New interview series! HUMAN APPROACH with artist Tony Sjöman

Hi Tony, how are you? What’s going on in your life and art at the moment? 
I’m good thanks! It’s summer in New York and the mural painting season has started. I just finished my first outdoor mural for this season in Maplewood, New Jersey. It’s nice to get out after a long winter of painting in the studio. 
I have two kids, a 1-year old daughter and a 7-year old son who are keeping me busy after I come home from work and I’m doing my best to combine painting with family life.

Your projects are amazing and very versatile – how do clients find you? 
I think either by word of mouth or through social media. I’ve painted for a lot for real estate developers and the architects and designers that they work with have often a specific style of mural in mind and know my work. The largest real-estate companies are a pretty close-knit group in NYC. 

What is the best part of being an artist? 
The best part is that I get to do to what I love and be my own boss. My work is very versatile and challenging and I really love the balance of painting in the studio versus painting murals. Studio days are mellow and I have time to contemplate whereas murals are hard psychical labor with a lot of challenging logistics, safety and tight deadlines. Regardless of where I’m working, I’m trying to remind myself to enjoy the process. 

Interview continues after image…

Who or what inspires you?
New York is always a constant source of inspiration for me. It can be anything really. It can be the architecture or a certain light or mood. I also find the sounds in New York very inspiring, it’s never quiet here and a random discussion on the street can trigger an idea or become a title for a piece.
I walk a lot in the city and find the colors of New York inspiring and I’m constantly trying to memorize certain colors. I’m also inspired by the old master painters, who put such emphasis on technique and skills. I like their almost scientific passion and approach to painting. I sometimes feel like I have more in common with them than many of the abstract expressionists, even though their aesthetics may be closer to my own style, if that makes any sense?

Working is sometimes lonely and challenging. What are your ways to chill and stay inspired? Who are your biggest supporters?
I chill by spending time with my family, either in the city or in Montauk, where we often spend time during the weekends. I also chill by reading and I have a little music studio at home, which is built into a closet. I love to put on my headphones and get lost in creating music. I’m also a runner and do some yoga. 

My biggest supporter is my wife Sanna. We’re high school sweethearts and she’s been through it all with me. I’m also  very lucky to have friends who have followed me and supported me all the way from my early days painting graffiti to where I am now.

You are based in New York but you grew up in Sweden with Finnish parents, mother from Kemi and father from Tampere. How do you see this background in your practice? 
My Finnish heritage is super important for both my life and my art. My wife is also Finnish and we speak Finnish at home with our kids. My Nordic heritage is also present in my work. I started to deconstruct my art when I moved to New York and started gradually understanding how much of my DNA is present in my art. As a kid I never really paid attention to the everyday Finnish design objects in our household (such as Iittala tableware etc.) but Nordic minimalism has definitely affected my work. 

What do you dream of?
Besides cheaper rent here in New York I dream of spending more time at the Atlantic Ocean, here in the Northeastern United States, where we have four seasons. We often drive to Montauk in the fall and the winter and it’s beautiful in any season. I’d love to live parts of the year by the ocean. I also dream of having my own sauna. I know many people in Finland have their own sauna in their apartment and that is wild! Living in New York City I’m missing the things that are everyday things for a lot of Finns, like nature, silence and enough space. I do however always end up missing the city after being away for a couple of weeks. 

Thank you Tony!

All images: Tony Sjöman