illustrator and writer, with a love for grumpy girls on Pinterest
September 1, 2017
Hi Maria! Tell us a bit about yourself and your illustrations.
My name is Maria, I’m from Västerbotten [in the north of Sweden] but live in Stockholm now. I’ve been doing art for a long time, since I was very young, but it’s only a year ago that I started to draw and really identify as ”someone who draws”. My illustrations often portray women who are kind of moody – I love moody girls. There’s a kind of dignity. I love drawing situations where the person being drawn is in a strange situation. Like, the surroundings can be weird but the person is very calm, or in power even, despite it all. I feel like that kind of stuff is necessary.
You started drawing just a year ago?
Really I started in 2014. I was doing a writer’s program and sat down next to a person in my class who was drawing during lessons and then I thought, but I used to do that, maybe I can start again? We started drawing together, a lot. I didn’t used to identify as “a person who draws”. I did sketches sometimes when I was making a painting but I didn’t draw. Now I never paint and want to be an illustrator...
So you used to paint?
Yes, a lot with oil and acrylic. But it’s much more of a hassle, just having a pen and paper is so much more accessible. A bit easier when inspiration comes along. And also, when you live in a small apartment and have wooden floors it’s a bit difficult taking out the oil colours.
When you draw, do you have a finished idea that you start illustrating or do you just start drawing and see where it takes you?
I usually have a finished idea in my mind. Like, say I want to draw a person in pain. I go find a face that I want to use and then I find a picture of a deer and then a picture of a sunset and then I merge them together so they become the picture I have in my mind. I’m quite bad at drawing things off the top of my head and often want some kind of reference. That can mean I have ten pictures that I end up using for one.
What’s your drawing technique?
Earlier I only used pencil and ink, but now I’m into drawing a lot with color pens and felt, ProMarkers. To be able to do these big blocks of colour - it’s like I’ve changed the way I draw and that’s fun.
How would you define your style?
Well, that’s hard. I really don’t know. Freakish maybe? One thing people say about my drawings is they’re a bit imaginative. Colourful maybe isn’t the best way to describe it... A bit peculiar.
What inspires you?
Very often it’s music, and other artists. If you see something good you can get really stoked and want to make something good too. But it’s also the feeling that I can make a difference with my pictures. That’s a really nice thought.
Do you think differently when you draw from when you paint?
I think the biggest difference is really how the material behaves. When I paint with oil I have a tendency to get super stoked about an idea and then you start with some kind of ground colour and then you have to wait like three weeks for it to dry… So it takes a lot longer before you get to the end result. That’s what’s nice about drawing with pencils for example, pretty early in the process you can make it look really good. That feeling when you’re head-down and really into what you're doing and then you zoom out and look at it from above and see that it’s actually very good - that’s a very satisfying feeling.
"It’s also the feeling that I can make a difference with my pictures."
What do you enjoy most, drawing on request or your own ideas?
Drawing on my own. Because then it's a hobby, it's something I love to do, based on an idea of my own. I do it in my spare time, it's really chill and if someone wants to buy the thing I made, that's just a bonus. But when somebody requests or orders something it has to look a certain way and have a specific result. It might be something I would never draw on my own and it goes from being a hobby to being something I work with.
It can make me feel limited and I really have to look at my work with completely different eyes. I think a lot of people feel this way. Don't get me wrong, I want to do commissions and It’s always such a compliment when someone wants to order something from you. But I still think it’s quite common for people to feel this way. When something is expected of you it changes things, you know. You have to represent it in a different way. You have to deliver.
Do you otherwise feel that drawing is undemanding?
Yes, I really do. I went to art school ten years ago in Halmstad and then one year in Gotland. Partly because I was quite young then but also the feeling of not getting to show your own stuff that you were satisfied and happy with - people could be very secretive with what they were doing - an empty piece of paper could at that time be really scary, because that meant I had the whole process ahead of me, I had to draw. Now it’s the frickin' best thing there is! Because I can fill the paper with whatever I want. I think it finally hit home. I also draw so much more now than I did then and that makes it come more naturally to just get started. It’s ironic really.
Do you have a dream project you would like to draw?
It’d be fun to do a book cover. Since I’m a writer myself I could just go for it but it would be more fun to do it for someone else. At the moment I’m thinking it would be fun to have my own exhibition.
You’ve having an exhibition with the agency Femart, would you like to tell us a bit about them?
Femart is Sweden’s only separatist agency for illustrators, where the artists represented are either women or non-binary persons with a norm-critical eye in their creation. There’s a lot of feminism, a lot of focus on women and no focus on men. I was asked to join and now there’s close to thirty artists in the agency. All of us are represented on femart.se.
Besides painting and drawing you also write?
This year I've been studying at Ölands community college. It’s a remote course you apply to with an idea or a manuscript that you’ve started on - I'm writing a book. You sit by yourself and write during the week and then you share notes with your classmates and receive feedback from your teacher every three weeks.
Is your writing process similar to when you draw or are they different?
They’re very different! During my drawing process I put on music, find a cool and grumpy girl on Pinterest, get an idea and start drawing. Writing is really more of a job. It’s also more flexible and a constant process, even when you stop writing. You can change wording again and again, even when you’re not in front of the computer typing.
Is it hard to feel finished?
Very. I have a tendency to want to get everything done. Like when I play video games I become almost manic collecting points, I can’t miss anything. I have to get all the hearts and the money and find all the hidden stuff and then I can move forward. It’s exactly the same when I write. I get in the mode of having to have that perfect beginning before I can write the next page and I sometimes have a tendency to pick it to pieces before it feels perfect
" The greatest thing would be to get published, that’s why I’m doing this. When I’m done with this book, I'm on to the next project, another book idea. And an exhibition for my art of course."
Visit Maria Stuges Instagram account @mariastuga and see more of her work on Femart
Photos and text by Jennifer Borge