After some years of exploring various forms of digital art, the work of a young graphic designer Jirka Vinse Jonatan Väätäinen became viral! He re-created Disney characters that we all love in a very realistic manner and that brought him a major success. Jirka counts over 200.000 Instagram followers and could easily be your “new cool kid” to follow! Behind a beautiful smile and handsome outside hides a true fashion and art lover and today we are happy to have a little chit-chat with him!
You do an amazing work as a graphic designer, but one small collection of work – really got you big! Tell us a little bit more about your Disney inspired work.
Thank you! It is a personal project that started back in 2011 and I’ve been adding to the series ever since. The series is about me re-envisioning these characters that we all know and love, the way I would imagine them to look like if the real people – while still staying somewhat true to their original character designs.
It all started quite randomly, when one day when I was still in Uni, I have thought I’d challenge myself and have a little fun in Photoshop and explore what the character of Ursula from the Little Mermaid could look like in real life. That turned out to be a lot of fun for me so I continued doing realistic takes of other characters too. Since I grew up with a lot of these characters, the sense of nostalgia made it such a fascinating and a fun personal project to explore.
And as the series has been so well-received by people from all over, I still, after 7 years, l try to add to the series when I can find the time. The technique behind these is all digital work done only using Photoshop – it is mostly photo compositing, photo manipulation and digital painting.
Which of those characters would you pick as – your partner, your best friend and your sibling?
Even though I am a big fan of Disney and have fun with imagining these characters as somewhat realistic people, I don’t feel like I have taken that thinking as far as this haha. The characters are not quite fleshed out enough for me to relate to them on that level. Sure I can recognise qualities in these characters that I can appreciate, though.
In a partner, I appreciate qualities such as kindness, being down to earth and playful, all characteristic, for example, Aladdin seems to embody in the film. The same, kind and adventurous type I could pick as my best friend too. Someone like Pocahontas has qualities that I love about my own siblings, who are compassionate and caring.
How do you stay creative?
Fortunately, I do have a natural flair for creativity, so I feel like it’s quite given that I do stay creative. Of course, like anyone else, I come across creative blocks and can struggle to find the right inspiration at times, but creativity is never completely lost on me. I’ll just have to expose myself to fresh perspectives, ideas or anything visual really to get my creative juices flowing again. I’ve also been taking advantage of my freelance lifestyle and I’ve been travelling when I can to reboot my head every now and then. And it’s the actual creative process that really drives me – creating something visual is what I love to do.
Are you a “Fashion Junkie”?
Most definitely one way or another. Fashion and style I have realised are indeed one of my biggest interests and something that my visual eye strongly deviates towards. Fashion is an outlet for me to exercise my creativity and visual ideas in a fun, care freeway – as it is something I don’t really do for work, but enjoy as a personal point of interest. I enjoy following the world of fashion and modelling the latest designer collections and trends and also being inspired by all of that and applying some of that to my personal style and the way I express myself with fashion. I might not be a typical “Fashion Junkie” in the way that I do not spend a lot of money getting the latest designer pieces. But what makes me a junkie is that I definitely buy way too much stuff second hand and do have an ever-expanding wardrobe because of that. And even though I feel like a hoarder, thrift shopping, hunting and finding cool and unique things that float my boat, is way too fun for me to stop doing it.
Stories about your work went viral and at the moment more than 200.000 people follow you and your work on Instagram. How do you feel about this?
It has indeed been pretty overwhelming. In all honesty, when I first started the Disney series that has resulted in all this exposure, I only expected a handful of people ending up seeing them. So, when my work did start gaining momentum I was so overwhelmed, but also so glad to witness people were reacting to my work in such a passionate way. And while this type of acknowledgement feels great on a personal level, it’s also been a blessing for my career as well – as having that exposure, following, and people being aware of what you can do has helped me find opportunities for work.
Do you consider yourself an “urban” artist or a mainstream one?
Actually, I consider myself a designer first. Graphic design and art direction are what I mainly do for work – and since I work mainly within marketing and design, the work that I do can often indeed be characterised by having to fit the commercial needs of a client. So in that sense, my work is often mainstream, as it has to cater to a broad audience. And at the moment, the artistic projects that I am known for are arguably quite mainstream. However, I greatly enjoy exploring new styles and being inspired by less mainstream ideas and visuals, and that is something I do try to incorporate into my work one way or another.
Three things you can’t start your day without?
I am not a morning person, so it does take a while for me to feel alive in the morning. So for that reason, I do rely on that cup of coffee to get me started. Or two. So, let’s say 2 cups of coffee – and checking my phone and all the apps for any notifications would be the third thing.
Is being an artist your childhood dream?
As I have been doing art ever since I can remember, I always got told that for sure Jirka was going to grow up to be an artist. But when I was a child, for me, the idea of being an artist meant painting fine art pieces, and I never saw myself just doing that. So, it was never actually clear to me what I wanted to be when I was older. I believe it wasn’t till I was about to finish high school when I started putting it together, that my strengths do reside in my creative and visual abilities and that is something I want to build my career around.
What is your best habit?
That is a tough one… Well a habit that I have dabbled with and that I realise would be an extremely good habit for me would be meditating. I’ve tried to make a habit of it and already gotten a glimpse of the benefits of taking that time to reflect and train your mind. But unfortunately, my worse habits often take over and I come up with reasons I can do without daily meditation, haha. Oops, I realised that instead of my best habits I just described my worst habit …
And the worst one?
…which would be procrastinating.
The City of your dreams?
What I have also realised in my adult years, is that I have become a bit of a realist instead of a dreamer. I don’t have an ultimate dream city but have found an aspect of certain cities that I have loved to visit.
New York is one of those for me. Whenever I visit, I am always so inspired and immersed in that collective feel of the city. Somehow, I feel like I am part of something bigger and belong, even though I might be visiting for a few weeks.
Melbourne is another favourite for me. It is somehow so relatable for a northern European that I feel at home and can easily relate to the culture, but at the same time, I am excited to be somewhere so different from home. It is the laidback attitude, combined with endless possibilities to be inspired, and enjoy culture and everyday life.
What are your plans for the future?
I will continue to try and find that balance in life where I feel content, inspired by where I am and what I am doing. Where that takes me, time will only tell.
Interview // Stefan Kokovic
Images // Jirka Vinse Jonatan Väätäinen