The HDK Gothenburg graduate illustrator whose genderless portraits are inclusive and exquisite
A year on from graduating, Gothenburg resident Karl-Joel Larsson is at an exciting crossroads in his fledgling career. Having worked part-time on his practice up until now, he’s about to embark on a period of going freelance full-time. “I’m excited about how things can evolve when I focus all of my energy on drawing and looking for new ways to get my work out there”, he explains.
In truth, this latest evolutionary stage was always inevitable such is his drive and passion but it wasn’t always obvious where Karl-Joel would direct his creativity. At HDK Academy of Design and Crafts, he studied a range of subjects, from graphic design to advertising, furniture design and painting. “I was very confused and all over the place”, he concedes, “but it was good for me to do all these different things to figure out what I did and didn’t like”. A keen painter since childhood, it’s the joy that working so naturally with colour and form brings, that has anchored him to focus on illustration. “In a way I left design school like I entered, passionate about creating visual images, but with more knowledge and ambition”.
Recently, he’s been studying people and developing a means of drawing them in a “fair and loving way”. It’s a timely approach and one that is securing clients and admirers from all corners. Responsibility is important to Karl-Joel, who feels that it’s “very important” to reflect on how you depict people if you decide to take that on. “I always draw the bodies in the same way. The only difference being short or long haircuts, which can be interpreted as female or male”, he assures. “Yet, drawing people is so complex and I feel like I learn with every new drawing. I’m excited to continue exploring and evolving my way of doing this”. Inspired by illustrators and artists like Sara Andreasson, who he describes as “pushing the boundaries and redefining the norms of how to depict people”, it will be interesting to see how Karl-Joel builds on his already stellar portfolio.
With freelance commissions coming in via Instagram and e-mail, clients typically discover Karl-Joel’s work online. Typically this means that a number of offers “pay next to, or nothing”, but by increasing the visibility of his work and continuing to collaborate with clients who properly value his work, he’s hoping to negotiate the scary transitional period of “turning a passion into a profession and working business”.
With work as brilliant as this, we’re betting that Karl-Joel is going to go from strength to strength and will be watching intently as the impact of his full focus plays out in his stunning portfolio.