Geometric shapes and curving lines have resulted in a unique style for this young artist. Garrick Webster interviews the rising star of illustration, Siggi Eggertsson.
Trends in illustration have churned rapidly in recent years. Change is swift and young artists whose work seems 'fresh' and 'now' arrive on the scene thick and fast, yet disappear just as quickly. Siggi Eggertsson, however, is an up-and-coming illustrator whose developing style has been on the radar of the creative industry for quite some time now, and interest in his artwork shows no sign of abating.
At a time when the handmade aesthetic is going from strength to strength, Eggertsson's work is entirely different. No sketches, doodles or brush strokes. No cutouts or found objects. His style takes advantage of pattern rules, vector shapes, lines and plenty of flat colour. It's a bit like pixel art, softened with a nice analogue twist. He's creating a feel that's simple and expressive, and what is giving him the staying power - and capturing the imagination of art directors and his fellow illustrators - is that he's continuing to develop it.
"I've always been interested in simplifying things and at some point I started playing with the combination of geometric shapes and colour," he says. "I kept on developing this, my rules within the grid became more defined and strict, but at the same time, the shapes became softer. It's still developing and I'm really interested in how far I can take the style."
Over the past few years, Eggertson has been lapping up experience and broadening his horizons. After an internship at the edgy New York design studio Karlssonwilker, he went to Berlin, and later ended up in London. He's signed to the Big Active agency, which seems to snap up some of the hottest young illustrators around, and boasts clients such as H&M, Nike, Coca-Cola, Readymade and Stussy.
It's been a crazy ride for the 24- year-old, and a few months ago he decided to head back to his native Iceland to take stock. Who could blame him? The rain, concrete and intensity of London were taking their toll.
"I felt like I needed a new environment, the ocean, mountains and stuff, so I decided to move to a random place in Iceland that I had never been to. I ended up picking Tálknafjörður a small seaside town with a population of 200 on the west coast of Iceland. Life here is very simple. There is one small grocery store, a restaurant and a swimming pool. It's a bit like the TV show Northern Exposure," he says.
Thanks to the internet, an illustrator can work anywhere, but the new location does seem quite far-removed from some of the fashion and music industry jobs Eggertsson has become known for. One recent set of work he did was for the third album by the Delays. Eggertsson's role on the project was to create illustrations for the album's CD label as well as single sleeves. He worked alongside Gez Saint, creative director at Big Active, with art direction from Markus Karlsson. "We wanted to create something with a good feeling, happy with vibrant colours, which we thought would go well with the music. So we did a list of all the imagery we wanted to include, and then I made a sort of a collage out of that," he explains.
For him, one of the important aspects is that the visuals fit well with the music. The CD sleeve itself folds out to create a 12-panel poster displaying his portraits of the band, and various other imagery including water, a whale, birds, aeroplanes and smoke stacks. The CD single, meanwhile, comes in a more simply designed box covered in a trademark Eggertsson pattern, with hot air balloons on the sleeve itself, which is inside the box.
While he enjoys working within the area of music graphics, he admits he's used to doing the typography and design as well. "With music graphics, you can create things that might not work in other commercial projects. What I dislike are the compromises you sometimes have to make, but I guess it's like that in every project," he says.
In fashion, one of his recent clients has been H&M. The company wanted to do a collection of garments with designs by Icelandic artists for its Divided range. A friend referred the retailer to Eggertsson, which asked him for something bright and nu-rave. He decided to have a bit of fun, and for one of the designs went with an image he's always been inspired by - the tiger.
"I decided to work with an isometric grid for this project, a method that I had tried a long time ago, but never managed to do anything with. I spent a long time arranging those triangles," he explains. "I started out doing sketches and experiments on isometric graph paper, and did the final artwork using Illustrator."
The result is impressive. The colours are much brighter and the shapes are much harder than you see in most of his work. He's not 100 per cent convinced by the outcome though, generally preferring softer colours. "I've seen a lot of people on the streets and in clubs wearing the clothes, and I think it's nice, and funny, but it also makes me feel a bit weird," he adds.
Compromises come with client work and Eggertsson can live with them, but as with many other illustrators he lets his own inspirations reign in his self-initiated work. Part of the reasoning behind his return to Iceland is to pursue more personal work and he has been experimenting with canvases and typefaces, and creating landscape images. During his time in Berlin, he created his own trademark image of the cityscape using his modern style but taking inspiration from plein air artists.
"I got really into the paintings of romantic impressionists, who took their canvases and paint outside, and painted what they saw - mountains, flowers and other imagery like that. I decided to modernise this method, taking my canvas - that is my computer - outside and drawing everything I could see in front of me directly into it. I'm not sure how long everything took, perhaps seven or eight hours, but I had to go back inside in-between times to charge the battery. I used Illustrator while I was drawing the image, and the colouring was done in Photoshop," he explains.
For Eggertsson, the self-initiated work is more important than anything else. It's where he experiments, develops his style and discovers new things he can later apply to client work. His influences are varied, and when asked he lists quite an eclectic mix of creative people - Vincent Gallo, Peter Saville, Robbie Williams and Stefan Sagmeister. He's quick to point out that while they inspire him, they don't influence him aesthetically. He's more interested in the way they think, their lifestyles and their approaches to creativity.
"I can't say I'm very interested in looking at what's going on in design or fine art today, because being influenced by work that is produced nowadays scares me," he says. "I prefer to look at older things. I love classical painters like Legér, Matisse and Picasso, and my work is heavily inspired by ancient things like the Egyptians, Romans and Vikings."
Eggertsson might be hidden away in a remote town in Iceland at the moment, recharging his creative batteries, but he does admit that he likes the contrast between small towns and big cities. Both in Europe and North America there's still a buzz going on about his artwork, so don't be surprised when you see his illustrations used in new ways and in new areas. There's a depth to his style and he's continuing to find ways to explore it, which really is the secret to success in illustration.