Nello studio di Tommi Musturi

We’ve visited the studio of finnish artist Tommi Musturi, creator of the character Samuel and curator of the magazine KutiKuti.

What projects are you currently working on?

My current big project is a piece of science fiction (well, sort of at least) called FUTURE. I’ve indeed been planning, writing and doing research for this since 2012 already. This has of course been also an excuse to read a hundred sci-fi books and watch tons of movies. Anyway, FUTURE does not really present traditional science fiction but merely uses the genre to get right perspectives on its subjects. What it deals with is the possible futures of mankind, and that’s a lot of things indeed. Mostly its a book on human life, life on earth, the values we have and how they effect our lives in the future. I’m usually working on multiple things simultaneously, so ‘behind’ of FUTURE I’m drawing the third graphic novel on Samuel – white ghost-like character that appeared in Linus magazine as well. Pieces of Samuel get published here and there every now and then. I try to work on more episodes for NOW anthology released by Fantagraphics.

This third book will again extend bit the world of Samuel and feature pieces from strips to 20-page short stories. The basic theme of Samuel is ‘freedom’ and this third book hopefully finds different perspectives on that again. There’s also an exhibition wholesome I’m working on with work title ‘Digital Organs’ and it’s something very different from the two mentioned works. It’s presenting ‘natural repetation’ and ‘digital clumsiness’ and trying to find the connection in-between. And yes, of course there’s my work with Kutikuti collective and Kuti magazine, some sketchbook publications, illustrations, some teaching, exhibitions etc etc. I do like to work on multiple things all the time, also with several ways to express. That makes it all much more rich. I think I’d get bored doing just comics. And to remind: comics are the most difficult and painful thing I’ve ever created.

Which instruments/tools do you use to draw?

Well, my motto is that one should be able to express with any tool that’s available. I usually force myself every now and then to try out different equipment, different sizes and different materials and also to work with different medias. I as well try to analyze my ways of doing, from daily routine to the actual work process. I think that’s important as human mind tends to find pretty difficult ways of doing things. Sometimes just a change of working size or paper might work so that the actual moment of making becomes much more enjoyable. This can be immediately seen in the result of one’s work. This goes vica versa as well – an artist using the wrong equipment, a style that’s not hers/his, drawing in too small size and so on – that leads to a stiff result and a limb experience. Lately I’ve done some paintings, installations and video art. We also have performance group called The Doozers that’s kind of idle though at the moment. Did some improvised animation for fun.

Anyway, it’s important not to limit yourself into something specific, let that be a tool or way of expression. In my new project (FUTURE) I’m indeed trying to escape style and illustrating the different levels of the wholesome with varying styles. There’s lots of flirt with mainstream in the project and I’m using all these somehow recognizable styles to raise different emotions in the reader. It’s sort of a psychological game I’m playing there, not sure if I hit the target though. It’s also good to remember that artist’s identity is never in the style but in the real content and its values. Some might say that style is part of the content but that’s these days mostly history and wrong conclusion. Style is a capitalistic tool indeed and it’s healthy to be aware of that.


Do you have any peculiar habits or routines before starting to draw?

I don’t have that many habits I’d say. But I can say my working is very organized, though it might seem chaotic as well. I hate being interrupted while working. Besides that my principles for a good drawing day are that I never do any real ‘brainwork’ morningtime but usually start the day with inking (or take care of necessary emails). Afternoon and evening (and night) is much more creative (well, I’m fully awake) so then I usually work on sketching new stuff, writing or gathering ideas. The sketches done during evening usually end up being inked next morning.

I also share my day between home and studio – back home I handle the computer stuff (emails, scanning, parts of colouring, layouts etc.) while the studio is only devoted to drawing, painting and other creative work. We don’t have an internet connection at our studio which has been pretty healthy – that keeps one more focused on the actual work when there isn’t some urgent messages interrupting you all the time. When it comes to long processes (work of several months in a row for some specific project) I usually try to divide the work in parts. So I don’t for example ink everything first and then do colouring, but do parts of the wholesome into final stage. It’s somehow more motivating to actually see what the result might become. What’s more important, you can see if there’s something that does not really work that well and try to find solution to solve the problem.


Do you have books or comic books you keep close by when you draw?

Checking my studio’s shelf I found four books: Ernst Haeckel’s classic ‘Art Forms in Nature’ (1094 / 1974), Patrick Moore’s book ‘Moon Flight Atlas’ (1969) that explains about man in the moon, ‘The Golden Book of Indian Crafts and Lore’ by W. Ben Hunt (1954) (racistic but informative) and some random book about fiberarts from 80s with lots of inspiring images. In general, I don’t really use books to create. I of course use reference images when I need those. Sometimes I do photograph myself, sometimes check from internet how something looks like. But in general the whole idea of drawing or creating is in finding the images from inside you. That’s what makes the works personal and that’s how you can ‘load’ different things (emotions, atmospheres, energy, whatever) in your work.

When I was in art school I remember most of the students having their tables filled with reference books. That is the lazy way of doing things and it does not really add much to culture or art. You can see this development more and more in social media – recreating a photograph with ballpoint pen, legos, candies, vegetables, pubic hair or whatever is seen as piece of art. That’s of course more handicrafts than art. These pieces have the same information as the reference photograph. The ‘magic’ of drawing is in the moment when something appears out of nothing on paper.

Are there certain objects in your studio which you’re particularly attached to?

I don’t think so. Or maybe I do. To know that I’d prolly need to lose that object first. One thing that has followed me since I was 9yo is the 80s computer Commodore 64. I have one plugged next to my drawing table all the time. I actually learnt to draw with that machine, with joystick and software before times of ‘undo’. You can probably see some connections in the ways I draw on paper and the C-64 world – bright colours and pixel art in general. I still draw for the machine & do bits of programming as well. That’s a hobby but I want to combine it some fine arts projects.

When it comes to creating I think my thoughts are merely with the works I shall do in the future than something I’ve done. The equipment I’ve used mostly are prolly architectural Pigma pens and Posca markers. I haven’t really found anything similar that’d compete with those.