Tree of life with the sun shining

Marja-Leena Montonen Talks About Her Art And Jigsaw Inspiration

Meditation and nature

Is there anything you can’t go without as an artist?

To feel connected to nature and my world I love to meditate to keep me calm and centred. At the other end of the scale though after a day in the shop talking to customers, and being creative I love to go for a run as I feel so free.

How much of your upbringing has influenced your art?

Growing up in Sweden I was always into nature and was always out no matter the weather. The crazier the weather the more I wanted to be out amongst it. My toys as a child were pine comes and anything natural. I didn’t enjoy bought toys. If I was bought a toy I always ended up breaking it as I wanted to understand how it worked and wanted to turn it into something else. My connection with nature has carried on into my adult life and also into my art. 

Why jigsaw puzzles?

They came to me about 8 years ago, way before lockdown, when they became even more popular. My designs and artwork are really detailed and relates well to jigsaw puzzles. Customers said they spent a long time staring at my creations as they are so curious about the magical worlds they create and provided joy and escapism. Every time they looked over my creations they would find something new, cheerful and curious to look at.

Where did you come up with the idea’s for your jigsaw puzzle designs?

The Tree of Life design took some time to create. Each part of the tree symbolises a different aspect of life and nature and how they relate to one another. The roots of the tree symbolise the connection to the earth. The trunk is the connection to the physical world and the branches connect us to the sky and the air we breathe. All elements are connected and it reminds us that we are all part of something much larger than ourselves. I wanted to bring a sense of wonder and fun to such a beautiful and intelligent symbol.

The design for My Beautiful Garden jigsaw was such a joy to create. I see the natural world so full of colour and movement that I loved using my imagination to create this wonderful garden full of cheerful animals, plants and characters.

How long did it take to create the designs for your jigsaws?

The Tree of life design took about two and a half months to create as it started out as a painting. I eventually transferred it to my computer and it has about 3000 layers due to the amount of detail it contains. I used an electric pen and a Wacom board using Photoshop, where I do most of my digital designs. The Garden jigsaw took only two months though.

What’s the most important quality an artist should have when creating jigsaw puzzles?

I think it’s colour and balance in the picture and the individual pieces. Ensure you create a challenging but not too challenging a problem. You don’t want to create a problem that is too overwhelming to solve. 

Do you do anything creative away from the computer screen?

Yes, I love to paint using acrylics. In fact it’s my preference and I try to paint whenever I can.  

Do you have any particular music you like to create to?

I have an eclectic mix of music that I enjoy listening to when I create. From the blues like Lizz Write to indie pop band London Grammer or sometimes just brain waves. It all depends on my mood but I don’t tend to paint or create in silence it’s too empty.

What’s the most fulfilling thing about making art?

Being creative brings me inner peace as I can solve problems without really thinking about them. I also love to create worlds where I want to be but can’t take a photograph of. My imagination and intense focus when I’m creating is where I feel the most comfortable and calm. The outcome is where I get immense satisfaction and a great sense of achievement, especially when I see the joy it brings to others.

Where do you draw inspiration from when you are making your creations?

I have always been drawn to colour and pattern, but I am also intrigued by mystery, folklore, nature, and the decorative arts. I need time and space with my thoughts and imagination, away from the everyday busyness of life. This is where I find meditation helps as I can clear my mind then I let my imagination wander to visualise the magic nature creates without any human intervention. 

Do you have any other projects in progress you’d like to share?

I am currently painting a picture that’s 160 cm wide and 160 cm high, it’s big! It has a natural theme that includes lots of colourful insect and plant detail. The name of it will come to me at the end. It’s different to all the other pieces I have done. I feel more free, as previously I wasn’t able to express exactly how I felt and get out what I feel.

I will want to create cushion covers from parts of the picture and high quality limited edition prints. I’ll keep the original painting here in the shop for a while but as it’s so big I will probably want to hang it at an exhibition or gallery afterwards.

Where can we learn more about your remarkable artwork and designs?

My website is a good place to start, I also keep my Facebook and Instagram up to date when I can. The best place to find me at my creative is in my studio shop in Hampton. So feel free to come by and say hello, you’ll always be welcome.

Discover more information about Marja Leena and her art where she's also available for commission work.

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