Downsizing big and bold

Two years ago I arranged an exhibition big and bold. 16 illustrations, height 2,3 meters, width 6 meters. Altogether the exhibition was nearly 100 meters wide, it was outside, and it was my first exhibition ever.

No one knows how many people saw it during those 2,5 weeks, but I know several who went and saw it on a motorcycle. I had wished for that, since the illustrations were from a book that told about a motorcycle road racing legend, Jarno Saarinen. The exhibition was following a road that used to be a race circuit, next to the Helsinki Olympic Stadium.

After the exhibition was over, I took the pieces down, rolled them up and carried to my storage, washed them (both sides) and rolled them up again. It was a lot of work, they were huge and heavy, and when I closed the storage door there was nothing I wanted more than to forget they existed.

Don’t get me wrong. I love them! Among those 16 were the illustrations that got highly commended in the World Illustration Awards children’s book category 2019. The printing turned out superb, they’re truly impressive with their size. People wanted to buy, I wanted to sell. Until the buyers realized it was actually 6 meters wide we’re talking about.

They were just TOO BIG.

When the lockdown started in March 2020, I knew what my corona project would be: downsizing the big and bold exhibition posters. They had started their siren songs from the depths of the storage (two stories up from my apartment) and I knew I couldn’t hide anymore.

But how? Where should I cut? I started it on screen.

I had to create something new. I couldn’t look at them the same way I had when creating illustrations for the book, to tell the story. And I had to pay attention to the size.

The motorcycles were the most interesting to cut. I had loved illustrating all the small technical parts and to learn how a motorcycle works – even only shallowly. Now all that small technical got to be highlighted better than before.

This is how they turned out.
It’s a very weatherproof material. They don’t fear storms.

I don’t think I ever will arrange an exhibition that big again. But if someone asked for my advice in arranging one – if they should do it or not, I would say in a heartbeat: ”Go for it.”

And then I would add: ”You can always downsize them later.”

You’re the designer

“Longest way round is the shortest way home”, wrote James Joyce, and Debbie Millman with her story illustrated the sentiment aptly. In her keynote speech at the Huiput Creative Festival in Helsinki Millman focused on rejections and walked us through her career – and the worst day of her life. You could say on that day she got a handful of rejections all at once, and then some. She put it to words well how easy it is to disguise disappointments into feelings of other colours, even if it’s only for yourself. Luckily things turned out well for her, but it didn’t happen fast, and that was the most important message I was left with. To not try to peak quickly. “If it takes you long to reach it, perhaps you stay there longer”, she suggested.

Lauren Currie urged us to recognize our privilege and use our power. She asked how many of us have a domain with our own name. A lot of hands were raised, including my own. “You are in control of your digital footprint”, she addressed, and I liked the notion, obvious as it seems. I thought about my very own digital footprint, the portfolio website I just updated: it has been existing since summer 2012. Before that I had a blog with my name. I’ve been digitally around a third of my life – with my real name.

David Carson showed us a lot of images and told a lot of jokes. I appreciated both (deeply!). Have the designers gotten lazy? He asked not long into the presentation. With all our software it’s easy to rely on guides, grid and all that help they bring. But you can’t give out the power or the responsibility: You’re the designer. Designer decides the gap between columns.

“Never snap to guides” is a notion I picked for my Instagram post. I don’t think I have, but I’ve often thought I should. Just, in general. I have often described my layout designing as “moving elements around on a spread”, referring to my non-existing knowledge on layout grids and all. Nevertheless I think the layout designing I’ve done is good.

“Your wave is coming”, Carson said. Not only said, he had written it down. In a nice way, and I followed. What a lovely sentiment. And I don’t even surf.

Five years

I started this blog in January 2015. I wanted to have a platform of my own to do something, to post something. I have done so and enjoyed.

In preparing my own portfolio update recently I updated this blog first. Whilst testing out themes I created a compilation of illustrations I had posted here 2015-2020. All of them were created with the idea of publishing them on a free platform where not a lot of traffic was happening. I liked what I saw. I realised what I owed to this blog.

Perhaps from now on I will take a different course here. I might do something, post something, a bit more. Since 2015 I’ve cut down eating ice cream but I still love the name – and the Blondie song.

Motorcycle Stories

Alongside my very dear book project ”The Baron” I drew some other motorcycles as well during last year. You can say I kinda fell for them ❤ Especially in the old race motorcycles there’s such simplicity and beauty. And the thought alone to be illustrating motorcycles for kids charmed me… I could use all the color palettes I wanted, I could illustrate all the tiny bits with as much fun as I only could!

Pirita Tolvanen Motorcycle Stories 02 Ducati 02

This Ducati from the year 2002 is one of my favorites. It just keeps charming me!

Pirita Tolvanen Motorcycle Stories 03 Red Pipe
Pirita Tolvanen Motorcycle Stories 04 Raisu 78

Yes, it was a small and cute one ❤

Pirita Tolvanen Motorcycle Stories 05 Yamaha

Revolution counter! How’s that for a word!

The Baron: Work in progress 1

Pirita-Tolvanen-The-Baron-Tires-Colours

I’m working on a book on motorcycles (and drivers, especially one!) and it’s turned out to be a specifically delicious theme for me to work on. So I’ve ended up doing different kinds of work-in-progress stuff just for the fun of it!

Cogwheels Pirita Tolvanen The Baron