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Illustrator Riikka Laakso’s Modern Take on Folk Art

Finnish illustrator Riikka Laakso’s playful illustrations are inspired by her homeland.

Colorful, fantastical, and carefully geometric, illustrator Riikka Laakso’s work often feels like a mature take on a children’s picture book. In fact, Laakso frequently self-publishes her work in printed books and zines.

Laakso’s graphic design eye is tempered by a folk art sensibility which gives her work an unusual balance of geometric layouts and free-formed characters. “The mixture between the controlled, straight line and free, intuitive drawing interests me,“ Laakso said in an interview with AIGA. This contrast in her work might also be due to the mix of media that Laakso tends to utilize: she often experiments with adding digital layers to hand-made pieces.

Originally from a small city in Finland, Laakso cites visits home as a source of inspiration for her colorful work. "Nature, especially the forest, inspires me,” she says. “I love visiting Finland. I find inspiration in the atmosphere, the melancholia, the colors, the frostiness.”

Laakso studied as a graphic designer before deciding to pursue an illustration career, and the neat composition of her work hints at her technical background. She works with a range of mediums, from lino cuts to screen printing, creating illustrations that capture everyday moments as well as more personal projects, like a zine inspired by Moomin author Tove Jansson.

She’s currently based in Berlin, where she has done print illustrations for a number of German print magazines, including Der Spiegel’s Wissen, Psychologie Heute, and Die Zeit’s Zeit Campus.

See more of Riika Laakso’s illustration at her online portfolio.

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