Meet Staffan Gnosspelius: An Illustrator and Printmaker

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Dec 24, 2021 •  Interviews

Staffan Gnosspelius is an award-winning Swedish illustrator and printmaker living and working in London, UK. He is known for illustrating children’s books and has won Bologna Children’s Book Fair Award three times!

“… I draw for pleasure. I doodle when I don’t know what to draw. I draw when things are hard. Then the act of drawing is like a release valve to take the pressure off

Artwork by Staffan Gnosspelius

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Can you please tell us a bit about your background?

I’m a Swedish artist who cycles around in South London.

I’ve been living here for the past 20 years. Before that, I studied art; first in my hometown of Lund in Sweden and then in London at Chelsea College of Art and Design, and finally in Scotland at Edinburgh College of Art.

In 2002 I graduated with a first-class degree in Visual Communication Illustration.

Since then I’ve been working as an artist and illustrator. 

What inspired you to make art?

I am inspired by the world around me and the world inside me.

To make art about these two intertwining worlds has become an important outlet for me.

Even if it’s just doodling in my sketchbook.

Drawing is at the core of what I do. Most of the time an idea starts off in the sketchbook and there it stays while it gets processed, redrawn, reshaped, scrutinized and eventually discarded or developed into a print or a project.

I draw for pleasure. I doodle when I don’t know what to draw. I draw when things are hard. Then the act of drawing is like a release valve to take the pressure off. 

Artwork by Staffan Gnosspelius

How did you develop your own art style? Where do you go for inspiration? How do you keep your creativity flowing?

I don’t believe in developing a style as such.

There is a way you do things and that’s your style.

There is a difference between taking inspiration from an artist or a certain style and trying to imitate or develop this style.

It comes down to doing your art in the way that feels right for you. Less of thinking it through and more of just doing it.

How did you start making a living as an artist? What was your first paid art job?

I started out by wanting to be an illustrator.

My first paid job was a set of illustrations for The Erotic Review. I was very proud to tell my parents that I got my first commission, but at the same time slightly embarrassed of the content.

For years I did my own little projects: book ideas, exhibitions, and competitions. I wanted to make picture books and the Bologna Children’s Bookfair competition was a great opportunity for me. I exhibited there a few times, which lead to illustrating three children’s books in Korean.

I got my illustration agent from an art fair that I was exhibiting in. Having an agent who is fighting your corner has really helped me to get introduced to clients.

I think the trick is to get your stuff out there. Then there is a chance for the right person to see it.

What do you live from as an artist now? What are your main income streams and what is the approximate % split of each?

Recently it’s been my art and other side projects that have paid the bills.

I work in a printmaking workshop every now and then and teach different printmaking techniques. But otherwise, it’s my prints and books that I sell that I rely on.

What are you currently working on?

At the moment I’m working on a stop motion animation with a friend.

I’m also researching galleries to have an exhibition next year when a book I’ve made is being published.

The book was a personal project about mental health that my agent managed to find a publisher for. It’s a wordless picture book about a bear that has a cone stuck on his head. It’s pretty dark, so it is being published under the publisher’s adult titles.

What do you think are the most important characteristics of an artist?

I think two of the most important characteristics of an artist are to believe in oneself and perseverance.

They are necessary because usually, it takes a bit of time to get the right person to see your work. 

Artwork by Staffan Gnosspelius

What are the art tools and other products and services you can’t live without?

Drawing and printmaking are the two main components of my work.

I always carry a small sketchbook in my pocket.

I make them myself so that they are exactly how I like them. The inside pages are the size of a passport, and they are made up of all different kinds of paper.

Anything from old test prints from the print-workshop to found papers and old letters.

What advice would you give yourself as a beginner artist? Or alternatively please include your favorite quote and the author.

I read this somewhere which I truly believe:

As Da Vinci said, “One can never draw too many penguins in one day, as one can never take too many breaths of air.”

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Get in touch with Staffan

Thank you, Staffan, for joining us today!

All artworks by Staffan Gnosspelius, used with permission.

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.