Artist of the Month : Åge Peterson

Jul 1, 2022

Åge Peterson (1982) is a cartoonist, newspaper cartoonist, graphic designer and illustrator. As an illustrator and newspaper cartoonist, he is brilliant at explaining and illuminating content that makes the message clear to viewers. Peterson's works often interpret different moods and they thus invite a dialogue. He conveys clever motives, often with sharp points combined with humor. Peterson's drawings are often characterized by the use of large surfaces, thin elegant lines with graphic shapes and a beautiful use of color.

Peterson has a master's degree in visual communication from the Bergen School of Art and Design. He has won several times in Visuelt, an award that highlights the best in visual communication. He won Gull for "Klodeskrik", a full-page illustration in the magazine D2. Peterson lives and works from Bergen.


TF: Åge, can you tell us a little about your practice?

ÅP: Most of my work is devoted to editorial illustration. In other words, illustrations that are supposed to exist in a symbiosis with text, relate to the editorial line in the newspaper, paper or magazine, and to varying degrees have a dialogue with the editorial design. I envisioned this direction even before I left after three years in my job in a graphic design studio as a designer of visual identities for various companies. A job that gave me a lot of responsibility, real experience in visual communication and holistic thinking. After completing a master's degree from KHiB (now, KMD), I was a graphic designer for several years, until the studio got a job where I illustrated a comprehensive children's book, «Sint og glad i barnehagen», written by Solfrid Raknes. It gave lust for more, but I already thought then that editorial illustration was possibly a less comprehensive place to start as a new illustrator. A market to be able to survive financially in, and not least to get better and better in, as it often involves quick jobs with short deadlines. Then come back to picture books or comics later in your career. An illustration career that in the beginning from 2016 onwards consisted of supervising students, being a course teacher in typography at KHiB and customer-free, selecting me current issues from newspapers, making a drawing of it and posting on social media. I created an honest illusion of being an active editorial illustrator. I could try to make a mistake, and at the same time create a portfolio of drawings. This eventually generated one magazine assignment, which gradually became more and more.

It was then and now I work from my attic studio in the center of Bergen (in the artist community, Blokk, where everyone has their own room, with a communal kitchen and someone to have lunch with), where about half of my work week goes to two different regular weekly columns for Aftenposten. Frode Thuen's column, «Living together» in the A-magazine and in the column «Comment on a Saturday» which has five different writers in a cycle, whereupon in the latter column I usually get the text on Wednesdays, read and make notes, and then make idea sketches no later than Thursday morning and complete the same day. I have had both of these jobs for about 3 years now, and this has resulted in almost 300 illustrations in total so far. Stunning to think about. You have to think fast and it is very little time to listen to your own doubts and stop for self-criticism. That doubt and self-criticism often comes as soon as I have sent the illustration or see them printed this weekend while I drink coffee in the easy chair. And then I can quickly think; "My lord, such a vulgar color palette I went for there at the last minute!", "Why do I draw such round rigid heads and not more loose?" or «Now! Now I came up with the ultimate idea!». Or, rarely, but it does occur, more positive thoughts of the type; "Now I was good!", "So extraordinarily well-drawn hand I got there!", Or "I wonder if the writer thinks this is as bold as I think it is".

The rest of my work week I dedicate to other editorial illustration jobs, the art festival B-open two months a year, and self-initiated projects.  


TF: Tell us a little about your work process and how you use drawing in your work.

ÅP: My background as a graphic designer and the fact that I love good design and layout, has probably most likely influenced me as a designer more than anything else. From the "desperation" in the beginning over not having my own unique "style", til I began to embrace the rational and tight from graphic design, architecture, construction drawings, typography, graphic forms, hierarchy in layout, and pictograms, to inject it into my mind drawing. Now I have become an illustrator who may be as keen on the ruler as an engineer or architect. Drawing within a tailor-made grid or system of repetitions, modules and isometric parallel perspective has become a central way I express myself as a draftsman. One of my earliest permanent jobs as an illustrator was for Arkitektnytt, and the theme in everything that was to be illustrated there helped to shape and nurture the "rational" and tight side of my expression. The same is especially true of the first B-open art festival poster I drew in 2016, where I was inspired by Walter Gropius' transparent architectural sketches. In parallel during the same period, I also worked as a regular illustrator for Psykologtidsskriftet, which gave me broad experience in drawing and interpreting it in the world that can not be seen with the eyes, the inner life, thoughts and feelings, and draw it in a way that could do it understandable to others.

My method and way of thinking as a draftsman has so far been characterized by framework conditions. It may sound sad, but to me it is not. I now refer to such things as the conditions the text sets, wishes from AD, editorial layouts and design elements or conditions I myself set in the form of concept and design. This nourishes me in the creative work, both when it comes to creating ideas, and in the actual execution of finished drawings.

I start every working day around kl. 8.30 with a small increased free-drawing (different drawing material on paper, fantasy-based or by drawing something around me or something from a photo I have taken), and then I drive on with today's agenda and finish around 16.30. Most of what I do as a draftsman starts with reading what is to be visualized, preferably two or three times. Then I make notes from the text, brainstorm with words and associations, and then make a bunch of quantitative superfast sketches. These are so small and so rough that they only make sense to me. Then I pick out the ones that are best, and then draw the larger one, or feel free to enlarge the stamp sketch directly as it is, and add details. Everything that happens on paper, then photograph the sketch and make the original drawing in the Procreate drawing program with digital pen on iPad. This frees me to work dynamically and in parallel with grid, layer, line and color.

I also use myself as a photo reference very often, when I draw people. Then I often have an idea in advance and go into a role as an actor in a desired outfit. Camera on self-timer or that I film and choose an optimal moment and take a screenshot. This process has also often in itself generated ideas and best of all; it is fun! Here I go into any role whether it is female or old. It's starting to become a bit of an absurd archive eventually, of me doing weird things.


TF: We would have liked to have seen that archive. Åge, what inspires you?

ÅP: I can stand in a gallery or a museum, and then get goosebumps from some minimal formal touch in a painting or sculpture, or be super-inspired by some raw shading on page 23 in a cartoon at the bottom right corner of route five. Very specific. The devil lives in the details. In terms of inspiration, very small things can have big consequences for me. This also applies in everyday life. How the light changes character through a glass vase, the play of shadows in the folds of a towel lying on the bathroom floor. Or a beautiful wallpaper or lamp in a scene in a movie. Then I pause and take a picture of the TV screen. I am also inspired by the feelings a story can give me. Or a song I play while drawing. I'm not inspired by checking out contemporary illustration on Pinterest, for example. Then I just feel inferior. So I avoid this and have faith in the benefits of a varied diet also when it comes to what I consciously take in from inspiration. This can be architecture, painting, sculpture, films, TV series, theater, dance, graphic design, product design, typography, music, comics, fiction or biographies of people I admire.


TF: What are you currently working on?

ÅP: At the time of writing, I am working on a cover for Psykologtidsskriftet for a professional essay written by a good friend of mine, this year's illustrative poster for the art festival B-open, and idea sketches for a column about surrogacy. I'm used to having a lot of balls in the air at the same time, very different themes, although it can often be quite exhausting, and challenging to relax when I'm done for the day. It helps to forget everything else in life except exactly what I have in front of me there and then. I can often forget to eat or drink when I am first engrossed in a drawing.

On my drawing board are also notes for a picture book for children that I will both write and illustrate, a couple of half-finished comic strips, as well as trials and sketches for self-initiated drawings. I see that a small layer of dust has settled on these things. It is not easy to get time for everything.  


TF: What does it mean to draw for you in your work?

ÅP: Drawing is the way I express myself best. This is how it has been since I was little and drew things I saw around me, fantasy monsters, dinosaurs or Disney characters. And it is the activity that gives me the most peace and focus. I can think that it has been an hour when I have been drawing, but then it has actually been three or four. Drawing gives me an opportunity to translate or digest reality into something else, something that is my own, and that others can see things as I see them. I am concerned with looking for an "essence", not recreating something completely natural. Nature and the visible are much better than me anyway. I want to boil down and find some kind of system in what I portray. And since I work a lot with newspaper drawing, it also gives me a voice in society. When I illustrate a text, it is important to me that it not only says something in the text, but can also stand on its own two feet (at least one foot), and says something to the reader about my interpretation of society. With all that said, perhaps the most important thing is that I entertain myself when I draw. If I had a good time while drawing, I would think that it also appears in the drawing.


TF: Do you want to tell a little about your work in Tegnerforbundet's sales department?



This illustration is one of several I did for a large report in D2 (the Friday magazine of Dagens Næringsliv) on climate anxiety, published 5 April 2019 under the report title, «Heteslag». It should be the front page, but due to editorial decisions, it was put to the inside along with the report. Outperformed by a great photo by Greta Thunberg. That's how it happens. The reason I mention this is that the drawing is made to be a front page, an attempt to illustrate something that could be iconic, and give a feeling of loss and anxiety. I had also been allowed to redraw the logo in a fused form. Inspired by Munch's "Scream", I drew our planet in a similar way, where land masses and oceans become the hands that reach to the cheeks in an all-consuming howl. The "Heteslag" illustrations were awarded Gull in Grafill's Visuelt Competition in 2020, in the category "Editorial illustration".


"Konstruktiv preik":

Drawn for Frode Thuen's column Leve sammen, January 2020, where I was to illustrate a couple which has challenges communicating with each other. Hence all the failed attempts that are strewn around the living room in the form of puzzle piece speech bubbles. It exemplifies something I often do; concretize something that does not exist physically, into a "tangible" three-dimensional object.


"Flora og fauna":

Drawing made for the anniversary exhibition of my artist collective, Blokk , April 2022, in Visningsrommet USF, Bergen. The goal of the drawing was to make a pencil that also is a bird, and not least to draw eyes as I often drew eyes when I was little. Everything is a bit distorted in this drawing. The head is stretched, fingers twisted, Monstera leaves, invasive.



Drawn February 2022. But not drawn after an existing bouquet in a vase. It is a drawn collage of flowers I have taken pictures of individually. In this drawing, I searched for several things; Contrast between the organic and rigid, optical effect of stems in water and glass, as well as bumblebees and flowers drawn in a way that should give the impression of movement in a still life.  



Drawn for the "Kommentar på en lørdag" column in Aftenposten, August 2021, together with text by Knut Olav Åmås about the use of social media. I drew my own relationship with my cell phone.


«Hjemme- safari»:

Drawn for a major D2 report, (published May 29, 2020), on positive aspects and constructive opportunities during the corona lockdown. This is one of 12 illustrations and the "Hjemme-safari" drawing began the report as a front page. Originally, it contained the D2 logo, hand-drawn, half-covered by leaves in the jungle wallpaper. I wanted to take a positive angle on having to be home at all hours of the day and draw a section of a home as if it was an exotic travel destination. This drawing is also an example of the result of a process where I get ideas for illustrations by doing planned and unplanned things in front of the camera in the studio (or in this case, in the home office at the time), with the goal of creating a drawing reference. My sofa cushions were on the living room floor after I had dusted them and I thought it looked a bit like a small raft on the parquet, if I just sat down on them and paddled with a broom. Like I did. Paddled without progress, but got a picture taken that became the person with the safari hat. The front page and the illustrations inside received a diploma in Grafill's Visuelt Competition in 2020, in the category "Editorial illustration".


See available works by Åge Peterson in the online store .