Marimekko SS21 © Antti Kalevi

The Helsinki-based illustrator uses colour, shadow and shape to construct formulaic yet painterly depictions of his surroundings.

Antti Kalevi first developed an interest in illustration while studying for his BA at Aalto University School of Arts, Design & Architecture in Helsinki. Prior to his degree, he also pursued visual communication at Lahti, took part in an exchange at Iceland’s Reykjavík’s Iceland Academy of The Arts, and gained experience in the realm of advertising while working at a few agencies. “At some point,” he tells us, “I started to have a strong feeling that I would like to start developing something of my own rather than working as an AD.”

Illustration seemed like the fitting choice for Antti, who, after taking the plunge, began building on his portfolio of personal projects and commercial work for clients such as Apple, Elle, Filmfest München, Finlandia Vodka, Grafia, Häagen-Dazs, It’s Nice That, The New York Times, Post Bar among others.

Finger Drawings © Antti Kalevi

August Post Bar © Antti Kalevi

Now working as a full-time illustrator and visual artist, Antti builds structural worlds inspired by the natural landscape around him. The environment, in this sense, seeps into his creations “like shadows, colours and interesting shapes,” he explains. It’s a recognisable style and one that can be linked back to his upbringing with his father, who’s “very talented at making things with his own hands,” be it woodwork, furniture, houses, general fixings, plus the odd painting here and there.

“But I can never rise to his level,” he continues. “I’m sure this has affected me quite a bit, as I was always interested in building things from scratch with your own hands.” Perhaps this is why Antti’s illustrations tend to have such an organised sensibility because he, too, likes to make his own compositions from the ground up.

Samuji Prints © Antti Kalevi

Samuji Prints © Antti Kalevi

Recently, for example, he collaborated with Finnish fashion brands Samuji and Marimekko, which he marks as a “dream come true” considering he’s always had an interest in surface design. Samuji has become known for producing in-house print fabrics, and the Prints by Antti Kalevi collection features five contemporary prints designed by Antti himself.

Alongside the patterns, Antti also crafted large-scale flower posters, each of which are inspired by his home country of Finland and various travels abroad – this includes a trip to Spain and idle wanderings through Tokyo. “The Samuji prints collection consists of prints that haven’t been forced and that have formed naturally,” he adds. “The illustrations aren’t overworked in a way that one can see the original sketching and a certain kind of poetry in the final result.”

Vermillion Red Flower © Antti Kalevi

Sun, Shapes, Shadows / CASE GALLERY, TOKYO © Antti Kalevi

The pattern created for Marimekko, on the other hand, draws a reference to the more painterly. Named Iso Mehu, the pattern was inspired by a fruit bowl, a subject matter used widely throughout the history of the medium. What Antti’s done differently, however, is that he’s plucked each fruit and blended it all together like a smoothie. “The spontaneously executed abstract pattern also features recollections of a summer drive through Europe, of verdant landscapes and art experiences had along the way,” he says of the finished work.

There are many ways of interpreting Antti’s creations, for art is subjective after all. But fruit, nature and travel will always be the key pillars to which he refers back. “I do the drawings for myself, for my own mental health, and to enjoy the process,” he concludes, “even though I wouldn’t share the results with anyone.”

Creative Boom