Forest art by Finnish illustrator tells of tales of mystery and magic

Forest art - Three bears appear in a vision above a man in the woods.

Visual storytelling in forest art

Turning Finland’s lush, abundant forests into dream-like landscapes that allude to fairy tale settings is Ulla Thynell. A freelance artist, illustrator and graphic designer, Ulla is based in Helsinki, a city with its own massive, centrally-located woodland park. When forests take up 65% of the land in the country, it is not surprising that a creative soul like Ulla would take inspiration from nature.

Strange, dreamy places are comforting

Her portfolio  shows drawings and paintings of enchanting forests with animal and human characters. A balance of tranquility and unrest is deftly achieved through varied line work, muted colour schemes and layered compositions.
Visually, the scenes brim with mystery, magic and moonlight. There are lone figures, possibly on a quest, passing under intricately drawn trees that bend this way and that against swirling, starry skies. Other elements in the intriguing narratives are mythical beings and forest animals that are sometimes depicted as ethereal images floating above.
For Ulla, creating art offers a form of escapism. “It’s therapy for me. I like to imagine dreamy places and linger in their strange, yet comforting surroundings,” she says.

Forest art - A girl plays her lute in the company of forest animals in the woods.

Commissions and personal projects

Although she graduated from design school last year, she has been producing illustrations professionally since 2013, such as the fantasy maps she created for various clients. Her work is appreciated for the different styles, subjects and techniques she uses. Consequently, the inclination to try out new things means she invests in a lot of time for every new commission in the pre-production stage where she does the planning, research, preliminary sketches.

The busy artist manages a flexible work schedule – her average working hours depend on many factors like the size and complexity of the piece, the subject matter, the amount of control the client wants over the style and details, the chosen art medium and so on.
And just as she enjoys the challenge of meeting her clients’ requirements, Ulla takes equal pleasure in working on her personal projects. 
Forest art - Foxes running in a forest
“I can do whatever I please. Use my intuition, take spontaneous risks. There’s no need to control the end result or take anyone else’s opinions into consideration. I might do a bunch of background textures or random paintings one day, and then turn them into illustrations later. Sometimes I just scribble things in my sketchbook and they then turn into full drawings.” She works fast. Her ink drawings and paintings are normally finished within a day or two.
I am so glad to discover Ulla Thynell and her work on Instagram. Her strong narrative style makes me wish I could take a peek into her mind and learn all the wonderful stories that go with each piece. While she might never reveal those innermost thoughts and ideas to me or anyone, she will be showcasing more of her work in the form of an art book and postcards soon. To browse her work or purchase her art, you can visit these sites:


Medium and brands she uses

  • Micron pigma ink pens, Schmincke and Rembrandt watercolours, Sennelier and Hahnemühle paper  
During the past 6 months, I discovered a new favourite medium: ink painting and coloured pencils. I stumbled upon this technique because I had a lot of old Copic Various Inks (marker refill bottles), so I decided to try and make paintings with the coloured inks, and noticed they make interesting textures with wet-on-wet techniques. I turn the paintings into illustrations by adding details with Caran d’Ache Luminance 6901 coloured pencils.

Artists who inspire her 

  • Tove Jansson, John Bauer, Eyvind Earl

Forest art - Forest bear in the woods

2 thoughts on “Forest art by Finnish illustrator tells of tales of mystery and magic”

  1. I love Ulla’s work so much! 🙂 Been following her for a while now on Instagram.

    On practical matters – is there a possibility to add your blog to wordpress feed or are you on instagram so I could be notified about the upcoming posts? These interviews are such an interesting read and wouldn’t want to miss any of them.

    (Oh I actually just saw the “Notify me of new posts by e-mail” checkbox 😀 so this will do the trick then)

    1. Hi there!
      Thanks for your comments. I’m glad you like the posts! I’ve just added a bunch of stuff to the sidebar, including rss and subscription. I’ll be adding the updates to Instagram soon but the button is there too if you’d like to follow the account for now.
      Yes, Ulla’s work is really beautiful. I can’t wait to see what else she will come up with in the future.
      Who else would you like to read about? Feel free to share your comments, suggestions etc again anytime.

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