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Illustrious: Ulla Thynell

Sun Mar 9, 2014, 10:40 PM

Charming, playful, and bright are all words I would use to describe the work of Ulla Thynell ( ullakko ), a fantastic traditional illustrator who has given me the pleasure of an interview. Ulla Thyell has an extensive gallery of Tolkein-inspired images, of such detail and imagination, as well as innocent feeling, to make any viewer feel young again.

If you're looking for an illustrator for your children's story or fairytale book, you can't go wrong with Finnish artist, Ulla Thynell. Check out her images and gallery below.

All images ©Ulla Thynell – Please respect the artist and credit her work if you share these images.

-The Interview-

AH: The very first thing I noticed about your deviantArt page is your ID. I am absolutely in love with it. All of the little details make it so expressive and playful, much like a lot of your art. How long did it take you to come up with that concept, and did you agonize over it (or was it something that just came to you)?

UT: Thank you! The idea for this piece was quite easy to come up with, and many of the elements in the drawing are collected from my earlier doodles and illustrations. This piece was actually part of a school assignment project, a little personal zine about things that interest me in the visual media. One of my themes was illustration and imagination, and this was my illustration for it (the finished spread looks like this: ).

AH: You live in Finland! What area do you live in? I know a few people who live in Helsinki, and have always wanted to visit. It seems like an awesome place. What are your favorite places, and do they help you with artistic inspiration?

UT: Helsinki is lovely! I live in the south Helsinki, near the coast. I love to walk along the seashore. Open sea has this raw, powerful and shifting energy to it, especially on windy or gloomy weather. It's amazingly inspiring.

AH: Where (else) do you draw your inspiration from? Are there any artists that you really admire?

UT: Memories, emotions, dreams, music, literature, wild nature… so many things can be inspirational. Style-wise I really admire many of the late 19th and early 20th century illustrators, such as Edmund Dulac, Ivan Bilibin, John Bauer, Arthur Rackham, and so forth – I guess that influence shows in some of my work.

I also adore the works of Tove Jansson, Ilon Wikland and Zdeněk Miler… And I must mention Hans Arnold's illustrations for Astrid Lindgren's fairytale "Most Beloved Sister". That children's book must be my all-time favorite one.

AH: I saw that you have a ton of truly gorgeous Tolkien fanart pieces on deviantArt. Is he your favorite author? What kind of stories do you typically enjoy reading?

UT: I started reading Tolkien as a kid and I've read The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings more than once. They will probably always feel nostalgic and meaningful to me. Tolkien's stories seemed like the perfect subject to start practicing illustration with, a couple years back. I wouldn't say that Tolkien is my singular favorite author though, there are just so many great authors out there. I do like reading well-written fantasy and science fiction, and I find children's stories and old fairytales ever so fascinating. I still enjoy reading Tove Jansson and Astrid Lindgren, for example. I don't think there's age limits to fairytales. But good literature obviously isn't tied to any specific genre.

AH: I was first drawn to your artwork through the piece "Message", which is reminiscent of illustration's "Golden Age". However, a quick look through your gallery shows that you've got a wide range of themes and styles that you like to employ in your artwork. Would you say that you generally do more children's illustration over other kinds?

UT: Lately I've been devoted to children's illustration because of my freelance work with children's books, and also because of my own little 3-year-old. I got "seriously" interested in children's illustration after becoming a mother, but I've always been told that my art comes across storybook-ish, and I guess that happens even when I don't do it intentionally.

AH: Is there a project that you would love to undertake in the future? If there were no limitations, what would you like to accomplish in your artistic career?

UT: Oh, I would love to get my own children's stories and published one day!

I'm interested in many kinds of projects though. For example, I'm such a 2D animation fan, and working on a film would be very interesting. I'd also love to illustrate a classic fantasy novel, either one of the old favorites or a completely new one...

AH: Is there anything else you'd like us to know about you? 

My website:
There's also info on how to buy my books, prints or original artwork. :)


Blackberry by ullakko

Campfire by ullakko

Orava ja Keijukainen by ullakko

Herd by ullakko

Message by ullakko

Glorfindel and Asfaloth by ullakko

Leaving Hobbiton by ullakko

My ID by ullakko

Fangorn by ullakko

Illustrious is part of an ongoing interview series designed to connect indie and self-published authors with exceptional artists for their cover and illustration needs. If you are an illustrator (science fiction, fantasy, children's book, comic) and would like to be considered for an interview, please feel free to contact Alex Hurst at Alex Hurst also interviews graphic artists (for book covers), editors, agents, and small or indie presses.

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