Interview Sanna Annukka Smith - May 2006
The artist behind the 'Under The Iron Sea' artwork speaks to keanemusic.com. You can see her creations on her website.
We thought readers might like another chance to read our exclusive interview with Sanna Annukka, who designed the stunning artwork for 'Under The Iron Sea' and its singles (the interview originally appeared in the Manser's Shaw area of Keane's old website in April 2006 - but was only online for a few weeks). Fans had the chance to suggest questions for Sanna on the official forum.
As an introduction, please can you tell us a few basic details about yourself?
I was born in Brighton, East Sussex, on the 9th August 1983. My mother is Finnish and my father English. My whole childhood was split between being in Paltaniemi (where my mother is from) and Brighton. Every summer I would spend in Paltaniemi, a beautiful village by the Oulujarvi lake, exploring forests and fishing and skinny dipping after having saunas! I also travelled around Lapland with my family, camping by arctic rivers. My childhood days, spent in Finland, hold my fondest memories and is a major influence on my work. I have now lived in Brighton for 10 years, I pursued all my art studies here and graduated from the University of Brighton with a BA Hons in Illustration. I currently work from home.
Do you mainly do illustrations or also print design?
My favourite method of working is silk screen printing my illustrations into large poster size prints. I love the quality of the print that I get from a silk screen and also the vibrancy of colour that can be achieved from the inks used.
Have you studied graphic design of have you always been an illustrator?
I have always been an illustrator.
What's been your favourite project so far?
My favourite projects are generally my personal projects. Creating limited edition prints of my artwork. I did a range of patterned folk women, loosely inspired from my favourite collection of stories, The Kalevala, Finland's national epic. The range of patterned folk women prints are the beginnings of an ongoing project. This project will be resumed shortly and it involves illustrating 40 maidens in traditional folk costume from around the world. They will be sold as large scale prints. Also I have started designing a range of illustrations depicting scenes from The Kalevala.
Where can we find more or your work?
My work can currently be viewed at www.zeegenrush.com, there are plans to get my own website up and running (note 2021: the link is outdated, she has today her own website and her Instagram). You can buy prints from Hygge (www.hygge-life.co.uk) but gradually over the next couple of months there will be a few more venues where I'll be selling my work, though they are yet to be confirmed.
Is this the first time you have created an album artwork? And what is the main difference in working on an artwork and other pieces of art you created before?
Is this the first time you have created an album artwork? And what is the main difference in working on an artwork and other pieces of art you created before? Illustrating 'Under the Iron Sea' is my first commission since graduating from university last June. I generally silk screen print my personal projects but the artwork for 'Under the Iron Sea' has all been done using Photoshop. So that's the first main difference. Due to time restrictions a process such as silkscreen printing was not a possibility for this project. What has been great to see is my work being applied to different formats such as the album booklet. I generally work quite large with my prints so it's been a good experience seeing my work applied to book formats.
How did your contact with Keane come about?
Completely randomly. A friend of the band's, bought one of my prints from a mutual friend's shop. The band saw the print in his house and said, 'This is the person we have to work with on our next album artwork'.
How much influence did the band have on the artwork?
How free where you creatively ?
I had a few meetings with the band, which allowed us to agree on a direction to go in. After that I had a lot of freedom to come up with the concept for the artwork. I thoroughly appreciated that, but it was also a challenge to come up with strong visual ideas that would reflect the nature of the album without having a detailed brief to work from. I felt it to be quite a responsibility. Hopefully the artwork relates well to the album. I gained a lot of inspiration from the lyrics. However, ultimately, the decision of the final artwork has been made by the band. The cover for the CD version of 'Is It Any Wonder?' is of a lonesome soldier, I originally wanted a red bird with a tear falling to be resting on the soldier's shoulder but in the end they didn't go for it - so now it's a very lonesome soldier! The 7-inch version of 'Is It Any Wonder?' has three soldiers on the cover, they are trudging a sorrowful march through sorry lands and they'll form part of a narrative within the album booklet.
Did you listen to the new album as inspiration before doing the artwork? And if so what do you think of the album?
I must have listened to the album at least a hundred times by now - my favourite songs are 'A Bad Dream' and 'Try Again'. I had never really listened to any of Keane's previous stuff apart from 'Bedshaped', so I wasn't totally aware of what to expect from their second album. But I think it's a very strong collection of songs and it certainly had an influence on my artwork. I pinpointed key lyrics and illustrated them, but not in a literal sense. All my illustrations are representational; they aim to capture the mood of the song.
We've heard that the album booklet tells a story in pictures. How did the process of developing that story work?
Basically, I created lots of elements (illustrations) inspired from each of the songs and the plan was to merge all the elements into a surreal world or a dream sequence. There is no definite narrative but lots of little ones that merge in and out of each other. I want the viewer to keep noticing new things in the sequence.
Were you involved with arranging the lay out of the CD booklet?
I didn't arrange any of the type but I did play a big part in arranging the imagery.
Did you work purely on a PC or did you make scribbles or sketches as a first step?
I do sketches for some things and scan them in to my computer to use as a template. But it has been mainly PC-based.What techniques did you use to create the pieces?I start off creating block shapes/ silhouettes and gradually infuse intricate patterns and details on top.
What techniques have you used to create the different parts ?
I started doing shapes/block silhouettes, then I progressively added complex patterns and details on top of that.
What do the horses on the album cover represent?
Horses are very symbolic creatures, they represent strength and power and also can symbolize coping under difficult circumstances, I feel that the horses are an appropriate symbol for the album as the theme of dealing with emotional battles and life's struggles is very evident within the song writing.
Animation played a large part in the visual side of the 'Hopes & Fears' campaign. Do you think that might be something you venture into at some point?
Animation certainly interests me so it's a possibility for the future. I'm a huge fan of Lotte Reiniger's silhouette animation.
What was the inspiration for Keane design ?
Put your finger on key lyrics, and illustrate them, but not literally. All my illustrations are figurative, they aim at capturing the song's spirit.
Keane fans from Finland have asked whether you have drawn your inspiration from the Finnish national epic, the Kalevala? Other guesses from fans were Oriental or Indian inspirations (The Mahabharata) and Chinese shadow theatre...
The Kalevala has a huge influence on my artwork, but many have also said that my work has quite an eastern feel to it. I also love Scandinavian design from the 50s and 60s. I find it very influential.
Last question. What or for whom would you ultimately love to design (dream project)?
I have many dreams!! To have my own exhibition and also to set up my own company of silk-screen printed goods such as printed fabrics, ceramics etc etc. Or to design a range of printed fabrics for Marimekko? Finally, I would also love to illustrate a children's picture book. So there are plenty of dreams for me to chase!!