Jan-Kåre Øien (b.1950) became a member of Tegnerforbundet in 1970. Øien is a draftsman, visual artist, illustrator and graphic artist. He has drawn in magazines, newspapers and illustrated well over 100 picture books and fiction books. The strength of Øien's illustrations is his use of visual means, his creative use of perspective and placement of image elements to tell a story. The result is lush drawings based on humor and imagination, which also show his strong sense of colour. Øien has been purchased by the National Museum and the Norwegian Culture Council. He has carried out decorations at Heer school, Drøbak school and the library in Arendal. Øien lives and works in Drøbak.
TF, Jan-Kåre, can you tell us a bit about your artistic work?
JKØ: In 1970, I started at the Statens Håndverk og Kunstindustriskole (SHKS) in Oslo, at the Line for Book Art and Illustration. Significant visual artists such as Ørnulf Ranheimsæter, Fredrik Matheson, Herman Bongard, Ottar Helge Johansen and Chrix Dahl (graphics) became my teachers. I got a taste for graphics, gravure printing and lithography in addition to teaching book art. Graduated in 1974 with a diploma. Already during my school days, I got several small illustration jobs, which gained momentum in the 1980s. Illustrated my first picture book for children "Jeg skal få en katt", with text by Wenche Blomberg at Gyldendal N. Forlag in 1983. It received the picture book of the year prize from the Ministry of Church and Education. Since then I have worked as a visual artist/illustrator within graphics, drawing and watercolour. I have illustrated over 100 illustrated books/picture books, as well as written and illustrated nine picture books for children.
I am a member of Tegnerforbundet , Norske Grafikere, BKS and NBU.
TF: Why do you draw? Tell us a little about your work process.
JKØ: I draw all the time. It has become a language that I just have to "speak". I always have a small sketchbook in my pocket along with a fountain pen and pencil, as well as a small watercolor box. I draw on trips, in cafes, out on the beach, the street, etc. The sketchbook is my "photo camera". I now have a library of 42 bound sketchbooks in the same format. This way you also get ideas for pictures, - for books.
TF: Can you name any cartoonists/illustrators who inspire you?
JKØ: There are some "perpetual" artists that you never miss or come close to: T. Kittelsen, Erik Werenskiold, Olaf Gulbrandsen. But also some close to my own generation such as Ib Spang Olsen, Hans N. Dahl and Eiler Krag.
TF: What themes concern you as an artist?
JKØ: Often everyday close issues, trees, politics, people, animals, buildings and the sea. (Everything really!)
TF: What role does illustration play today?
JKØ: Bigger than ever. But the illustrators have to fight for their place in the media, in the newspapers and books. The newspapers are being digitized, savings will be made and the comment drawing will disappear. But I believe that the book will survive, and especially the illustrated children's book. Nothing is better than the communication between the child and the adult with the picture book open.
TF: What does drawing mean to you in your work?
JKØ: My work is to draw. But you have to stay in shape, to train every day. I myself have drawn croquis one day a week for 40 years, in addition to all the other drawing work.
TF: Tell us a little about your work in the designers' association's sales department.
JKØ: I have brought some illustrations from my books about Harepus and Piggsvin. Some sketches and larger full-page illustrations. One of the drawings is of an old lady I met in the mountains of Mani in Greece. They never go there. Everyone has an errand, and this old lady was carrying a big pile of branches to make a fire. A large charcoal drawing is from Drøbak, and another in pen and ink/watercolour is called "Total kommunikasjon", the motif is a fish on a table and a naked woman.