Mari Ahokoivu Interview
I am happy to present what should hopefully be the first in a series of interviews with Finnish comics artists; Here is Mari Ahokoivu.
1 / Can you introduce yourself? What is your background?
I’m Mari Ahokoivu, Finnish comics artist/teacher/producer. I grew up in Oulu (a town up north of Finland) and I’ve been living in Helsinki for about 3 years. I’ve studied comics in Liminka Art School and In EESI, Angoulême. I just gratuated from Oulu University of Applied sciences from visual media program.
2 / What drew you to comics?
I’ve always read comics, but I didn’t start drawing them until I was about 17. I have been drawing all my life, but not comics, only single pictures. I was reading some Finnish comics when I was a teenager, which inspired me to start drawing comics myself. Comics have always felt like my way of expressing myself. I’m not really a good writer or speaker, the best way for me to tell stories is through comics. It’s not that making comics would be easy, sometimes it is really really hard, but for some reason I feel like I can tell my stories more clearly in a comics form than in any other way.
3 / Who do you count as your influences?
4 / Can you describe your working process?
I start with chaos. I collect all my ideas and thoughts in small papers (post-its are the best) and put them on my wall. Then I start to organize the mess as a whole story. I focus on the atmosphere and the feeling of the comics, the story comes after all that.
When I’ve done the sketches for the pages I ink my comics while watching tv or listening podcasts. I try to avoid working with the computer as much as I can but I still end up spending most of my time in front of my MacBook pro. If I can, I use the traditional copy/paste, scissors and glue.
When I’ve inked some parts of the story I look at the whole thing and do some editing. I might have to draw some stuff again, but that’s just part of the whole process. I don’t draw the pages from first page to the last: I start with those parts of the story that are the most clear to me and skip those pages that I have some problems with. When I’m done with the “easy pages” the pages I had some problems with are a bit easier to solve.
I color my comics with computer, but I try to avoid using too many colors. about 3 or 4 colors per pages is maximum for me.
5/ What is your favorite work tool?
I’m kind of in between tools right now. I’ve been using pilot hi-tec-c4 for three years now, and I’ve kind of gotten sick of it. It does really nice fine line, but right now it feels like too thin to work with. I’ve been trying to use pilot G-1 0.5 but I don’t really know how to act with that pen. So now I’ve tried different brushes, which is nice, since I haven’t used a brush for such a long time. I think the tools fallow the mode I’m in when I draw.
6 / What does your workspace/studio look like?
Translations for the crazy Finnish (from Dolly to the right): Dolly <3, Sketches on the wall, Candy on the desk, desk lamp found in the garbage, post-it, desk found in the garbage, Chair from my previous life, stool; the only furniture I’ve ever bought as a new, vinyls (not mine), desk from the garbage, texting work, light table that by brother made.
7 / How do you earn a living?
I get most of my money from teaching comics and working at the comics centre in various projects. From time to time I get grants from the government so I can focus on drawing and I have couple of comics series that I draw for magazines.
8 / What are you working on at the moment? Show us a sneak preview!
Right now I’m working at for the Finnish Comics Society with various Nordic comics projects. I’m also doing some lettering works and couple of short comics for different anthologies and magazines. And I also should have time to work on my next album, a comic album for kids that I’m doing with a friend of mine. If that’s not enough already, I’m also trying to finish a collection book of my short stories for next spring.
From the book that will consist of short stories, some previously published in my blog, some (like this one) new ones.
9 / What are your ambitions for the future?
10 / What advice would you give to an aspiring amateur cartoonist?
Draw. Draw a lot, and don’t stop drawing. When you stop, even for one day, it’s more difficult to start drawing again. And if you draw everyday you will get better and better.
I actually gave some advice at the dw-wp blog just recently.
I would also recommend to start a comics blog. It’s free and easy to use. Through a blog you’ll get more readers for your comics and have a reason to draw everyday.
11 / What do you think of the health of the Finnish comics scene at the moment, and what do you think it can do better?
The Finnish comics scene is growing quickly at the moment. The festivals are getting bigger, there’s more people interested in comics and it feels like comics are finally starting to get accepted as an art form. But you still can’t really earn your living by doing comics (there’s maybe 5–10 people in Finland who can do that). We need get more organized, more professional. And create a good education system that would help the artists to actually deal with being a comics artists as a real profession.
12 / Where is the best place to buy your work?
Right now almost all my comics are sold out! So until I get some new stuff out, the best way to find my works is from my blog(and that’s free yay!) at http://ahokoivu.sarjakuvablogit.com. There might be some of my comics left at my publishers Asema and Daada.