Milena Huhta’s mind is located at the intersection of The Sims, Final Fantasy VII, and a series of sci-fi/horror-themed anime that I’ve never heard of because I was probably busy watching Spongebob. A blend of science and pop-culture paired with her keen eye for color helps the Helsinki-based artist create her own supernatural aesthetic.
For Huhta, drawing is a means of processing the world. She says, “Even with commercial work, I often incorporate elements I’m currently inspired by. One of the things I love is fashion, so in my illustrations I make sure my characters are interestingly dressed.” I like to think they’re dressed the way we all thought we looked as angsty teens. Huhta identifies with the angst of subjects: “I guess I’m a little angst-y person. A little darkness and honesty keeps things interesting.” Word.
Huhta draws girls and guys, but the girls take center stage in her recent work. Huhta instills in her subject matter a shameless self-awareness that she learned from characters like Sailor Moon. She says, “For me, girls are always empowered, and I want to portray that in my work. There’s just so much charisma and depth in that sort of self-aware girl stuff. I’m interested in exploring different levels of being a girl or woman and showcasing that in my work.”
Drawing, for Huhta, is an act of release: “I have a need in me to draw and feel suffocated if I can’t act on it. I’m constantly coming up with new ideas and scenarios to draw.” Huhta has learned how to balance the titles of both illustrator and designer. She says, “I was determined to be more of a designer than an illustrator. Somehow I thought that I’d have to choose between those two. Now, I’ve realized you can definitely do both. It’s actually an advantage: I can use ways of working from either one to boost the other.” She works a 9-5 office job, but says her nighttime illustration comes second nature and is never a chore.
Huhta’s work has a clear sci-fi sensibility. She loves sci-fi themed manga: Ghost in the Shell, Neon Genesis Evangelion and Aeon Flux. She’s also a fan of Fifth Element and the Alien films, save the fourth one, because it sucked. Huhta dreams in color. Her teeth don’t fall out in meetings; she runs with dragons and werewolves. The colors she uses in her illustrations take her work to the next level. The addition of color is an instinctual process and the powdered colors paired with a few neons, even for a viewer, just feel so right.
Huhta’s work is heavily influenced by a longtime interest in Japanese culture. She has developed an appreciation for Japanese comics, film, and folklore. “Japan’s culture and tradition is really intriguing. I have so much respect for it and the exceptional way of paying attention even to the slightest detail. Japan’s street style is something I follow closely too.” This attention to detail has carried over into Huhta’s illustration process. She makes sketches then traces the lines using a multiliner marker and a light box. She admits it isn’t the most efficient method, but she isn’t willing to sacrifice the detail.
I asked Milena Huhta for her 6-word-memoire, and she has one of the best I’ve heard: “Dishes ignored. Dreaming of cyborg arms.” Here’s to more weird dreams.