Matti Pikkujämsä is the first Illustrator of The Year
As the first Illustrator of the Year in history, the jury has chosen Matti Pikkujämsä. He is an illustrator who constantly develops himself and boldly ventures into new areas. He is a phenomenal talent and an outstanding illustrator who breathes through his pen. The jury also awarded four Honourable mentions to distinguished illustrators Janne Iivonen, Leena Kisonen, Eero Lampinen and Anna Salmi.
The Illustrator of the Year Award is a result of the award reform that took place in The Finnish Illustration Association. Instead of multiple different awards given out more seldom, the association will from now on present only one, more significant award each year. The award will be presented to an illustrator or a team of illustrators. The award is worth 10 000 euros and is funded from the copyright remunerations collected by Kopiosto. Annually changing professional juries will consider illustrations and illustrators from a number of different angles. The aim is that over the years, we will present awards to illustrators who are as varied as possible.
The association invited Assistant Professor of Visual Communication Design at Aalto University Arja Karhumaa, illustrators Kristiina Louhi and Jenni Tuominen, and graphic designers and ADs Tony Eräpuro and Ilkka Kärkkäinen to choose the first Illustrator of the Year.
Deliberations began in January with each member of the jury presenting the names of five illustrators who they would like to see awarded. After a general deliberation and elimination, five of the twenty-five names were short-listed. The jury of 2019 spent a long time deliberating on the criteria of the award. Was the purpose to reward a person for lifetime achievement or an interesting mid-career or perhaps to show support to a young, promising talent? During the second stage of the award process in March, the jury chose the Illustrator of the Year from the five finalists. The decision was reached during deliberations and there was no need to vote on it.
“An illustrator who breathes through his pen”
As the first Illustrator of the Year in history, the jury has chosen Matti Pikkujämsä, who constantly develops himself and boldly ventures into new areas. He is a phenomenal talent and an outstanding illustrator who breathes through his pen. His illustrations are not just decorations, but stories. His characters are always alive. He has served as a role model for many illustrators, but has a humble approach to his talent, understanding that it only forms the underlying framework for actual work.
The Illustrator of the Year exports a Finnish visual landscape out into the world. Although he works internationally, his illustrations portray the Finnish spirit with their spruces and domestic animals. His style features echoes of Nordic design from the previous decades, depicted from a new, fresh perspective.
Matti Pikkujämsä has illustrated more than 20 picture books for children. He has designed textile patterns for Marimekko and Samuji, among others, and regularly does illustrations for Helsingin Sanomat. Pikkujämsä is a popular painter of portraits and has made the almost lost tradition of portrait painting trendy again. In the Cup of Therapy project, Pikkujämsä illustrated mental health problems and wellbeing to make them visible. A postage stamp set illustrated by Pikkujämsä was released in February this year.
On behalf of Matti, who is working at Japan at the moment, the Award was accepted by his sister Kaisa Pikkujämsä.
Matti Pikkujämsä takes Finnish expertise out into the world with his sympathetic, skilled touch. He has won the State Prize for Illustrations in 2015 and the Rudolf Koivu Prize in 2013. This is the first time that The Finnish Illustration Association has given him an award.
“I cannot believe this,” said Matti when he heard about the award. “I feel like I have the obligation to be even better in the future.”
The award exhibition of the Illustrator of the Year, will be on display at the Hanaholmen Gallery this autumn from 8 September to 27 October. The exhibition is organized by The Finnish Illustration Association together with the Hanaholmen Cultural Centre.
The four illustrators to whom the jury awarded Honourable Mentions are:
Janne Iivonen, (b. 1983) who lives in Brighton, England, and has made an impression with his ligne claire style that combines a modern approach with a retro spirit, not to mention his extensive, international clientele. He has done illustrations for the likes of The New Yorker, Monocle and Wallpaper.
Leena Kisonen (b. 1983) has created a distinct, recognizable style and built a professional, global brand for herself. The jury especially admires the fact that Leena readily shares her knowledge of pricing to others in various training events. In this respect, she is an important developer of the field whose know-how also benefits others.
In terms of Eero Lampinen’s (b. 1988) style, the jury is fascinated by the mixture of precise technical virtuosity and the detached approach that is typical of our age. Lampinen portrays the world of the millennials, combining it with the strong tradition of illustrative art. His illustrations are easy to view as poses, but they always contain a surprising insight or fantasy. His world is truly original and ranges from detailed pieces to large murals.
Anna Salmi (b. 1992) is one of the pioneers of animated illustrations in Finland. Her GIF animations have been commissioned by the likes of Apple, TED Talks, the musician Gwen Stefani and Adidas. Salmi has set her mind to forging her own path already very early on. She works globally and independently.
The Association invited illustrator Linda Linko to design the visual image of the new award. She created a logo that can be seen as both a medal and a human figure. Linko describes her thoughts behind the logo like this: “Today, we always talk about teamwork and many say that the time of individual stars is over. But the work of an illustrator is a lonely toil with minimal contact with the outside world. That is why it is fun and refreshing to celebrate the individual for a change.”