RAMI NIEMI — Interview
This is September, this is “la rentrée” and this is our interview with the illustrator
Rami Niemi. We talked about the series he did for the ADC, his interests in comic strips and how does he proceed in his work.
Hi Rami, how are you?
I’m real good, thanks.
Can you introduce yourself? Tell us more about you.
I’m concerned talking about myself and where I went to school and what my hobbies are and shit, will take the edge off my drawings. But briefly — I’m an illustrator. I’m represented everywhere by Agent Pekka. I love metal records and rugged cars and good flannel shirts and jeans, and I love drawing. I’m trying to run as much as I can, it’s an awesome sport, really back-to-basics kind of action.
Where does your interest in drawing and illustration come from?
From MTV and cartoons, and growing up with The Face magazine and other 90s publications for sure. I’ve just felt like I’ve got something to say about a few things, and I need to put it out somehow, and drawing has been my forte ever since a kid, so it’s a good way I reckon. As I’ve gone pro, I get quite excited about people ordering illustrations from me, so that sort of fuels the interest, like self-centered as it sounds.
Can you tell us more about your work with the Art Directors Club? There are some interesting humoristic scenes.
The advertising agency DDB from New York got in touch — they had seen in the web a few drawings I had done in my spare time… Basically, these drawings were about some city living stuff that pissed me off. Most importantly, at that time I had neighbours who were fucking a lot, and noisily, and that made me not able to sleep properly, and it annoyed the fuck out of me. Another thing that got on my nerves was some noisy possible-threat-of-violence junkies that used to frequent the bus line I used to get to work. It seems really petty I know, but I suppose I was tired of the whole city life thing, and wanted a change, and things accumulated (in my head, at least). So I just drew a few posters to vent some steam. Anyways, DDB saw my drawings, and wanted to do this ADC project with me, as they were onto a similar thing — they asked me to come up with some illustrations about well-known annoying things that happen in advertising world, and build some jokes around them.
In the end DDB art-directed the thing based on my drawing style, and wrote the scripts, but I got a lot of freedom to do the pics as I liked, think about the details and just arrange them like I wanted.
How do you process in your work?
I draw a lot in my free time too, and pile ideas in folders and A4’s and maybe briefly dip into that mess when I get an assignment, just for some ideas. I look at magazines for inspiration, as I’m quite bad with the Internet and never can keep up with what the kids are up to. When I get an assignment, I usually just open the Mac and get right into it, and fuck around with the file, until it’s in acceptable condition. I find it a very effective way of getting it done. You need to sit down and just do it.
Are you interested to do more “Bande Dessinée” (Comic Strip) format? Why?
I’m really desperate about telling a good story, and I have a lot of beginnings and middle parts and endings that have yet to form into a coherent piece of work. It’s just that I think that stories make people’s lives easier, and I’d love to do something that somebody reads and it changes their life or something, even though that sounds terribly pretentious. I love the English language, and a good dialogue, so I’m using a comic strip to try some ideas and just basically to dick around with some scenes I have on my mind. I don’t think comic is the only or most important format though, as I’m currently working on a script for an animated TV series pilot with my best friend and colleague — it’s something that is on my mind a lot right now. You can’t beat TV. But a printed comic story in a strict repetitive grid is something I can whip together quickly, if I need to say something (even just to myself). So yeah, I’m really psyched about drawing comics.
What do you like about your working and your living place?
I’ve lived and worked in the countryside in southern Sweden, almost by the sea, for two years now. I’m distracted easily, so living in the country gives me the possibility to think about things and dwell in my own juices in peace without too much static and shit. It’s a cliché, moving to the country, and it takes a lot of willpower and adjusting. Me and my wife wanted to try if moving to the country would do us (or my work in my case) any good, and it has, but I’m also dreaming about city life frequently. Here I just love the nature, and being able to see damn real living moose and deer from my window, and being able to have a shitty little boat close by— something that hasn’t been possible before. So now I have a boat to match the few marine-themed tattoos I’ve collected. In addition to sitting around in my native Finland for the bigger part of my life, I used to live in Paris for some years, but in hindsight I reckon I was too young to get a hold of myself and concentrate on the essential of that awesome place. Here in Sweden, I’ve recently purchased a cottage and we have a small daughter, so I’m intending to keep my ass stationed here for the time being.
Is there any designer, artist or illustrator you appreciate a lot?
I LOVE Kuntzel + Deygas, because I used to work for them for 2 years as a young chap, and they’re sweethearts and work on so many different medias, and everything they do has so much feeling to it. They’re just these awesome globetrotting Parisian people.
Which book is on your bedside table?
I always have a pile, so I don’t get bored. I have to give the whole pile, cos I can’t pick one. Now It’s Karl-Ove Knausgård’s book 2 of the Min Kamp series; Running With The Mind Of Meditation by Sakyong Mipham; Already Dead by Denis Johnson (which I’ve started 2 times already), some back issues of The Wire magazine and the Swedish football magazine called Offside, and two latest issues of Trail Runner magazine. So I’m juggling between those now, and next up in the queue to join the pile is the biography of Pantera bass player Rex Brown, which I’m quite looking forward to, and Writing A Novel And Getting Published For Dummies, also a page-turner for sure.
The last word…
I really don’t know.
Interview : Dennis Moya & Tiffany Baehler – 08.13
All the illustrations are ©Rami Niemi.