Robert Ekblom is a talented illustrator and graphic artist from Stockholm. With a focus on comics and street art, his artwork resist instant categorization. His portraits and illustrations are fascinating, but even more fascinating is the process behind each of them. None of them is mere a “traditional” art piece; instead he experiments and plays with lines, shapes or colours.
Following the same creative technique, Robert painted one of our Silvia lamps, as part of the “Artists for a good cause” project. The lamp he painted in Stockholm will be auctioned at the end of the tour, and all the proceeds will go to charity.
While he was painting, we had the chance to delve into his creative universe and to discover the story behind the lamp he created for the VITA lighting European Tour.
How did you first get into illustration?
It was mostly because of my dad. He drew a lot when I was a kid, and he was really good. And I guess I wanted to be better than him. I remember the first time he taught me to draw a motorcycle skull with a bandana – I was sold. After that I just wanted to draw every day.
How would you describe your illustration style? You seem to have a focus on comics and street art style.
That a really good question. I don’t know if I can describe my style. I always try to develop my illustration style. I take a lot of inspiration from comics, street art and graffiti, but mostly just from life in general. I love doing portraits, I love experimenting, and I love making things look random, even if they are not. Experimenting I think is my style [he laughs].
What are you currently fascinated by, and how is it fitting into your creations?
That is an extremely good question. I recently moved back to Stockholm, and this is a really big inspiration source for me. I get to hang out with the friends that I haven’t seen for a couple of years now.
Have you been travelling?
Yes, I was living in Denmark for two years and before that in Germany, Australia - all over the world.
Right now I am focusing a lot on mixing comic-portrait style with tattoo art; that’s a new angle for me. So tattoos are a big influence for me right now.
What are three words that define your work?
Spontaneous. Experiment. Awesome.
Some of your sketches have an instant WOW effect, coming from the unexpected dripping colours or splashes of colours. One of my favourite pieces is the portrait of Heather Doss – it is not a mere portrait of a woman; it is created by drawing hummingbirds and painting and dripping pastel colours around them, making the portrait truly one of its kind. You don’t look at it as a portrait but as an artistic “treasure map” of which meaning you want to comprehend, and it makes you wonder... Do you have hidden messages in your illustrations?
I wouldn’t say that I have a hidden message in my illustrations but that portrait was more or less a commissioned artwork. This model reached out to me when I was painting a lot of these “drip” portraits, and she asked if I could do a portrait of her. I really loved her face and after a Skype interview with her, I found out that she loved the hummingbirds. If you check my Behance profile page, you can see the process of how I created that painting. I started with drawing hummingbirds and then I painted around them. If you look really close, you might see a hint of the hummingbirds in the finished portrait. It was just like I said: an experiment and being spontaneous. But I am leaning more and more towards putting in more hidden messages in my art. So, in the future, you will probably see more of that stuff.
You are now imprinting a bit of your creative universe on a VITA Silvia. Can you tell us the story behind the illustration you are making on our lamp?
Like every illustration and painting that I make, this is pure spontaneity and just experimenting. I saw the piece that one of the other artists did, and I got inspired by the colours. I thought, “What if I combine that with a portrait that is spread across all of these beautiful pieces?” Instead of doing one portrait on each piece, I did one big portrait on the whole side of the lamp. This is really exciting and I can’t wait to see what happens when I put everything together.
Same for us. Do you have a picture in your head of what it will look like?
No, right know I am just trying colours - just like the Heather Doss piece. I am painting an Elvis portrait, and I will see what happens if I make his hair blue, or if I make the shades on his face pink or purple. It’s like a very crazy Andy Warhol meets Stockholm [pause] syndrome [laughs].
What did inspire you to be VITA’s artist for a good cause in Stockholm?
It was the good cause that really inspired me. I love doing things like this, being out there and showing myself as much as I can. I was really happy that you reached out to me, and I thought that the project was really interesting. I am happy and blessed to be here, so thank you!
If you were to send a message to the people who will bid on your creation, what would it be?
Be spontaneous and try new things. Don’t be stuck at your job if you hate it. Be yourself, be spontaneous and enjoy life!