Artist of the Month : Ragnar Aalbu

Jun 1, 2021

Ragnar Aalbu (1966) has been a member of Tegnerforbundet since 2008. Aalbu has his education from the Department of Graphic Design and Illustration at the Norwegian School of Crafts and Design in Oslo. He works as a picture book author, illustrator and illustrator. An important tool in his work is the digital drawing. The drawings are graphic and visual, often mixed with humor, playfulness, warmth and slight absurdity. With his stylized design language, his aesthetic expression is reminiscent of Norwegian poster art at its most beautiful. Aalbus' aesthetic retro expression has a pictorial language that strikes many. The artist has won several awards for his work, including the Ministry of Culture's picture book award 2018. Aalbu is from Oppdal, now he lives and works from Nesodden. Read more about the artist here.

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

RA: I am educated at SHKS in Oslo, and have worked as an illustrator since 1996. I have worked for publishers, magazines, newspapers, design agency and advertising agency, the regular customers. Of more special things, I can mention that I have also made five stamps for Norway Post and decoration. But mostly I have worked with books, more and more over the years. At one point I got an idea for a picture book, which Ellen Seip in Cappelen wanted to publish. It came out in 2004. Gradually, there have been many books as an author. I have also illustrated books for, among others, Stein Erik Lunde, Helene Uri and Bjørn F. Rørvik (six books about Purriot, master detective and leek).

TF: How do you use drawing in your work? Tell us a little about your work process!

RA: When I have to find new ideas or angles of approach, it happens through drawing. It is a method that works well.

Small sketches, text and pictures one after the other. Quick drawings to remember or test an idea, more detailed sketches during a process: everything is done with various drawing tools, in sketchbooks or on loose sheets.  

When it comes to my originals, which are not originals in the right sense, because everything is put together digitally, I have some secrets. Which may not be innmari exciting, but we all work differently.  

I use classic drawing tools, and also have a graphics press. And not least a computer with a Wacom drawing board. Everything is put together there.

TF: What inspires you? Do you work from a theme?

RA: I am inspired by colleagues' work, pictures I like, things I read, music and film.

Can you call humor a theme? I mostly end up making experimentally fun books. Mostly because it's the way it is. My last book, which came out last fall, was a farce, a lot of stupidity and chaos, and afterwards I had to turn around completely and try something new. I was wondering what was going to happen. But it gradually loosened up.

TF: What are you currently working on?

RA: A picture book to be published this autumn! This time a more serious book - existential, even, I think.

The story is about a boy who loses his cat. And in a way about death. It's my release number 20, so it's a little anniversary!

TF: What does drawing mean for you / your work?  

RA: Drawing and drawing knowledge are a big part of the basis for what I do. There are tools in the process and part of the finished result. Although I'm not sure if what I'm doing is drawing, really. It took me many years to apply for membership in Tegnerforbundet , I had heard rumors that it was just to forget it if you did not draw with charcoal pins. But this was obviously not the case.  

TF: Tell us a little about your work in Tegnerforbundet's sales department!

RA: There are illustrations from books, or custom book illustrations. The selection is made with the idea that they must endure being out of their original context. It is the books that are my home arena, seeing the pictures on a wall I think can be strange. But if the pictures can stand it, it's very nice too.


See available drawings by Ragnar Aalbu in our online store.