Interview with artist Elli Maanpää

Elli is a versatile visual artist based in Helsinki, Finland, who describes her art as full of life and excitement empowered by colors and Mother Nature. In 2013, she received an M.A. in Visual Culture at Aalto University, and she also has a B.A. in Animation and Fashion. Ellie also does YouTube videos that provide her viewers with her work in progress animation, what she draws in her sketchbook while traveling, tutorials on pattern design, a lesson on advancing creative skills, and how to make money as an artist.

Elli, tell us about yourself.

Hi, first of all, thank you for inviting me to Canvy blog. Happy to be here.

I am Elli Maanpää, a visual artist from Helsinki Finland. I paint figurative colorful paintings. I have an M.A. in Art from Aalto University. I also have a degree in animation and fashion design.

When did you first realize you wanted to become an artist, and what is your favorite thing about it?

I knew already as a kid. I was always drawing and inventing things. At the age of 11, I painted the walls of my childhood room with acrylics. In Art high school I said ”I’m an artist” out loud for the first time. We also held our first exhibitions then.

Can you talk about the creative process behind your Augmented Reality projects?

I heard about AR for the first time in an animation workshop in France. I wanted to learn more so I worked as a trainee in Finnish AR start-up Arilyn for six months. For my graduation project for animation for Turku Arts Academy, I decided to combine acrylic painting and 2D animation with AR. When you scan the painting with the AR app on your phone it comes alive.

My Augmented Paintings illustrated idioms like ”Head in the Clouds”. The paintings were exhibited in the summer yard of the National Museum of Finland which I’m so grateful for. With art, I can be part of renewing the identity of Finland. We use to be known for sad records in suicide rates but nowadays we are known to be the Happiest Nation in the world for the fifth year in a row.

You were one of the six young artists chosen for HELENE20, an art project held by Helsinki Hospital, what was that experience like?

The experience was memorable. I got to ”meet” one of my artistic heroes: Finnish painter Helene Schjerfbeck (Schjerfbeck died 1946). She was most well known for her striking self-portraits she painted until her death. The HELENE20 team had set up a studio in a mansion where young artists were ”interviewed” by one of Schjerfbeck’s portraits. I got quite emotional chatting with Helene. It felt like a real meet-up.

We made artworks in honor of Helene and had an exhibition at the beautiful Helsinki Railway station. There was supposed to be a grand final gala where the artworks would be auctioned. But then the pandemic got worse and the auction happened online. I'm still proud of our paintings being auctioned by Hagelstam & Co auction house. The profit was given to a cancer charity.

Do you have any exhibitions coming up? How do you usually prepare for an upcoming exhibit?

I’m just finishing up a solo exhibition in Pori. The next exhibition is during the Lapua Art & Film Festival in Lapua Finland in September. And then in Turku in Spring 2023. In the meanwhile, I have smaller exhibitions in my atelier window in Helsinki.

I love planning exhibitions. Individual paintings are aesthetically pleasing. When they are exhibited together there’s a better chance to communicate something. Preparing an exhibition comes from planning the title and the theme of the exhibition. Then curating pieces that compliment each other and the gallery space. Then it’s time to make an inventory of the artworks, photograph, naming, measure, price, update CV, write the exhibition release, and so on. It’s rewarding to get paintings in front of a live audience.

Have you ever said 'no' to an opportunity? How did you decide to say no?

I’ve been teaching myself to say ”NO”. Nowadays I’m pretty good at it. If the intuitive answer is not ”ABSOLUTELY YES” it’s probably ”no”. Since life is short. And the more we do things that make our hearts sing the more we get to do those things. You - and I - only deserve the best.

How do you balance your time with other commitments such as your YouTube channel, online shop, being a surface designer, or other creative pursuits?

I do dream about having an assistant. The truth is that my life often goes at two speeds: expansion and subtraction. There are times that I start many new things and then others that I try to finish the things I started. In the middle of it all, I aim to enjoy life to the fullest. I try to go with the flow as much as I can. Just trust the creative process.

What are you doing to ensure you continue growing and developing as an artist?

I visit art galleries and museums, read about other artists, and follow them on social media. It’s inspiring and a great way to get perspective. Working on my skill is a must but it comes quite naturally. I make something creative every day: drawing, painting, photographing, writing.

Describe how you can encourage your career growth to other artists.

It’s most important to stay true to yourself: If you want to concentrate on just one thing - then do that. But if you have an interest in trying something new: do it. Even if the project fails you learned something either about the material or about yourself. Being curious is never a waste of time.

This is the best time in history to be a visual artist. We can reach so many people with social media without needing permission from the gatekeepers.

I know that you’re using Canvy, so can you tell us about your experience with us?

When I show my painting in an online space it’s hard to read what size it is. My painting sizes vary a lot. Putting the paintings in the Canvy room gives a better understanding of the size.

I also love that Canvy gives so many options to adjust the decoration and framing. Decorating the room is so much fun. Besides work, it’s daydreaming about what kind of house I’m going to buy one day soon.

As a vibrant painter, if you’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?

First I thought about red but then I decided: I’m the warm tone of yellow of the sun. I was born in July. I’m a proud Leo. The weather in Finland gets cold and dark in the winter but the summer is forever in my heart.

Find Elli Maanpää and her artwork here.