Paula Mela

Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I grew up in Järvenpää, Finland. And, well, I still live there since I like the town because of its' small size so everything's close by and because of the cultural buzz it has. I started drawing very early and if my memory serves me right, I was 5-years-old when I said I'd like to be an artist. To my surprise, one of my relatives told me a few years back that I had actually stated I'd like to be a fairytale book illustrator when I was six. And here I am, still having the same thoughts. As a kid I had lots of picture books that I never bothered to read, but over and over again I admired the illustrations and perhaps came up with my own stories to them. That's probably where it all started.

Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? How did you develop your skills?
Perhaps both. For the most of my life I've been self-taught until I went to an art school after high school. I did go to an art club for several years when I was younger though. Aside those, drawing a lot on my own and studying picture books, nature and other artist's works have been the most important part of the process. However, for a very long time I've been lost what is it that I want to pursue style-wise. Nowadays it's more clear for me, but I'm still experimenting and developing.

Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
I've certainly had a supportive family from the very beginning, as well as relatives who are culturally inclined and teachers too. Not to forget how strong art is in the town I've always lived in.

What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
In general cartoons, animated movies like Disney's, comics and the picture books I mentioned earlier. Later came in anime and manga, which got me interested in drawing humans at last.

Did you have a favourite subject to draw when you were a child and do you still have one today? If you do, what makes it so special?
I loved drawing animals! I used to switch my interest to one animal to another after a few weeks or so, drawing and studying books related to the species. But horses have somehow always stayed as the dearest subject. Even now I draw different animals, horses especially lately, among other fantasy/mythological creatures.

From the initial client idea to the final work: what goes through your mind when you are designing and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
First off I discuss thoroughly what the clients wants. Then I start sketching loosely the first ideas and search for inspiring pictures that might have what the client has in mind and what kind of vision of it I have in my mind. I'll probably create some thumbnails of general ideas I have and discuss more with the client all the while. In fact I prefer to communicate a lot, to bounce back and forth our thoughts. As the idea begins to get more solid, I use more references if needed and experiment with the technique(s) that I'm considering for the work. When we are both happy with the idea, I begin the actual work. Often I've ended up being disappointed with the final result, whereas fortunately not the client, but at least I've always learnt something new from the process.

What is your process in colouring your art and what type of tools and media do you use?
Nowadays I'm mostly a traditional artist, I slowly alienated from digital art some years ago. So my preferred mediums currently are watercolours, coloured pencils and sometimes gouache. Obviously I start with a sketch which I trace with a light pad on the actual paper. I usually have some kind of plan of the colour scheme in my head or if I haven't been lazy, on paper. Then I begin applying watercolour and at last I add the final magical touch with coloured pencils. If I'm not doing a coloured work, then I'm working with ink and dippen. Somehow I like to build the picture slowly, creating texture with every stroke and being careful with the values.

What part of the creation process is the most fun and easy and what part is the hardest?
Sketching is loose and liberated, so it's always fun. Thinking of the composition and values is fun. Though when it comes to the actual work, it's quite nerve-wracking sometimes. Especially the colouring process. I can't handle watercolour well enough yet, so I'm prone to do mistakes here and there, but once I get to the coloured pencils part, that's when the fun starts. Not to mention ripping those tapes off around the final work...

What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
I may sound humble, but I just want to be an illustrator. To be precise, to illustrate children's books, fairytale books... the kind of subject I enjoy creating. All kinds of wondrous, atmospheric, magical illustrations. But if I ended up being part of some much bigger project, then sure why not. I feel like there's something big I want to convey to everyone in this world... something heartfelt and beautiful. Ah, yes, I want to touch people's hearts somehow.

Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
Freelancing. I want to be my own boss in everything, go at my own pace. I like variety, change... my personality is kind of like that overall and I don't mind being alone for long periods of time. Sure it has its' risks, it's financially unstable, but I don't think I have any other choice either. I wouldn't mind working briefly for a company, however.

What advise would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
Don't forget your everyday lives, go outside, be with nature, your family, friends. You know, relax your mind. Let the inspiration come to you with time. Being stressed about it surely won't help you. It's alright to be a bit stagnated sometimes, we all have those times. I also keep an inspiration blog which I frequently browse and it's surely helpful if faced with an art-block. However, we often don't even have the time to relax knowing how hectic the present day is, so pushing yourself to draw the things you usually like helps you to overcome the block little by little. In a nutshell, be gentle with yourself.

Many art teachers and schools suggest to their students that a commercial artist should always work in one consistent style if they wish to have a healthy career. In your own experience, do you believe this to be true?
Honestly I don't have much experience as of yet, but I have gotten the impression that having a few distinct styles is preferable. But even then, don't stop experimenting and develop your styles further. You might find something completely new. Adjusting yourself to a new project is advisable.

If you had to recommend only one art book (a comic book, graphic novel, children book, ''how to'' book) to a fellow artist, what would it be and why?
Oh dear, there's so many. I'll tell a few, okay? Just about any book by Rien Poortvliet, Sharaz-De by Sergio Toppi and Jeffrey Jones: A Life in Art.

Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favourite designs out there?
Gennady Novozhilov, Christian Birmingham, Sergio Martinez, Jeffrey Catherine Jones, Sergio Toppi, Rien Poortvliet, Claire Wendling, Svetlin Vassilev, Carter Goodrich, Anette Marnat, Jillian Tamaki, Glen Keane, Zao Dao, Ai Xuan, Man Arenas, Tove Jansson... I could go on and on. Out of these Gennady Novozhilov's illustrations inspire me currently the most.

Finally, Where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
I have my own website ( ), and you can find me on DeviantART ( ), Instagram ( @aavistus ) that has just about anything and Tumblr ( ), which has sketches and less serious works for now. At the moment I only sell some prints on DeviantART.

Thank you Paula :)