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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Dagdrömmar by Hanna Karlzon: Colouring Book Review and Artist Interview

Dagdrömmar is an absolutely stunning colouring book from the pen of Swedish artist Hanna Karlzon. Currently published only in Scandinavia, let's hope it finds a way onto our shores soon.

Written by Amelia Gregory

Dagdrömmar by Hanna Karlzon cover
I’ve been spending a lot of time on Facebook lately, getting inspired by the adult colouring community and discovering colouring artists such as Hanna Karlzon, who has created the beautiful Dagdrömmar (Daydreaming), a gorgeous volume chock full of dreamy imagery inspired by nature. Hanna talks to us about a love of Art Nouveau and Vikings, memories of childhood, and longings for summer. I can’t wait for Hanna’s next offering, Sommarnatt (Summernight), due out early next year.

HannaKarlzon portrait
Dagdrömmar by Hanna Karlzon cat and bee
I believe Dagdrömmar means Daydreaming – what do you daydream about and how did this influence the images that appear in this book?
Yes, Dagdrömmar means daydreams and I think the illustrations in my colouring book give you quite a good idea of what I daydream about myself. I have been living in Umeå, which is quite a big town in the north of Sweden, for about 15 years, but I grew up in a small village about one and a half hours drive from here. So I have lived my life growing up close to nature and animals but now that I live in the middle of a city I really long for that closeness to nature that I used to have as a kid, and all that longing often ends up in my illustrations. I love nature, forests, growing stuff, flowers, animals, the quiet life on the countryside and I’m really not a city person at all. It’s a little bit hard to explain how or why I draw – I just do and I don’t reflect about it to much, but in a way I feel like I want to capture that closeness to nature I used to have and mix it with that fantasy world I often lived and played in as a kid, and I guess you could say that that’s the essence of my daydreams and my art.

Dagdrömmar by Hanna Karlzon
Dagdrömmar by Hanna Karlzon owls
How did your first colouring book DagDrommar come about?
For years I had been thinking and dreaming about making a coloring book. Just putting some illustrations together and printing it myself, that was my plan, but I had a lot of other work to do at the time so the coloring book idea kinda got pushed aside. But last year in November I got an email from Pagina, a book publisher based in Stockholm, Sweden, asking if I was interested in making a coloring book with them and my answer then was of course YES! They had been looking around for Swedish illustrators and had gotten a tip from a woman (who I don’t know) about me and my instagram account and well, Pagina liked what they saw and contacted me and the rest is kinda history.

Dagdrömmar by Hanna Karlzon 1
Dagdrömmar by Hanna Karlzon crown
There were no clear directions about what kinda book they wanted, more than an actual coloring book, so I got to choose and direct most if it myself so it has been quite a journey since I had never done a book before. I knew from the beginning that I wanted a hard cover and for it to be a handy size of book. I came up with the name Dagdrömmar, the illustrations grew from that, and it took me about 5 months to complete the book, from start to finish. I did everything, from drawing the 100 illustrations to designing the layout of the book. The one thing that my publisher commented on was the cover, so we changed it back and forth a few times but I think the final one turned out nice. Making Dagdrömmar was the biggest task I have ever made in my work life as an illustrator, so far, and I’m really happy and proud that I pulled it off!

Dagdrömmar coloured by Tina Locke 2
Dagdrömmar coloured by Tina Locke 2
Dagdrömmar coloured by Tina Locke.

Dagdrömmar has been causing a bit of a stir in Facebook colouring communities (which is where I first discovered it). Have you looked online to see how people are colouring your pictures and which ones are the favourite, and does this influence how you are producing the next book at all?
I’m a member of some coloring groups on Facebook but I actually seldom scroll through those gropus since a few times I read some updates from people who didn’t like my book at all and that was kinda hard to read when I had put my heart and soul into the book, so I stopped looking after that. Of course I understand that not all people like my books but it’s easier for me not to read about I guess, it keeps me sane, haha. But I do look at coloring pics that people post on Instagram and I really like that. It’s so fun to see and I try to keep up and “like” all the pictures that get posted.

Dagdrömmar coloured by Courtnay Personious
Dagdrömmar coloured by Courtnay Personious
Dagdrömmar coloured by Courtney Personious.

And as to the question of whether all these posts and pics influences me and my work on my next book, well, not really. It might sound harsh but I get ALOT of emails from people who want me to do this and that for my next book, soft cover, bigger format, more details, less details, another paper, less girls, no spreads, one sided print, more flowers, less flowers… and so on and I can’t do all that, I can’t make everyone happy when everyone wants different things so I just have to rely on myself and do what I think is best and hopefully you will all like that in the end. On the other hand we (me and my publisher) try to make a diversity of products, for example postcard books, poster books etc. so that there will be a bigger chance that everyone will find a product that suits them.

Sommarnatt by Hanna Karlzon
Sommarnatt by Hanna Karlzon
What can people expect of your next volume, Sommarnatt? Will the pictures evoke midsummer nights for people around the world or will they be quite Scandinavian in feel? (WIP above)
As my first book, Dagdrömmar, was inspired a lot by my surroundings, growing up in the north of Sweden, my next book Sommarnatt (Summernight) will be even more focused on that. I draw the animals and nature that can be found around me but with a dreamy touch as usual. So yes, it most def will have a Scandinavian feel!

Vinterdrömmar Hanna Karlzon
Vinterdrömmar postcard by Hanna Karlzon
You’ve just released a beautiful postcard book called Vinterdrömmar, what are your favourite parts of this time of year? And will this be produced in book format at some point?
To be honest I’m a summer junkie. I love hot weather, sun, blue skies and green surroundings. So, winter is kinda hard for me, at least that part from November to the end of January/February, it’s just really dark and cold, we don’t get a lot of sun hours here in the north during the winter and that really gets to me. But, in the end of winter when it’s almost spring and the sun starts to visit us again and it’s all white outside, glistening snow, and you can spend the day outdoors, skiing with the kids or making a fire, then it’s just so beautiful here! But, winter is not as inspirational to me as summer is, so it was actually kinda tricky to make the Vinterdrömmar (Winter dreams) postcard book, the illustrations doesn’t come to me as natural as they do when it’s a summer theme. So there is no book format planned for Vinterdrömmar, I have a hard time to imagine that I actually could come up with 100 illustrations on that theme, haha. But there might be another postcard book next fall, who knows!

Poster by Hanna Karlzon
Poster by Hanna Karlzon

How do you create your drawings?
I have a small studio in an old house almost in the center of the city. It’s really cosy and not big at all but I have everything I need here; it’s my own space. I have two kids and I leave them at kindergarden/school every morning and then I take my bike down to my studio and work about 8 hours before I go back home. My work days vary a lot depending on what commissions I have, but right now when I’m working on my book I usually draw almost all day. And when I draw I’m doing it the old school way, just a pen and paper, nothing fancy at all, no computer. Thats the way I like it. I often listen to a podcast on Swedish science radio with a history theme, and I love listening to that while working. The programs cover everything from everyday life at Versaille, to Vikings, to what did people eat 500 years ago and so on, super fun and nerdy, love it! If I’m not listening to that I’m hanging out at Spotify listening to everything from Country to Punk and Thrash Metal, it depends on my mood.

Dagdrömmar coloured by Tonya Gerhardt
Dagdrömmar coloured by Tonya Gerhardt.

Which pens and pencils do you recommend for use in your colouring books and why?
I recommend that you use the kind of colored pencils that you can sharpen, for example Staedtler ergo soft or Faber Castell polychromos. With them you can blend and make nice shadings. If you want colored (ink) pens Staedtler triplus fineliners with a fine tip or Steadtler triplus with a little thicker tip are good, they don’t bleed through the paper as other pens might do. I know that there are a lot of different pencils/pens out there and some might like another brand better but I like these, it can actually vary a lot what kind of pens you like depending on the way you hold your pen while drawing so the best thing is really to try different ones and see for yourself what kind you like. And keep in mind that when publishers in other countries make translations of my book they might use a different paper inside the book than the one we use in the Swedish version so always try your pens in a small corner of the book to see that they don’t bleed through.

Dagdrömmar coloured by Stephanie Rose
Dagdrömmar coloured by Stephanie Rose.

You draw a lot of birds, why is that, what do you find so appealing?
Well I don’t know why, it has just ended up that way I guess. Maybe it’s because you can alter the pattern of the feathers every time, I don’t know. Or maybe it’s just because I love watching the swallows during summer, how they fly… well, haha, I don’t know, can’t answer that, next question!

Dagdrömmar by Allison Camille Tucker 2
Dagdrömmar by Allison Camille Tucker 2
Dagdrömmar by Allison Camille Tucker.

You have said you are quite influenced by the art nouveau period, what other time periods have had a bearing on recent work and how?
Well, I’m a nerd when it comes to old things, people and time periods. I love thinking about “how was it then, what did they think about, what did they eat, how did it sound, smell“… and so on. I don’t know why I find that so fascinating, I just do, and all that spills over into my art I guess. Now I have really been into the Viking age for a while and I’m really inspired by the jewelry and craftsmanship from that age, but I don’t know if it shows as much in my art as the Art Nouveau inspiration does. Art Nouveau is really decorative and it feels like it has a natural part in my art but the Viking stuff is more in the background. A few years back I was all about Marie Antoinette and drawing BIG hair… well, wait, when I think about it I might just still do that, haha.

Dagdrömmar coloured by Angelina Victoria
Dagdrömmar coloured by Angelina Victoria.

I see you have some tattoos and have read you are fascinated by tattoo culture, how has this influenced your approach to art making?
I just admire the skill of tattooing and the many great artists that perform this art so brilliant. It’s something really cool and terrifying about the fact that you only get once chance to make a good job, you can’t erase and start over. I like the thought of that.

Mural idea by Hanna Karlzon
You have done some amazing murals – where are they and how did they come about?
Well, I have only made one actual mural so far, in an apartment building here in Umeå, but I made this little project on Instagram that got a lot of attention. I snapped pictures of boring buildings that I passed on my way to work and then I photoshopped my illustrations onto these buildings and uploaded on instagram under the tag #mittumeå and it got a lot of positive attention amongst people and media. With the pictures I wanted to show that maybe the city we live in doesn’t have to be that static, maybe it could look another way, maybe it could be happier, more people friendly, less boring? Maybe we, as residents, could change our city together? And as I said, I got a lot of positive feedback and I think that shows that we often take the city for granted, the way it is and looks, but if someone shows you a better/different picture of the city, we start thinking “aha, maybe this is what it actually could be like, what can we do to change it?!“. I find that really interesting.

DagDrommar by Cheryl Doerner Vogel
Dagdrömmar coloured by Cheryl Doerner Vogel.

Where did you study art (and what discipline?) and how has your style evolved since you left college?
I have always loved art, and I have been drawing since I was a kid and I have an art teacher degree from Umeå University. My style of drawing has evolved just over the last 2-3 years, ending up in the ink drawings I make now but before that I used to paint a lot and before that I was into graphite drawing. So, my style changes over time, thats a natural process I guess, you want to try new things. In the future I hope to be able to make more art oriented ink drawings, black and white, super big and with lots of details and shadings. I kinda miss shading doing all these coloring book illustrations that are really clean, if you understand what I mean.

Dagdrömmar by Jessica Harrison
Dagdrömmar coloured by Jessica Harrison.

Why did you study to be a teacher and why did you make the decision to go freelance and run your own business?
Studying to become a art teacher wasn’t really my plan, it kinda just happened. I did realize after a year or two at the university that I didn’t really like the teaching part, it was just the art part I was after, but I decided to finish and graduate anyways. After graduating I had some different jobs (factory, shops etc) but after being unemployed for a while I decided it was time for me to start my own business. This was about 3 years ago and I have been working full time on my business since then. But now I’m kinda thinking about that teaching part again, maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. I have been doing some lectures lately, talking about my job and so on, and I really like that now so well see how that evolves and how I maybe can incorporate that into my current business in the future.

Dagdrommar by Shannon Dager
Dagdrömmar coloured by Shannon Dager.

What do you like to do to relax and zone out?
Well, when I get home from work I just hang out with my family and do as little as possible and when the kids are in bed I watch series to relax, like Vikings, Downton Abbey, Peaky Blinders and stuff like that. On weekends we often visit my mom who lives in a really beautiful place, near the forest, with a big garden and nature around the corner. It’s my favorite place in the world. But, when I’m not a nature (or history) nerd I like to go to Punk Rock shows and hang out with my friends. Haha, It’s a good mix of this and that I guess.

Hare by Hanna Karlzon
Hare by Hanna Karlzon

What other projects are you working on and what are your hopes for 2016?
Well, right now I’m working on my second big coloring book, Sommarnatt (Summernight) that will be released in spring 2016. And, I have some other fun projects with my publisher that also will be released next spring/summer. My schedule is fully booked until August 2016 with new books/postcardbooks etc. that need to be made and after that’s done I’m hoping to get some time off work in August to spend some time with my family. And my hopes for 2016 are, first of all, that my family and I will be healthy and happy, and when it comes to my work I hope that my new book will turn out well and that everyone will like it and I hope, hope, hope that I will have the chance to keep doing what I do today; draw.

If you live in the US you can buy Dagdrömmar through Allison Camille Tucker at Colouring Creations, many thanks to Colouring Creations members for their lovely coloured artwork. Other photos are taken from Hanna Karlzon‘s website and instagram feed. Dagdrömmar (Daydreaming) is currently unavailable in the UK but can be ordered online from the Pen Store.

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