Essi Kimpimäki is a Finnish-born illustrator who lives and works in the scenic city of Edinburgh. Inspired by travel, nature, and the everyday moments that surround her, she translates her inspirations into bold, simplified shapes with vivid colours and raw textures.

What inspires your work?

I think most of my inspiration comes from just looking around and paying attention to what I see. I take a lot of reference photos and make mental notes of the little scenes and things that catch my eye and that I want to draw later. It could be a nicely framed landscape, a beautiful sunset, a little piece of city life, an interestingly shaped tree, a dog playing in the park, a kitten napping by a flower pot, a tasty cake, or an interesting colour combination. Most of all, I really love playing with shapes and colours; taking something complex and trying to make it 'mine' by translating it into stylised, bold shapes, limited colour palettes, and wonky perspectives.

Can you tell us more about your design background?

I studied illustration at the Glasgow School of Art, from which I graduated in 2011. However, I spent the next few years travelling and working random jobs. I didn't quite know how to start a career in illustration, so I decided to study graphic design, thinking it would be easier to find work in that field. But I realised very soon that I didn't enjoy graphic design at all. All I wanted to do was make images, so I ended up dropping out after the first year. It still took me some time before I could become a full-time illustrator, but that experience gave me clarity on what I really wanted to do.

First thing you'd grab in a fire?

I recently spent a year travelling and had to get rid of most of my stuff before leaving, so I don't currently own very many things! After the obvious ones such as passport, phone, laptop and iPad, I would save my travel sketchbooks. They are so precious to me because whenever I browse through them, the drawings immediately transport me back to that exact moment in a way that photographs never can. I suppose drawing on location really helps you fully absorb the present moment!

What is Your favourite restaurant?

I have more of a sweet tooth, and my favourite place for yummy cakes and pastries in Edinburgh is The Pastry Section.

What is your favourite store, and what makes it stand out?

Like probably all illustrators, I love art stores, and Edinburgh Art Shop is my favourite one in Edinburgh. It's small but cosy and has a nice selection of sketchbooks and art materials. Another store I enjoy visiting is Topping & Company, a very charming bookshop made up of several little rooms with high shelves and rolling ladders, and cosy corners with nice views, tables, and chairs where you can read and relax. A really atmospheric place and I'd recommend visiting even if you're not that into books!

What are your favourite things about your neighbourhood?

I currently live in Leith in Edinburgh. I like that my local area is quiet and has some nice parks and green areas nearby, while at the same time there are many cafes and shops just a short walking distance away.

If you could relocate anywhere, where would you choose?

This is something I think about a lot, and the answer changes wildly from day to day. I love Greece and would like to live in Athens, at least for a little while. It's a massive and chaotic city, but at the same time I find it very appealing and exciting. On the other hand, I just had a short holiday on the North West coast of Scotland and fell in love with the dramatic scenery and wilderness. So now I'm also intrigued by the idea of living there for a bit!

Who's your favourite artist?

My favourite artists have changed many times over the years, but at the moment I'd say Mary Fedden is someone whose work I really enjoy looking at. I love especially her playful landscapes and still life paintings, they have such fun shapes and perspectives.

Have you made any recent purchases that you're excited about?

Not a material purchase, but I recently took my first kayaking lesson and enjoyed it very much, and now I can't wait to try it out again!

What advice would you offer to aspiring artists?

I think a good way to begin is by creating your own dream projects and clients and filling your portfolio with the kind of art you want to be commissioned for. Self-initiated projects can often lead to getting similar commissions from real clients. And remember to keep sharing your work online! Also, Instagram is full of different kinds of illustration challenges organised by artists, and they can be a good way to get over a creative block as well as gain some visibility.

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