BOOM BOOM YEAH! Let’s get this autumn season started! May we introduce to you the latest member of our legendary gang of illustrators: Satu Kettunen! To see her beautiful creations, please visit her portfolio here.

Satu Kettunen is a Helsinki based illustrator. She has two degrees from Aalto University, from programmse of Art Education, and Fashion Design as well. She started her career as a fashion illustrator, and has been doing illustrations since 2008. She’s also illustrated five picture books, the first of which won the Rudolf Koivu Prize in 2015 and the second of which was nominated for the Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Award. Satu is also a member of the street art collective called Multicoloured Dreams.

Satu’s illustration style is best known for its clear and composed colour schemes, and in her art she mixes both drawing and painting, as well as paper collage techniques. She’s a precise, sharp and witty illustrator. Satu is a pleasure to work with and that’s proven by her many several-year-long relationships with many clients such as Helsingin Sanomat, Meidän Perhe, SEK & Grey and The Trade Union of Education in Finland (OAJ).

Hi Satu! Could you please tell us more about your background, like when you first dipped your toes into illustrating?
Hey! I’ve always loved drawing, and I made my first illustrations as a teenager for my home town’s local newspaper Karjalainen’s youth pages. You could send in whatever drawings, poems or text you’d like, and the editorial staff would choose and publish a mix of them. I made romantic drawings of kissing couples and crying girls. It was exhilarating to see my own work in the newspaper and to get paid for it as well. That’s when I first started considering illustrating.

What technique do you use, what does your process look like?
My technique is a kind of digital collage or mixed media. Everything starts, of course, with designing the picture. After that, I might paint, draw or cut out of paper different elements of the planned picture. Really just coloured shapes and differently structured surfaces. Then I either photograph or scan the elements and import them into Photoshop.  I like the visuality of hand made, but digital processing gives me limitless opportunities to edit, scale, tweak colours and copy any elements, and that means that a watercolour or drawing by markers doesn’t have to be perfect on the first go either. I edit the elements a lot by mixing different shapes and surfaces, and slowly the illustrations start to come together.  I usually do finishing detailing by drawing with an electric stylus. I’ve accumulated a broad library of different marks, surfaces and shapes that I can reuse and edit into something completely new. 

Your style of illustration is a wonderful mix of delicate lines, bold use of colour, collage and strong interpretations. How did you land on this style?
Thank you! That’s a great question. During my early years of professional illustration, I’ve tried a wide variety of different styles, some very different from my current one. When I was exploring my own voice, I would always ask myself if a style felt like my own, and did the technique isnpire me so that I wanted to develop on this style. I eventually got inspired by the lively finish that watercolours give, and their ability to layer, and slowly I started to find my own style of creating. I got excited every time I got to start a new project by mixing watercolours and drawing and I felt like maybe I was onto something with it. 

I’ve always loved colours, and even if I’m only using two, at least one of them is usually pretty vibrant. I just wholeheartedly see myself as a lover of colours. 

What’s your work environment like? Name the first five things in your field of vision now!
Sea, trees, books, paper cuttings and a water carafe. I work at a shared office in an old Jugend-style building with three other creatives. Good lighting is very important to me, as well as working in a somehow aesthetically pleasing space. My desk is by the window so when I look away from the screen I can see a peaceful little street and the sea beyond it. Apart from light and visually inspiring space, my office mates are really important to me. Being an illustrator can mean lonely long days, so having nice people around me is everything. 

You live in Helsinki. What are the best, weirdest/scariest and most inspiring places?
Many of my favourite places are gardens of some sort. I like the City Botanical Garden, the Winter Garden and many allotment garden spaces around the city. 

Industrial areas, in general, are weird places.

The wonderful feeling of space and openness at the Helsinki Central Library Oodi really inspires me. I like to watch people, too. I like illustrating people, and I get inspiration for it by watching passersby in libraries and cafes, and on the street. 

Share with us the three most inspiring accounts you follow on Instagram. Who should we follow and why?

  1. Leena Kisonen (@leenakisonen) is one of my favourites. Her style is so wonderfully cute, wild, fresh and simple. In her stories Leena talks a lot about licensing, pricing and other issues about our industry which are considered quite a taboo thing which it shouldn’t be. Her chats are so interesting, and the topics important. I recommend her for all illustrators and people wanting to break into the industry. 
  2. Paul Blow (@paulyblow) is an editorial illustration virtuoso. His work is always such a pleasure to look at and be inspired by. His style is relatively simple and his approach straightforward, but he’s still incredibly witty, even genius. 
  3. Laura Carlin (@laura.f.carlin) is one of my long term illustrator favourites. Her account might not be the most active but I love her personal style, free lines and ability to portray living creatures. And she even makes gorgeous ceramics.

What’s the best part about your job? And what’s the most challenging?

The most rewarding part is how different and versatile every project is. The art of illustration is interesting and constantly changing, and I’m continuously learning something new.  The most challenging part is planning your career and livelihood in a way that the job is both creatively and financially rewarding, as well as sustainable in a way that I can do it until old age. 

What else do you do apart from illustrating? Tell us some of your hobbies?

When I’m not working, I’m probably at home or at some happening with my 4-year-old kid. On my spare time, I’m interested in his pinecone treasures and games. Always and forever I’ll be interested in flea markets, interior design, cinema and all things visual. 

What’s been your most memorable commission so far? And what would be your dream illustration job? 

One project already felt like a dream come true but unfortunately, it didn’t come to fruition due to technical aspects. An architectural agency was planning a new school building abroad and one of the the lobbies was supposed to get a large illustrations on the walls and floor. That would’ve been an amazing project if it would’ve been successful. On the other hand, my dream job would be to illustrate a bold and colourful line of product packages, something like chocolate or organic cosmetics.


Album: Yona – Tango A La Yona
Book: Michelle Obama – My Story
Superhero: Aquaman
Exhibition: Armi Teva: Naamat Punavuoressa (Lokal)
Movie: The Last Wedding. Every spring I long for the nostalgic Finnish countryside in Markku Pölönen’s movies.
Artist: Outi Pieski
City: New York, I’m visiting there this autumn with some friends!

Thank you, Satu! We’re delighted that you’re joining our fantastic roster of artists.

Fell in love with Satu’s style? Book her for your illustration project by mailing to: