Questioning Creatives


This article was written on 04 Oct 2013, and is filled under illustrators.

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Kjersti Johanne Barli

I’m 26 years old and I live and work in Oslo, Norway. I’m now in my final year as an illustration student, graduating from Oslo National Academy of the Arts in June 2014. Besides my studies I work in a bookshop and I also do illustration commissions.


When did you decide you wanted to be illustrator? 
It was not until I was in high school that I realised that being an illustrator was actually something one could do for a living, and so I decided to work hard towards that. I’ve been drawing for as long as I can remember, and it felt natural to pursue a career within that field.

Would you recommend studying at art school?
Absolutely. Being in a place where I am surrounded by people practicing different fields of art and design, where people are doing different creative projects, is very valuable to my own work. The atmosphere there is inspirational and motivating. And it’s also crucial for building network. Getting to know people within different fields of creative work might come in handy later on.


How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
It still isn’t. But hopefully it won’t take too long. In the meantime I have a part time job that I very much enjoy. I’m not afraid of having different jobs at the same time though; I actually think it’s quite useful for my work within illustration. I need different kinds of input to bring out the best ideas.

Could you describe your typical day? 
I get up as early as I can. I eat breakfast while I’m reading the newspaper, before I start working. Or start planning to work, that is. I spend some time looking through tumblr blogs and such to get inspired, and I make to do-lists and plan my day. I love planning and making lists. Often I add things on my to do-list that I’ve already done; just so I can check it off the list. It’s disturbingly satisfying. Depending on how much work there is to do, I start to draw or I read a book or watch a movie. Books and films are two very important sources of inspiration to me, they can add to my ideas, provoke scenarios and help me built stories. It’s similar to what I wrote on doing different lines of work simultaneously; I need different kind of input to be able to produce good ideas myself.

I mostly work all day until some time past midnight. The hours after dark are my most productive ones. And some days I work in the bookshop. And I eat dinner. And sometimes I hang out with friends.


What do you wish you’d know when you first started out?
That the best ideas come to mind when you’re not trying so hard. But you’ll figure that out pretty fast I guess.

What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
Besides getting paid to draw? Being able to use the phrase: my work is not just a job; it’s a lifestyle. Hehe.


What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator?
Not being able to afford having a horse. For now.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
I would own and breed horses and go for long horseback rides in the forest, nurturing my hobby from when I grew up in the countryside of Norway. Or perhaps I would live on a ranch in the US. Maybe I can combine my work with having horses one day. In the meantime I can draw them.

Any other tips you could share?
Read. Commit. Play. Be nice.


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