Fredrik Rättzén was featured on Empty Kingdom just last week. A friendly, hard working, down-to-earth guy, his responses were interesting to read and some were completely relatable. And he’s a fan of Lykke Li, another plus.
I’m 23 years old and I’ve been freelancing on and off for a few months now.
What does a normal day look like for you?
I try to keep some kind of routine. It’s what works best for me. I get up around 8, starting the day off by heading to the gym. The rest of the day pretty much revolves around art. My classes at TAD are usually scheduled towards the evening, which means I’ve got to get assignments and other work done by then. Depending on the schedule, the classes end around midnight.
How did you end up at The Art Department?
After graduating high school, I was determined make a living out of art, with or without the help of art school. After doing art for a year or so, not doing very well, I decided to take a few online classes at TAD and quickly realized my work lacked direction. So, I submitted a few pieces for a scholarship consideration. I was fortunate enough to get in and for that I’m grateful. It’s been incredibly helpful on so many levels.
Think of a moment or experience that stands out to you from 2011. What was the first thing that popped into your mind? Why do you think it is distinguishable?
During my summer break, I felt the need to get some time away from everything. I had been working nonstop for a good couple of months, so I drove up to my parents holiday home. Up there, I remember taking the boat one day and going really far out before stopping. Lying down, staring up into the sky, I then drifted around for hours. It was just incredibly refreshing, doing nothing. I used to remember days feeling proud of myself for working hard, while now, the empty ones becomes distinguishable. It’s interesting how things change.
How do you balance your time between completing work for school and work for yourself?
I’ve tried doing both and things got overwhelming pretty quickly. The results weren’t very satisfying either. Luckily, we’ve got breaks and weekends, which I tend to put off to personal work.
What is the process you go through when creating a piece?
It depends, but for illustration, it’s a pretty straightforward process. I start with research, writing down keywords and exploring as many ideas as possible. After that, its straight into thumbnails, usually really loose, just to get started. There’s nothing worse than facing a blank sheet of paper. After establishing a set of thumbnails, I scan them and blow them up on the computer where I tweak minor things. If approved, I then print and trace the thumbnail, developing a more refined sketch. After that it’s just a matter of painting.
What was the inspiration behind “Ambition?”
In looking back at the past few years, I realized I’ve been settling for the half of things in so many ways. It just bothers the shit out of me. “Ambition” acts as a reminder to keep track of what’s important, and not get comfortable just because you’ve reached a certain goal. I think it’s something we can all relate to.
How do you know when your work is finished? What were some indicators that influenced you to feel satisfied with your work in the past?
When it just feels right. To be honest, I’m having a hard time describing it any other way.
Who and what do you find most influential? How have this person and this thing affected the way you approach your work?
I try to have a constant flow of inspiration and not limit myself to one particular person or thing. If I have to mention someone though, I’ve got Sterling Hundley to thank the invaluable insight he’s been able to provide into the world of illustration. I feel incredibly lucky, having him as a teacher.
What drew you to illustration?
I think the conceptual part has always interested me the most. It’s had quite an influence on my personal work as well, which used to lack in that department.
What makes you choose to create some works digitally?
It’s been a lot of back and forth between traditional and digital work. I actually started out digitally, mainly because I used to work in web design and was familiar with the software. Over time, I’ve come to appreciate both for what they have to offer. To actually answer the question, old habits die hard. I do try to move more towards traditional work in general as I feel it better represents what I’m trying to achieve.
What is one, if any, idea or aspect that you find most challenging to express through your illustrations? How have you tried to confront this obstacle in the past?
I find myself struggling a lot. Actually, it’s part of what keeps things interesting. I used to have a hard time facing the mistakes I made, and while doing mostly digital work, the easy way out was to undo them. It just got to a point where it felt like I was being dishonest to myself. I realized that something had to change, so, I gave up the tablet for a while, and instead pursued mediums like ink, acrylics and oils, none of which could be undone or erased. During this time, my work ended up gained a lot of personality, which, later on, did shape my digital work as well.
When do you finish school, and what do you hope to be doing once you’re done?
Having just finished my foundation year at TAD, I’ve got three semesters left where I’ll be focusing purely on my major, which is illustration. Hopefully that’ll bring me the work I aim to. Pursuing fine art as well is not out of the question, but for now, it’s more of a distant goal.
What is your favorite Lykke Li song and why?
Hard to pick one, but I really like “I’m good I’m gone”. It’s catchy and I find myself relating in a lot of ways.