Words have undeniable power. They allow us to throw messages of love, hate and everything in between out into the world. They hold the force of 1000 battleships and the intensity of a loved one’s kiss. In some cases, however, words are not enough.
Illustrator, Amalia Wahlström, believes that art is the remedy. Through her work, she shows how art can capture certain ideas that words alone cannot grasp. And after seeing Amalia’s drawings for myself, I have never been so inclined to agree.
The Stockholm based illustrator’s artwork makes for a recipe that feasts the eyes. It’s beautiful, colourful and somewhat magical. But not only that, Amalia makes a habit of addressing important, worldly topics in her creations as well.
Through pure artistry and skill, she captures people’s attention in a truly special way, bringing certain issues to light that may otherwise remain in the dark. So far, she has covered topics such as self-love, the Australian bush fires, PPE shortages and saving the honeybees, with the promise of new projects in the pipeline.
Where does the inspiration for such works stem from, you ask? The answer is nature. Amalia herself is very much a spiritual being, living in a caravan with her family and travelling the forests of Sweden. She acquires much of her artistic influence from the natural world and concepts that exist outside of the physical realm. These influences can be seen in her drawings, where you will often find many plants, animals and other visionary wonders.
I caught up with Amalia to find out more about what she does and why she does it, as well as what prompts her to get drawing when she needs a little more motivation (spoiler: it’s a good old fashioned cuppa).
How long have you been making art for and how did that start?
I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember. So I guess it started when my mom gave me my first set of pens. As a little girl, art was a way for me to process things I’d learned and to let out my imagination – and it still is today. However, I’ve only been working as an illustration artist for about a year. It took me a long time to believe that there was a path for me in art. Like many others, I had been conditioned to believe that I needed to be something other than I already was in order to “succeed” in life.
What are your biggest influences?
My biggest influence is my own longing for nature, for connection and for the things that lie beyond the physical realm. This longing has led me to explore meditation, the burning man culture, tantra, The Feminine, witchcraft, Jungian psychology and to my own reconnection with nature. So I think my art is also influenced by those things.
I’m also very grateful to have read a book called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which has helped me to better manage procrastination, resistance and self-doubt. Artists from the past that inspire me are Hilma af Klint, John Bauer, Gustav Klimt. I’m also very inspired by a lot of modern-day artists like Lisa Congdon, Olaf Hajek, Aitch and many many more.
How would you describe your artistic style?
I would describe my style as somewhere in between magic realism and visionary art. Often portraying nature, combined with my own inner world. I have a thing for painting women with their eyes closed, as a symbol for journeying inwards. What surrounds them in the artwork is partly their imagination, their inner world.
You often cover many important topics and issues in your drawings such as self-love, the Australian bushfires, PPE shortages and of course, saving the bees! What is it like working on pieces such as these and using art as a way of conveying messages that need to be heard?
I believe art is one of the most potent ways to communicate a message and I feel a lot of gratitude for having found this craft (or, perhaps it found me). Through my art, I want to inspire people into more connection with themselves, one another and with nature. So making pieces such as the ones you mentioned feels very meaningful to me.
For me, art is a tool of exploring what is not yet or sometimes cannot be, put into words. It’s a way of sensing the bigger storyline of humanity and visualising it. At the same time, it’s journeying inwards and expressing what is found there. In many cases, it’s both of these at the same time. Making art is a big part of my spiritual path.
What process do you follow when creating a new piece of work?
Initially, I gather inspiration. It’s often by looking at a lot of art and things I find interesting. I think I have saved thousands and thousands of images on Pinterest. But lately, I’ve also spent more time going inwards for inspiration through a sort of meditation. Once my imagination is sparked, I usually make a rough sketch and from there I move on to making the final artwork. A lot of my art is digitally painted through Procreate or Photoshop but I also paint with acrylics.
You’re currently in the middle of a personal challenge to draw 100 bees in 100 days. Could you explain a little more about this and how it has affected you so far?
I had heard that the best way to grow as an artist is to draw the same thing over and over again. After a while, you’ll get so tired of drawing that thing that your imagination will become wilder and wilder. So I decided I wanted to try this and I picked bees because I wanted to explore their symbolic meaning and the important role they play in our ecosystems. As I’m writing this, I’m on bee no. 38 and so far the most important thing I’ve learned is that without the bees, one-third of our food would be gone but in the long run, our ecosystems would collapse. This has made me very passionate to spread the awareness of bees and their importance even further than I could reach alone and therefore I’ve invited more artists to join me for a day with their own art.
Another thing that I’m learning from this challenge is balancing between high ambition and resting. I easily get very ambitious with the art I make, but since I’m doing this for 100 days I need to lower my ambitions some days and make something quick. It’s been a lot harder than I thought and I’ve had to negotiate with my inner control freak a lot.
You can follow this journey by going to my Instagram at @inspired_by_amalia and if you want to participate as an artist, draw a bee from your perspective and use the hashtag #100beeschallenge.
Do you have a favourite drawing to date? Or a piece that means the most to you?
One of my favourites is The Spirit of Spring. It captures a longing I have to be surrounded by forest, to be wild and to be completely in tune with nature. Another one is called Mother Bear. It captures how I felt when my son was a newborn.
How do you get yourself motivated when it’s time to start drawing?
I make myself a cup of tea, light candles, play music and I always have dark chocolate nearby. But I’m almost always motivated to make more art nowadays. The more art I’ve made, the more I’m motivated to make even more. I love the feeling of having finished artwork but I’m also always thinking about how the next piece can be even more magical. In a way, it’s like I’m trying to capture the essence of the universe in one piece of art. Which is impossible of course, so I’ll probably keep trying for the rest of my life.
What has been your biggest challenge as an illustrator so far?
So far, it was last summer when I was very pregnant and had to finish a big job with 50 illustrations for a book. I worked day and night to finish on time and it was very tough to sit down for so many hours every day. But I made it and afterwards I had a long vacation!
Do you have any new projects in the pipeline?
I have a very fun project in the pipeline with some friends that are running a big Swedish platform for couples. I’m just coming back from maternity leave, my son is 6 months old.