.”

Walk us through your usual creative process.

When I get a brief/article I usually read it through, then scribble down some words that popped up in my head while reading it, or words of objects that I want to explore/bring into the illustration in some way. Then I usually browse around for some reference images and maybe put together a mood board depending on the scope of the project. After that I usually leave it for a while to go and do something completely different. Preferably a day at least but that depends on the deadline of course. When I finally sit down to do some rough hand drawn sketches the idea of what I want to do is usually pretty clear in my head and the rest of the process goes pretty quickly. I do 2-3 sketches and then start building the image in the computer, starting with simple shapes and then adding structures, details and patterns as I go along.

Tools of the trade: do you have any specific pens, pencils or other instruments that you swear by?

I don’t actually. I always need to have a good set of black ink pens in different width and a sketchbook in a good size with paper that’s not to thin but it doesn’t really matter which brand it is. I do love my Wacom tablet, but I haven’t tried any other brand. I probably wouldn’t risk it though, so I’m pretty sure I’m gonna stick with this brand for a long time.

What is the most challenging thing about a career in illustration?

I still think that settling on a price for the job is really tricky, I still feel uncomfortable when I tell people what I want to charge them and also to figure out how much money I should take for a job.

Is there a particular project of yours of which you’re especially proud?

When I graduated from Berghs School of Communication I did an illustrated atlas as my graduation work. I figured that now when Google Maps is only a few clicks away we don’t need atlases in the same way as we used to, so I wanted this book to focus on being more of a source of inspiration than being realistic. I only had two and a half month to do it while still doing a lot of other schoolwork, but ended up doing a 84-page book which I printed 50 copies of. Now, nearly three years later, there are a lot of things that I would like to fix and develop more, but I’m still happy with how it turned out and having pushed myself to get it ready. Also, I think I understod a lot of things about how to work with illustration and got into a good working routine when I did it as it was such a massive project. This knowledge that has been invaluable to have afterwards. The positive response from teachers, other students and the people who came to the graduation show was also really good.

Cocktail party talk: how do you describe what you do to someone who isn’t in a creative field, and what’s the typical response you get from them?

I usually find that most people understand what I do when I say that I’m an illustrator, even though they’re not in the creative field themselves. Of course, sometimes I have to specify what illustrations/graphic design is used for and then I try to describe it as a way of visualizing a text/idea to make it clearer and easier to take in, or as a way of developing a brands personality.

Mostly people think being an illustrator sounds interesting and fun, but sometimes I can feel that they don’t understand the value in it, they don’t realize how it effects how they experience things.

“…people think being an illustrator sounds interesting and fun, but sometimes I can feel that they don’t understand the value in it, they don’t realize how it effects how they experience things.”

Where do you most often seek out creative inspiration?

I’m a big fan of Pinterest but the best sources of inspiration for me comes either from just walking around a big city with my camera, visiting a great exhibition or seeing a really visually striking movie (preferably at the cinema). I think it’s because in all those occasions I step into an environment where I am completely surrounded by things for my senses to take in and if it’s good it hits me really hard.

Which professional illustrators do you look up to and why? 

There are so many illustrators who I think is fantastic but one of my all time favorites is Lotta Nieminen. I love her colours, flat shapes and great compositions. I find her to be extra inspiring since she does design work as well as illustration, something I really want to continue doing as well.

At the end of the day, what do you love most about being an illustrator?

I get to do one of the things I love the most (drawing) as a living. I work flexible hours and get to learn about new interesting topics while doing this. + I get to collaborate with a lot of great, creative people.

Illustration Month continues throughout January, and is open exclusively to ADC Members. Not yet a Member? Join today!