Some people are just fascinatingly inspiring.. And the next Scandinavian I will be showing off here on The Scandinavialist is one of them. Meet Louise Haugaard Nielsen, the name, the brain and the multi-talent behind A MILE IN THE WOODS
As a twist to my usual posts, I have had the honor to ask Louise a few question, also known as an interview.. which turned out to be a very good idea(!) so read on to learn about her journey to illustrator-stardom!
1. Who are you and what would be the most interesting thing to know about you?
My name is Louise, I am 33 years of age and living in Copenhagen. I'm a trained architect, now working full time as an illustrator and visual story teller in my own company; 'a mile in the woods'.
The most interesting thing to know about me...Hmm, that´s tough. Perhaps the fact that I continuously see the world around me as potential illustrations ? My mind is a bit special like that, I never really stop creating visual stories.
2. Where did the name 'a mile in the woods' come from?
I have lived in four different countries in my life, and I realized quickly that people have a hard time remembering my very Danish sounding name, and spelling it is an even harder task for most. So when I started this company, I didn't want to name it my own name, I wanted to create a mental image, perhaps easier for people to remember and spell.
Maybe the weirdness of it is why people remember it. When I made the company, I had just signed a collaboration agreement with BoConcept, and knowing that they would distribute my work to more than 40 different countries, I needed an international and memorable company name. And I think "a mile in the woods" makes for a great mental picture. I love the woods, personally, and "a mile in" indicates movement and a certain dynamic. And this way, my company name doesn't give anyone false promises, as opposed to "Louise Haugaard Design" or "Louise H Nielsen Illustration"; I can make illustrations, graphics, visual identity, original artworks, murals, clothing, etc. I can expand the services and products I offer my clients, and therefor keep evolving with illustration as the main skill and method.
3. How has your career journey been?
Like mentioned earlier, I have a masters degree in Architecture, from Aarhus School of Architecture. I finished the 5 year program in January 2009, which included a short break to live in Berlin for a semester, and a 6 months internship with Peter Eisenman in New York. Before I finished my degree, I was offered a job with a smaller architectural firm in Denmark, and I worked there for 2,5 years on a variety of assignments and projects. Then I needed to do something completely different and so I took a job as event manager at 'LYNfabrikken' in Aarhus. A shared office space, with meeting rooms, a coffee shop, lectures and events all within the creative industry. I met a lot of interesting people there, and a bit more than a year later, I made the contract with BoConcept, and decided to try it out full time. And just like that 'a mile in the woods' was established in February 2013.
4. What influenced you to take the path you did?
I have been fascinated by drawing for as long as I can remember, and for all of my adult life I have had a passion for art. Becoming an architect seemed like a great opportunity to add some discipline and purpose to the love of drawing and I love my profession! Architecture is a source of constant inspiration in my work now, and I loved making buildings and built spaces, discussing the relations between "body" and "surroundings". But at some point, I felt like adding a more artistic and free expression to my drawings, so that I would be able to tell different stories. And after working in a place with a lot of self-employed people (LYNfabrikken) I was inspired to try to make my own little place in the illustration market.
5. Could you describe more in detail what type of techniques you use?
It was important to me from the beginning to always experiment, try out different techniques and methods in order to experiment with the outcomes of my visual language. My work is always based on the craft of drawing by hand. I don't mind the slowness of it, in fact, it gives me time to think and reflect. Sometimes I would add something else to my work; like scans of different structures, experimenting with ink, coffee, various foods, all types of textures that can possibly add depth and life to my drawings. As for my all-time favorite technique, hand drawing is without a doubt my favorite. It is my signature, my thoroughness, my years of experience. I just love drawing.
6. From start to finish, could you describe the process from idea to final artwork?
There isn't one clear path for any of the drawings or illustrations I make. I always have an idea of the artwork, but I can never picture it in detail before I start. I always try to let the process of creating add to the "finished result". Or let the technique surprise me whilst making an artwork. Often, I become fascinated by a certain theme, idea or situation, and then the brain starts creating fragments of images that I try to interpret into illustrations. Of course, with the commissioned work I take on, there are often certain guidelines and I try to apply my visual language and ideas to the client´s wishes. The illustrations that I make just for myself to sell to design and interior stores and in my own webshop, can take everything from one night to several weeks to make, depending on how clear the process is to me. And of course the level of detail in my work makes it pretty time consuming as well.
7. What is your favorite part of this process and why?
I love the initial feeling of having what feels like a great idea for an illustration or a theme, or being totally absorbed by the process of trying a certain technique or visual feature. Turning this idea into an illustration feels extremely satisfying, and receiving good feedback from stores, costumers and followers just makes it all even more rewarding.
8. Your artwork is fascinatingly surreal in a way, what inspires you?
Some of the work I do is indeed a bit surreal. I am fascinated with hybrids; putting together objects and situations that wouldn't normally go together and creating a kind of expression not seen in that particular constellation before. Like the drawings with the small girls with plaque masks on or the woman who's body us a kitchen mixer. There is just something fascinating in twisting reality a bit! I think that is one of drawings biggest advantages, you can actually create a situation that doesn't exist and make it your own.
9. How did your style involve into what it is today?
I guess with hours on end of practice and experimenting, the style evolves continuously. I still use some of my initial skills and expressions, because they still work and have relevance to me and my portfolio of work. I have become better at recognizing a good idea or expression and I can work a bit faster now with all the practice. But it is not necessarily a linear evolution, I revisit some of the styles I used to do, to perfect them even more, or to try to derive a new expression from them.
10. What is your biggest achievement yet?
My biggest achievement... Hmm, another tough one! I guess starting this company and surviving for almost 2 years is my biggest achievement. I am so grateful and proud. And it only works because I'm surrounded by great people and awesome and loyal follower and customers.
11. What is the most exciting artwork you have done so far? And what would be your dream project?
I have been fortunate enough to work on several exciting projects. My collaboration with BoConcept is very exciting, also because of the massive audience they have all over the world. My collaboration with Paper Collective in Copenhagen is a work of pride to me. The 3D paper experiments I did was a very exciting process, discussing in paper how the 3rd dimension could add to the illustration. Drawing directly onto the wall at Mascha Vang, the Danish TV personality, was a lot of fun too and the result was perfect for her I apartment, I think.
My dream project...I have many dreams! I would love to work with Hay or Royal Copenhagen, making products with them would be very interesting. I would also love to design fabric print for a fashion designer at some point. And I would love to make even more murals! I love the scale of it, well, I just love to draw on everything really!
12. And finally, what advice would you give to someone wanting to follow your foot steps?
Have no fear! But be smart about it from the beginning. It is not enough to be really good at something, you have to be really great at building a name for yourself, you have to start loving dealing with numbers and amounts and you have to trust your instinct. There is nothing easy about being your own boss or creating a company from nothing, but it is the most rewarding thing I have ever done. The hardest too, but without a doubt the best!
A very special thanks to Louise for sharing her journey with us and now hurry on over to 'a mile in the woods' for more inspiration!