Vintage Finnish book illustration – Outi Markkanen

During my time in Finland, scouring charity shops or ‘kirpiis’ I was hoping to find some odd publications to blog about so was thrilled to come across this beautiful children’s book ‘Kurnau ja Kamaluu.’  Typing that into a translation tool expecting to find a gentle children’s title I was alarmed / tickled to find it means ‘Crouching and Screaming.’  Sounds like a lovely soothing tale for bedtime.  Anyway, something was surely lost in translation there as the illustrations contained within it are so sweet and charmingly psychedelic.

Printed in 1978 by Sanoma Osakeythio, Helsinki and written by Jaana Lappo, I love the work of it’s illustrator Outi Markkanen (b.1951).

Eye catching retro colour palettes, with bright pinks and yellows – this far out image below is my favourite

I was really bewitched by some of these scenes, especially the friendship with the giant cat which reminded me a bit of the seminal and wonderful Studio Ghibli film My Neighbour Totoro (1988) where a huge rabbit spirit creature befriends a small girl – I am still fixated on a Totoro type creature coming to see me in my dreams one day.

It seems Outi has worked on a number of children’s publications and is still creating. Her grandfather was a well known Finnish painter Urti Lehtinen (1887-1982)

Finnish is so damn weird that staring at the words on the pages is also like looking at a work of art – I find it quite mesmerising to look at

Nice effects with dots here

Endearingly, a small person called Mika had previously owned this book and had scribed their name in it

These magical end pages showing an inky blue night sky are surely the perfect way to end a bedtime story

Funnily, I was looking through some postcards by local artists at the rural arts residency I was staying at and was really drawn to this one, buying it immediately.

It reminded me a lot of the work of Estonian illustrator Juri Arrak who I had interviewed earlier on in my trip for my post here, in particular his amazing 1975 tome the Swamp Ladies of Estonia 

It was only later on that I noticed on the back of the card that this work was also by Outi, from 1983.  To me it perfectly captures the intriguing world of Scandinavian folklore, and the tales of trolls and elves that permeate Finland.

Link to (Finnish) wiki about Outi here

Kurnau ja Kamaluu, Jaana Lappo. Published by Sanoma Osakeyhtio, Helsinki 1978

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