Featured Artist Annelie Carlström | Cassandra Voices

Featured Artist Annelie Carlström


I have always been a creative person. When I was a child I loved to draw and cut paper, my kindergarten teacher was ever so impressed by my straight cutting lines!

My grandfather painted in oil and made sculptures out of wood he found in nature. He told me that there is no tree in the world that looks like another tree. That sentence has stuck with me over the years, and I can still see his drawings of trees in my head. That sprawling line in black carbon. The drawn line is very important to me, so is the craftsmanship. I really want to feel the person behind the drawing/illustration, and when it is all digital I can’t sense the person behind it any longer, and lose interest.

Career Options

When I was growing up I knew I wanted to work creatively in some way, but I was not sure how.

I started out with ballet, but after being rejected by the Swedish ballet school I began to dream about becoming an architect, living in a self-drawn house with two big dogs.

Then, when I was about twelve I realized that I was quite good at drawing. We had a class in school where we drew onions with soft pastel crayons and that was the first time I understood that I had a true talent for drawing. I captured the onion’s expression and the wink on the surface.


My grandfather, who was such an important person to me, always said that there was no future in being an artist. He himself was from a working class background and quit school at the age of twelve, with no further possibility to study. Since I had the option to study whatever I chose, he thought I should become a doctor, or some other serious occupation where you made a lot of money and earned respect.

So with that in mind I have tried to come up with more commercial ways of working creatively. Becoming an artist and being successful felt impossible and something that only rich people with great confident could aspire to.

©Annelie Carlström

Interior Designs

When I turned nineteen and applied for art school I had a plan to become an interior designer.

I envisaged myself strolling around in fancy suits with a leather portfolio full of brilliant ideas. It was not so much the design work I was interested in but rather the lifestyle.

Being a successful business woman became a big goal, but it had to be in the creative industry. After a year of painting still life in oil and drawing croquis we had a class in illustration and from that point on that was all I wanted to do.

It was the perfect mix of artistic work, while remaining in the commercial world. To become an illustrator I had to apply to the most competitive college in Sweden, so I have attended a lot of art and design schools, seven years in total. It took me a while to develop my own way of drawing, and it did not evolve fully until my last term of Design College.

I graduated from Beckmans College of Design in 2007. Then I felt quite scared and alone in the world. I had my portfolio of pencil drawings and a well-respected qualification, but I had not done any illustration work, and settled for a part-time job at a grocery store to pay my way.

As that summer went by I felt more and more frustrated. I suppose I am a very emotional person with little patience. Then in the beginning of autumn something amazing happened. The best illustration agency in Sweden got in touch and said they wanted to represent me!

I could not believe my luck. From then on my career received a real push and I worked with all sorts of clients from all over the world. One of my first jobs was from a bank with offices all over the world. I got paid so much I really could not believe it!

Some people said that I had sold out, but I think they were just jealous. My first objective was to make a living as an illustrator, but after doing so for over a decade I’m more interested in the artistic expression of telling my own story, rather than clients’.

©Annelie Carlström

Magic and Poetry

In my drawings I want to create magic and poetry. I want you to sense the vibrations from the pen. I want to take you to other places, other dimensions. Where words are unnecessary.

My favourite subject is girls and nature. Perhaps I’m just drawing myself in different versions over and over again. I don’t want to do what is expected of me. If I do so I feel I have failed.

I don’t want to draw the happy life, the smiling girls and the cosy gardens, which can make things tricky when working commercially. Indeed, clients always ask if my characters could smile a bit more… It’s as if there is no place for seriousness in the sales department. Perhaps that’s why I’m doing more and more personal art these days.

Like many others, I draw inspiration from many different things. I often find it in novels. At the moment my favourite author is Agneta Pleijel, I want to draw like she writes. I am also inspired by great artists like Jockum Nordström, Klara Kristalova and Lucian Freud.

©Annelie Carlström


Even though I have a hate/love relation with Instagram, I must admit that it is a big source of inspiration, even though it can be quite fast paced and homogeneous. You see so much in such a small amount of time. A true piece of art get swiped away in a matter of seconds.

It’s such a different experience to sitting at a bench in a museum, experiencing an artwork in real life, where it is in its natural environment with appropriate lighting.

I love going to museums. They are like churches for me, where I can find pieces and feel the love in the world. In Stockholm we have the Nationalmuseet, a place I love to visit, where there is art from all times across history.

©Annelie Carlström

Detail of the above ©Annelie Carlström

Since I was a child I have loved naturalistic portrait painting, particularly the fabric that often folds and the way the dresses fall in old paintings.

I’m also very interested in the face, specially the eyes with their gaze and the wink in the eye. Overall I love to work with details, drawing the hair shaft, and trying to understand how a certain surface can be translated into a drawing – like a knitted sweater or a shiny plastic jacket.

©Annelie Carlström

I just love to take my time, and not work under pressure, allowing the line to go on the paper; filling up the spaces moment after moment. But of course when working with illustration you have a timeline to adapt to, which can make the drawing stressful and without soul. I try hard to avoid that. It gives me a feeling of being without a purpose, where everything is meaningless.

©Annelie Carlström

Piece by Piece

When I illustrate I draw everything in pieces. I draw the head on one piece of paper, the hair on another, the shoes on another etc. Then I scan the drawings and put it all together in the computer. I often say that I cheat a bit, because when you draw big and then make it smaller in the computer it looks more detailed than it really is.

When I started out I used the mouse to work with the illustrations on the computer, but now I use a Wacom board and that makes the process so much easier, and I guess I also work more on the computer than before because it is so easy to adjust the picture digitally. But lately I’ve got more into making drawings as originals, big ones. I have not managed to finish anything yet but I hope I will find the time soon.

©Annelie Carlström


I’m originally a lone wolf, but lately I have managed a few interesting collaborations. One is with the excellent artist Petra Börner. We had an exhibition together at The Museum of Drawings called ”Drawn to the Line” here in Sweden, and it was the most creative fun I have had in a long time.

©Annelie Carlström

Petra works in a completely different style that goes really well with mine. To see two artistic expression meet and create a new one was a true awakening for me.

We are now trying to find a new location for the exhibition and I’m also working on new drawings and sculptures in ceramic that can be part of the original exhibition.

I’ve also collaborated with jewellery artist Sanna Svedestedt Carboo. I draw her leather jewellery and invented a woman wearing them. We both love braids and pine trees so that was a natural theme for collaboration.

The exhibition Braid.Stone.Needle that includes my drawings and Sannas art jewelry is currently being showed at MUSA, a fashion store and Gallery in Gothenburg, Sweden.

I have also just started a artist collective together with artist Mia Nilsson called Fina Linjen. Some of Sweden’s most excellent illustrators is part of the group. I hope it will have a bright future.”


About Author

Annelie graduated from Beckmans Collage of Design in Stockholm in 2007. Since then she has worked as an illustrator and artist with a wide range of clients. Annelie works with a focused expression that is characterized by a strong sense of the craft and the material. With great sensitivity, she explore subjects that revolve around man and nature. Her visual world is dynamic and enigmatic retro modern. A serious tenderness characterizes her sensitively portrayed characters but also humorous playfulness in proportion and composition.

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