Born and raised in Finland, Arlene, a self-taught abstract artist, focuses on creating a sense of calm while showcasing her roots through her paintings, combining Scandinavian minimalism with her signature style of earthy tones and organic shapes.
Arlene is endlessly inspired by nature and design, and having moved to Bournemouth (UK), often draws ideas for her paintings from life on the South Coast and her passion for modern bohemian interiors. Continuously exploring new mediums and techniques, Arlene looks for alternative ways to bring her ideas to life on canvas.
Having grown up creating hyper-realistic pencil drawings, Arlene is now embracing the creative freedom of distancing her work from objective referents and incorporating artistic authenticity through her new-found passion for abstract art.
When Arlene isn’t painting or in the waves with her surfboard, she doubles as the founder of The Saltwater Sauna, an authentic wood-fired sauna with a backdrop of her local beach. Having relocated from Finland, with a ratio of 5.5M people to 3.2M saunas, Arlene uses this vessel of escapism to reconnect herself and others with nature and cold water, following her philosophy for making work-life as fun, free, and authentic as her personal adventures.
Hi, Arlene! Tell us a few words about yourself. When did you begin doing art and how did you get started? When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Arlene: I’m a self-taught abstract artist from Finland, currently based in Bournemouth, UK. I have always loved creating by hand, and I’ve been making art for as long as I can remember. Growing up, I would often draw with my mom and grandmother, and learn their ways of portraying people in amazing outfits. This sparked the idea of wanting to be a fashion designer when I grew up, although I quickly realized sewing wasn’t my strong suit, after a few poor attempts at making my own clothes in secondary school.
Tell us about your artwork, medium, style, subject matter etc.
Arlene: I mostly work with acrylic paint combined with different textures, like sand, to bring my ideas to life on canvas. Although my style can be described as abstract, as a self-taught artist I don’t tend to follow a specific rule of art, but rather experiment with techniques and mediums to create something I enjoy.
I like my paintings to create a sense of calm by combining Scandinavian minimalism with earthy tones and organic shapes, and leaving a ‘breathing space’ in all of my works. I find myself drawn towards lines and shapes with edges, and finding means to combine these in a way that creates a natural flow. My work is mostly inspired by nature and design, and I often draw ideas for my paintings from life on the South Coast and my passion for modern bohemian interiors with natural materials.
You say you have a new-found passion for abstract art. Tell me more about that.
Arlene: Having grown up drawing hyper-realistic portraits, at some point I started setting unrealistic standards for my art, and it became difficult to maintain creativity as I was worried about failure and perfectionism to the point that I was no longer enjoying the process. Now I am reconnecting with art in a new way, embracing the creative freedom of distancing my work from objective referents and incorporating artistic authenticity through abstract painting, it’s so much fun and it finally feels like me!
How do you keep your ideas fresh?
Arlene: For me, it all comes down to lifestyle. I think creativity is a mind game, and with that I try to keep my physical and mental wellbeing on track; that’s why I surf, practice yoga, and take time off to allow my brain to reset. It’s incredible how much detail you start noticing around you when you’re mindful and take in your surroundings. I get ideas for my work everywhere from rust on the pier next to where I surf, to terracotta pots in quirky cafés and groins poking out of the sea.
What is a day of working like in your studio? Do you have any rituals that help you get motivated or in “the zone”?
Arlene: It can consist of anything from packing artworks for shipping, to editing photos and creating social media posts. Sometimes all I do is paint all day with no time for anything else! However, my no 1 rule is; if the surf is good, I go. I find prioritizing wellbeing hugely important and beneficial to the creative process as well. I like to wake up early and get small tasks done first thing in the morning so I can fully concentrate on my art throughout the day. Music also plays a huge part in getting in the zone; at times, all I want is some smooth jazz in the background, and sometimes I like to blast my country playlist and dance around the living room – whatever feels good at the moment.
You say you are creating a sense of calm with your art. Is there a message you are trying to send with each piece?
Arlene: I’ve always been a fan of spaces and places that make you feel at peace, as life can get very hectic at times, and the calm in the midst of chaos is what helps me feel grounded. So, I think that my work didn’t intend to go this way, but as my painting developed, it organically began showcasing my personal lifestyle and passion for minimalism and calm. I often use soothing color pallets and neutral tones, together with some breathing space, to reflect how I want a person to feel when they look at my work. I imagine my clients to think of my work as a reminder to slow down, taking a breath, and eventually getting lost in the details. I hope that my clients can finish the story I start and create a connection with the piece that is unique and meaningful to them.
What’s the most challenging part of your artistic process? And how do you overcome it?
Arlene: Sometimes, having a clear idea of which direction I want a piece to go can result in a creative block, as it’s easy to get lost in focusing on the end result, rather than individual layers and detail, and this can cause anxiety over ruining the painting with each following move. Giving myself the permission to take a few steps back to move forward is helpful in overcoming this, as it allows me to create layers that are somewhat unruly without feeling discouraged, but later turn them into interesting details which I end up adoring.
What is the best way to reach people that are interested in your art?
Arlene: So much has come to fruition from social media, Instagram, and Facebook to be exact. In a digital age, especially during a pandemic, these channels have been a lifeline and a massive help in improving my reach in the local area, as well as further afield. Generally, marketing is a huge part of my work, and I’m currently working on a new website to provide alternative ways to showcase my art, connect with my customers, and define my brand. Of course, exhibitions are important too, and nothing beats seeing art in person, in a space. I love being able to meet other artists and getting to know the people interested in my art.
What’s the coolest art tip you’ve ever received?
Arlene: One of my closest friends is a famous Finnish artist, and she once told me that, if you don’t feel comfortable parting with your paintings, the price isn’t high enough; and when the price is right, it’s not that hard! Pricing paintings can be tricky, and it’s so important not to sell yourself short.
What advice would you give to upcoming artists, how to think out-of-the-box and grow?
Arlene: Experiment with different mediums, styles, and instruments, and you may well find that a paint-roller or cleaning sponge is your favorite tool to paint with. Begin free, and refine your process along the way; look for your own style and what speaks to you, and you’ll be happy throughout the process by staying true to your vision and values. Reaching out to other artists for support – be that tips or simply encouragement – and a sense of community, made a huge impact during my early stages of work. Remember that we all have to start somewhere, and don’t rush the process but enjoy the journey!
What’s next on the horizon for Arlene?
Arlene: Keeping moving forward, enjoying the process, and meeting like-minded people in the art world; along with more commission pieces, a new website, exhibitions locally and internationally (Covid permitting), and moving into a new studio space!