A designer with a crush on geometry
by Carina Chela
She lives out-of-the-box and loves geometrical vector lines. Illustrator and designer Janine Rewell already has a stack of illustration work under her belt. Helsinki native Rewell’s work can be seen on Nike t-shirts, Crate&Barrel teapots, Samsung, Swarovski and Finnair ad campaigns as well as editorial illustrations for publications such as The Times and The Wall Street Journal. In December 2015 Rewell was the first western juror invited to the China Illustration Biennale.
When I was studying there was a lot of illustration done with photo manipulation. But I wanted something more simple and iconic. So I started experimenting with geometrical shapes. It took off really well. I was among the first wave of people working with geometrical vector illustration. I got a lot of attention right away. If you look back in history, cubism was cutting the angles straight and looking for the true essence of an object by simplifying rather than adding a lot of details. That was my aim when I started looking for my style.
Could you describe your role as an illustrator in today’s media?
I’ve always looked into media that are not traditionally used in illustration. As my style is two-dimensional I try to find different media that can help make it three-dimensional – like body painting projects or designing dollhouses, for example. Normally illustration is for a paper or digital format. I want to expand the field of illustration so that there’s a bigger client base that I can serve, and an artistic and commercial side to it.
What keeps you going?
For me it’s the media that changes and the different types of commissions that keep me going. I want to present in my portfolio seeds of ideas to art directors to show the different possibilities of illustrations. I can conceptualize illustrations for a wide range of clients and needs. That’s why I feel there’s a need to expand, a need to keep it going. So it doesn’t get stuck anywhere.
You have entered the Asian market, what is that like?
The Asian market is massive. I feel that I’m only just getting in there. They have a market for illustration that doesn’t exist in Europe. In Asia there are malls with huge 3 dimensional installations inside where you can make a 10 metre tall bunny if you want. In Finland people might scratch their heads about things like that… It’s exciting to see how my work can take over spaces on a grand scale.
How would you define inspiration?
I wouldn’t say inspiration is one single thing, it’s rather a way for every creative person to be with the world. It’s not an on/off switch. Inspiration is on all the time.
Where do you get your ideas from?
If you keep repeating the same patterns you don’t get new triggers for ideas. I like to travel to places where the culture is not similar to the western culture, or to where I live. I like to do things differently, to put things in places where they are not usually seen. Insight happens when you challenge your brain, when you do things with your left hand instead of your right hand. That’s why I like to put myself in places where uncommon bridges could be built.
What kind of surroundings are you looking for when you travel?
Living and walking in unfamiliar settings. For example, as a child I went to the Greek island of Lefkada. For me it was a dreamlike place. I went back in 2014 and spent a month there at an artist residence in an isolated village. I lived in a small house, no stores nearby, and I was surrounded by goats, cats, and crazy village stories.
What do you enjoy most in your work?
Every day when I don’t have to wake up so early and go to work for somebody else. As a freelancer the freedom is the best part. Every day is different. And I am now so established with my style that nobody asks me to do something I don’t want to do.