Artist profile: Sanni Salminen a self-taught digital artist


Digital Artist Sanni Salminen, photo by Lari Heikkilä

Recently I’ve been intrigued by new media art, especially digital art. I’m often awestruck by game graphics and illustrations but as a less tech savvy individual than I would like to be have found it difficult to understand the amount of work and skill that goes into the creation. I have found, since looking into it more, that the less I understood about the IT world the more I expected computers to be able to perform miracles on their own, without the need of human talent. Therefore, in order to better understand what digital art is, what constitutes as digital art and how it differs from traditional art forms, I decided to interview Sanni Salminen, a graphic designer and a digital artist.

Salminen’s background is in graphic design and she has worked five years in graphic design agencies in Helsinki before moving to Tampere jus over six months ago. In Tampere Salminen has worked as an illustrator and artist mainly on her own projects. She has been working as a freelancer for the last 10 years and in the near future she is going to identify herself as an entrepreneur or an artist.

I asked Salminen to tell me a little bit about digital art, where can it be seen and what equipment and materials are needed in producing it. This is what I learned:

Digital art is a form of art in which technology is used as the primary means of expression, creation or displaying of art. Changes brought by the digital era have created many different approaches for self-expression and creation witch, in turn, has brought about entirely new perspective to art.

Digital art may contain a variety of art styles and techniques such as drawings, paintings, photographs or something in between, something entirely new. The creative process related to digital creation has been described with the term ”computer art” and ”multimedia art”. The umbrella term for digital based art forms is “new media art”.

During this digital era an artist is able to utilize technology-based media in their creative process by using computers, various software programs, internet and even video and television. There are many tools available and even more creative combinations. Digital art can be seen all around us since a majority of design displayed in the streets has been digitally created. All that is needed for the creation of digital art is a computer or a tablet computer, software, a mouse, digital drawing table, tablet or display. There are multiple alternatives to choose from. Now that we were on the same page about what we were talking about I wanted to know a little bit more about Sanni Salminen, the artist.


How did you end up working with digital art?

I’ve been drawing as long as I can remember and I’ve always carried a sketchbook with me. When I was small I would attend porcelain painting classes with my grandmother. Apart from that, I’m a so called self-taught artist.

The first time I tried some of the first drawing software programs was when I was around 10-years- old. That time all I had was a mouse and one of the first free drawing software in the Windows environment on an old computer. I remember seeing adverts of a few digital sketching software programs and dreamt of being able to try one of them some day.

At some point I was able to use a computer with Photoshop and a possibility for a drawing tool. During this time my big brother had bought a graphics tablet, Wacom CTE 440. (A graphics tablet is used by connecting it to a computer and drawn on with an appropriate pen, which is then recorded in a digital form onto the computer.) When my brother became bored of the graphics tablet, he gave it to me. This, with Photoshop, opened up a new world for me in learning digital art. I felt that only the sky is the limit.

What makes digital art so fascinating to you?

Digital art borrows many principles form traditional art forms. I feel that traditional skills, drawing and painting have been a necessary basis for my digital art skills. If one wants to progress with anything at all, it is important to understand basics. It is difficult to develop in an environment where there are already countless amounts of different tools and variables upon which to begin building one’s “own thing”. It is easy to get lost in the digital world.

An artist has a vast amount of options in creating digital art. This media has been criticized about the great amount of possibilities and tools which allows the creator of a piece not necessarily needing to obtain the so called traditional artistic values, doctrines or components. There is no need to give one’s best for art. Is it even art? As said, digital art provides many opportunities, but this brings also challenges with it. I myself feel that each trade has their experts and those that truly are good at what they do will come to prominence.

What fascinates me in digital art is just those challenges and opportunities. Digital art requires an equally steady hand, vision and skills at using tools as do many other art forms. It is possible to break old concepts of aesthetics and create something totally new. Digital art provides a new approach and I believe this is only the beginning of what is to come.

Who are your greatest inspirations as artists?

Since childhood, I’ve been enchanted by fantasy and sci-fi- style subjects as well as traditional portraits. For this reason, one of my role models is an artist called Frank Frazetta. Frazetta (1928- 2010) represents the generation of traditional painters with fantastical themes. A second favourite from the traditional side is Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), who even today affects many artists’ styles also in the digital side. From current artists I should mention Alexis Marcou and Dan Chase, whom I’ve followed for a long time because of their skilled yet characteristic styles. My early role models who come directly from the digital world were Stanley “Artgerm” Lau, Charlie Bowater and Bao “Thienbao” Pham. They
were some of the first talents that surfaced before the social media boom. In Finland, I follow the work of Juhani Jokinen who works in the gaming industry. He is part of my generation and works at Ubisoft as an associate lead concept artist.

What are the ways that one can make a living from creating digital art and what kinds of commissions have you received?

My skills on the digital side concentrate on drawing and painting, largely due to my skills in traditional art medias. Many digital drawer or painter works either full-time or as a freelancer, for example, in game or film businesses. These industries are always in search for talent with skills in 2D or 3D digital art. Currently, I’m just finding my feet as a full-time artist. My previous working background helps the progress: even though I worked in different firms under the titles of graphic designer or designer, many remember me by my interest and skill in illustration and painting. For this, I may thank my art portfolio as well as my loud enthusing about the field.

The key of working independently on projects is proactivity. The work will not find you and you just have to keep working and being with and among people. Also, utilizing social media for marketing purposes is an important factor in developing one’s career. Via my prior networks I’ve received isolated projects such as concept art projects for small films and game projects, working as an art assistant and creating prints or murals for customers according to their wishes. My plan is to organize my own art exhibition and to sell my work both physically as well as in online form. I heartily thanked Salminen for illuminating the digital art world for me and our readers. I will be following the career of this talented artist also in the future.



Salminen also shared a few interesting links for anyone seeking to look more deeply into the digital art realm. – one off the first largest sites about digital art. In addition to Instagram this is an excellent source of inspiration. – a network for graphics and digital industries, a practical platform for a digital portfolio. – a long-lived site, which showcases various kinds of design from the north. – ImagineFX-magazine that covers subjects regarding digital painting as well as traditional arts. This is my greatest “textbook” in addition to YouTube tutorial videos. I used to buy individual copies from the store or borrowed as many as I could carry from my university library. The magazine can be found from bookstores or it can be subscribed. Juhani Jokinen can be found in Instagram @artofjokinen.

Sanni Salminen’s portfolio can be accessed via the following:
Instagram: @bysannis


Interviewed by Liisa-Maija / Kunstportal