Rickard Grönkvist

We caught up with Swedish illustrator and photographer Rickard Grönkvist to talk about life as a freelancer, work process, and what inspires him. Enjoy!

Tell us: What do you do?
Freelancing. on work primarily as an illustrator, graphic designer and photographer.

How did you get started?
I was fired from my last job (laughs). Jokes aside, the company had a bad time financially and my boss felt my heart was elsewhere. I was already working 80% in order to be able to do my own projects as well. I had dreams of becoming a freelancer for about two years but didn’t have the guts to take the full leap. So to be laid off from work was actually the best thing that could have happened!

Why do you think you do what you do?
Sometimes I have a somewhat childish mindset. For real! It’s freedom, play, a hobby. I mean, who does’n’t want to play at work? But saying it’s a hobby feels insufficient; it is obviously a matter of passion. When you’ve created something that you’re really happy with, it’s such a huge reward. That feeling is invaluable. And if you get praise for it … oh boy, hubris! Dangerous things!

Does the creativity run in the family?
Everyone on my mother’s side is/were entrepreneurs and both my mom and dad have artistic skills; I guess I have it in my blood. I’m definitely not a sales type but I like meeting people, hear what they like and meet their expectations. It’s great fun to take an idea and make it my own. But there is also a deeper level of course, which is interesting to explore and unravel.

Can you expand on that a little?
How you grow up, social circumstances, relationships, influences. I can disappear in escapist adventure, for example. I love to fantasisze. My profession is a strong key player for this. It’s like if I sometimes play with the idea of being in the world I’m creating. This is tightly followed by another reason: not having to get up at six in the morning. That reason is almost the heaviest one! I’m really slow and lazy during mornings.

What does your work process look like?
I’m adaptable and I’m not afraid to take on multiple assignments at the same time; You usually have to do this as a freelancer. I like doing different things. Just doing illustrations is not enough for me. I’m to restless.

Take us back to the start…
In the beginning, I wrestled a lot with performance anxiety, usually when the client had too many demands and paid badly, which is the worst combination by the way. As time passes you learn new skills and become more confident. So now that I have more experience iIt’s easier to determine the level of time and effort for each project. At the same time, I’m a perfectionist and ready to take the fight when I feel that the client wants to go in another direction.

How is it to work with different types of clients?
Clients usually contact you because they like your work, which tends to make it all easier and more manageable. They rely on you and often want you to do it your way. I like the approach “We have a very small budget, but could you work something out?” rather than the case when you respond to an inquiry with a quote and then don’t hear anything back from the person in question. That’s not fair when I’ve spent half a day putting together a reasonable quote only to be met with silence. Being your own boss has its pros and cons. But most of the time it’s a lot of fun!

What type of software do you use as part of your work?
I primarily use the Adobe software in my work process. It happens that I sketch by hand, but in this day and age the material will most likely be scanned and digitally processed. I would probably say that making illustrations is more challenging for me as opposed to photography and graphic design.

So how do you get started when it comes to a typical project?
No rituals or anything (laughs)…Well, okay, sometimes I like to postpone a project just for the hell of it. It’s as if a little positive stress makes you work better. Nowadays I’m pretty on point and like to start right away. The process is probably the same as for most creators out there I suppose. I start with doing some research, getting inspiration from the web or books and then iIt’s off to work.

Do you have a particular approach that works best for you?
A good method is to end the day when you are on top. This way I avoid the risk of running out of fuel the next day. The process also leads to more ideas just before I close my eyes that night. And then when I feel satisfied, the client usually does as well. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is, it’s just a feeling that occurs. Depending on the project I usually do a little extra for both me and my client. It makes it more fun and chances are you might have returning clients.

How do you know when a piece is done?
I would like to say that there are two types of stages. The first is during the process. Sometimes this happens early on, and sometimes about halfway through. The second is when I get the finished result in my hands or see it published, and of course hearing a satisfied client.

Where do you find your inspiration?
Books, literature, exhibitions, movies – a lot of movies, in the pub (sometimes good ideas, sometimes not), travel, nature, people and meetings, in dialogue with other artist, documentaries.

I also have a weakness for archaeology and history. I used to borrow historical books as a kid and browsed through ancient relics, marble statues, ruins, etc. And I still have that childish delight.

I also collect 8mm film/cinefilm, usually family vacations from the 40’s to 60’s. Do not ask me why, but it’s probably the closest I can get to archaeology or history. Just imagining the past and observe life, destinies. There’s an urge within for existential questions to be honeset. Not trying to be to sentimental here, but maybe that is the corner stone to my choice of profession.

How is it to be a creative individual in Malmö?
It’s good considering its small size, the art scene is blooming and the amount of galleries is impressive. Of course it has its limitations, there’s undoubtedly more work in bigger cities. But the pace here is more to my liking. I like big cities, people don’t care that much as opposed to here. It’s a love and hate relationship, let’s just leave it at that. But there are some really great artist and creatives here, no question. I’m just a small player in comparison.

If we look forward, where are you heading?
At the moment, I’m struggling a bit with the idea if I’m professional enough in what I do? I should probably set up a proper website that separates photography, illustration and graphic design. Maybe I can live off my own designs in the future, not being so dependent on client assignments. But I still have fun so I’m not really drawn in that direction, not at the moment.

What is your favourite place in Malmö and why is it?
First and foremost, Möllevångstorget for it’s rich culture and cluster of nationallities and the beach for its beachiyness.

Selected work

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