Master retro collage illustration

Emil Ásgrímsson

explores the wilderness

Emil Ásgrímssom’s work combines the wild landscapes of his native Iceland with witty inflections, creating bold, sometimes unsettling images, where amusing central figures are undercut by their brooding backdrops. He believes this juxtaposition comes naturally. Coming from a country that’s a bit extreme, I suppose that’s normal.”  

“I think it was Terry Gilliam who got me interested [in collage] in the first place.” Inspired by The Monty Python animator’s humorous cut out creations, he started experimenting with collage, and quickly became captivated by the medium’s potential for “finding a new purpose for older images that are forgotten”.

Adventure, a mixed-media fashion illustration for retailer River Island. Created in collaboration with Marsy Hild

Perhaps it’s inevitable that collage – which relies on plundering the past – can be powerfully nostalgic. “I think it tends to be natural for collages to have a retro feel about them,” he says. “The images I use are related to my interests and past.”

Emil’s father is a geologist, and Emil’s artwork is full of stone textures, quartz and craggy mountains inspired by this. “I’m really into landscapes, geology and mineralogy – visually,” he says. He trawls his father’s books and rummages through libraries to build up a stock of pictures that might be useful. He tends to keep source images close to the original, making only minor adjustments to the levels and colour balance. “I try to avoid too much tampering – I’m not a fan of intense Photoshopping.” 

Icelandic Space Programme

“I don’t plan what the image is going to look like,” he explains. “I have a faint idea of how it should feel, but then it slowly crawls together. The process usually involves me sitting at it for a while until it looks right.”


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