This interview was made by Nils Jansson for ORTUS OBSCURUM in february 2002
Would you please start by introducing yourself to the readers of Ortus Obscurum. Who are you really and what is Kaamos all about really? What have done so far and what are you working on at the moment?
My name is Jarno Lahti born in May 19, 1976 and I am a digital artist and graphic designer from Finland. Kaamos is my art studio that I founded in summer 1999. I consider that kaamos is more hobby than a real job. Therefore I work as a graphic designer. Even artist need to get food on the table.
You have a quite impressive portfolio on your homepage I must say. For how long have you been doing this kind of digital art and for what purpose? Have you received any training at all in the past or are you completely self-thought?
Thanks. My first experience with computers were in 1997 when I stated my studies. First I think that computers are dreadful machines and I thought I never learn how to use them. Beginning was of course hard but soon I discovered that huge possibilities that computers have and there was no turning back.
What comes to digital art, I can say that I am totally self-thought. Even I studied graphic design I cant say that I learned there much. Of course school gave me lots of possibilities but studies itself weren't so useful. Everything that I know today, I learned in those long night hours when I was sitting with my computer.
How have people reacted on what you are doing in Kaamos? Have you received many compliments on your works until this day? Any criticism?
Feedback has been very positive. I get lots of mail from peoples that say that my art has influenced them strongly and that kind of mail is really nice to have. Almost always people see different things in my art than I have meant. I believe that this is one of the biggest reasons why people like my art. They feel that images are somehow personal and therefore it is easy to identify to them.
Kaamos is the Finnish word for a period of darkness when the sun never rise in the northern regions of your country. Why have you chosen this name for your project? Is darkness an essential ingredient in the art of Kaamos?
The name "kaamos" is not essential. When I first stated to think name to my studio I called it "Twilight Drams" but I dump that quite soon. I wanted that the name would be short and at some point I think "kaamos". That sounded great and the domain "kaamos.com" was also available so I bought it. Now 2 and half years later I think that name "kaamos" is the best name that I could use.
Kaamos images are mainly dark and melancholy so you can say that darkness is somehow essential. Without dark atmosphere they wouldn't be Kaamos images.
"Years of pain, I won't take it anymore". So says the text on your latest image "No more" and on "Buried dreams", there is a phrase saying: "a life buried in dreams, I might as well die today". It seems to me like you often use rather depressive phrases like these on your works. What's the reason for this?
People have asked that question many times and I cant give any precise answer. Main reason why I use text is simple: I think that text is very good graphic element. Image is much more stronger when there is text included . My images are dark, so its natural to use depressive phrases. When I make a kaamos image I first make the image ready and then I finish it with text and I try to think something that the text is somehow related to the image.
Many of your images seem to portray emotions and thoughts of an apocalyptic nature. For example in "End of the World" where the title speaks for itself and in "It went all wrong" where there's a phrase saying "We are failing". What is you opinion on the human-beings of today really? Do you feel that mankind is near a certain grand finale in these days and that all hope is lost for human-kind?
I don't think that modern world situation is very positive. There is wars and people treat each other brutally. Also people seem to think only them self and their own welfare. These things are the reason why atmosphere is cold and depressing. I don't think that mankind can live in this way very long. If nothing chances the humans will face their fate.
You have done a couple of images dealing with the 7 deadly sins but correct me if I'm wrong when I say that you still haven't portrayed them all yet. Is this a project which you are working on in these days?
Seven deadly sins is a serial that I stated some time ago. At he moment there is only two images (lust and Wrath). When I came up with this idea I was planning it to be my schoolwork. Plans chanced and that project just paused. I will complete this deadly sins series in future but it is not top of my priority list. It is possible that I will do again those images that are ready at the moment.
How did you come up with this idea? What is your opinion on religion in general?
From the movie seven of course. What a great movie. What comes to religion, I cant really say anything. I haven't made up my mind with that question. Basically I would like to believe in God but some part of me thinks that maybe there isn't any bigger force. However one thing is clear. I am NOT satanic. At times I hear that kind of opinions and I would like to clear those wrong thoughts.
I would like to ask you about your influences. From where do you gain inspiration?
My biggest influence is music. I always listen to music and I think that it is main reason why I stated to do this kind of art. Also my art strongly reflects my feelings at that very moment.
Of course feedback is important. Its great to know that there are many people how really love my art. I get mail all over the world and I think that it is amazing. People whom I have never seen or ever will see, Unknown people finds things that are important to them from my images. That is unreal feeling.
Is there an artist or two that you think has influenced you more or less in the past? Personally, I see some similarities in your works to the works Giger (though your art isn't as pornographic as Giger's art). Are you influenced by Giger in any way?
Of course I know the name Giger but I haven't never really loved his work. My biggest influence is Derek Riggs. When I was child I admired his work and I still think that his Iron Maiden illustrations are best ever. What comes to digital art I must say that Chad Michael Ward and Niklas Sundin are the best names in that genre. Both of them are really talented and I really love their work.
How do you work when you create a Kaamos image? Do you prefer to let the idea come to you before you sit down and start to work with the image or do you rather prefer to play around with the computer and just let the image grow and grow without any real idea on how the final product will look?
Mainly Kaamos images born without any big efforts. Sometimes I got a of thought what the image should look like but almost always my plans change and final image is not what I first wanted. Making of Kaamos art is one way of relaxing. It is great to just let your thoughts wonder and see what kind of form they will take. I mainly do this kind of art just for personally reasons but it is great to know that there is people who love my art. It gives me strength to carry on.
What equipment do you use and how much time do you need to finish a Kaamos image? How much of what you create ends up on your homepage and how much is thrown away?
Kaamos images are made by computer. When I first started I usually use my paintings or drawings but I dump that very soon. Nowadays I just use photos. This way images are more lively.
I cant say any exact time how long it takes to make a image. Sometimes image is ready really soon and in some cases months. I even got images that have been waiting for two years. For that reason one of the most difficult part is to make a decision when the image is ready.
I read on your homepage that before you started doing digital art, you painted alot. Do you still paint or are you completely hooked on doing digital art in these days? Is there a chance that we will encounter an undigitalized painting on your homepage in the future or is Kaamos exclusively reserved for digital art?
I used to paint and draw a lot but I haven't done it for a long time. Computers have take me for good. For this reason Kaamos will be digital in the future also. I really don't believe that I will return to traditional art. It just didn't give me as much satisfaction as digital art.
So far, my only real contact with your works is from the galleries on your homepage. Will it be possible to obtain your stuff in printed format in the future? Have you ever thought of releasing a picture book with a selection of what you have done?
In matter of fact I have been thinking for art book for years and I am sure that I will publish my art book someday. At the moment me and some of my friends are only people how have prints of kaamos images. I got lots of mail where people ask for prints and I have been thinking for that possibility also. How knows….
Do you like listening to music while you paint? If so, what kind of music do you find suitable to have in the background during your sessions? I've got the impression that you're an old hardrocker. Am I right? What music do you like really?
I listen to music when I do Kaamos images, in matter of fact I listen to music always. At this very moment there is Dee Snider shout out laud "I WANNA ROCK!!!".
But there is not any certain music that tunes me to right mood for Kaamos images. Anything that I just want to listen at that very moment is suitable.
Yeah you can say that I am old hardrocker. I really love music that was made in 80´s. Everything started in 1984 when I bought Iron Maidens "powerslave" record. Then we listen to W.A.S.P and KISS and they are still one of the best bands ever. Other great names from that period are Saxon, Accept, Bon Jovi (Think what you want but I think that old Bon Jovi was great), DIO, Loudness, RATT, Mötley Crue, Quiet Riot etc. Other my great favourites are Manowar, Running Wild, Dark Tranquillity, and In Flames.
Have you ever been in contact with industrial and ambient music? If so, what is your opinion of this kind of music?
This kind of music is not very familiar to me so I cant give comment about that.
I read on your homepage that your ultimate dream would be to create a cover for an Iron Maiden album. Why is making an Iron Maiden cover so special to you? Do you see any chance at all of realising this dream in future and do you feel that you could ever live up to the standard of the great Derek Riggs?
Of course it is really far away dream but I believe that man always should have dreams. This is my reverie because I simply love Iron Maiden. There is no better band and never will be. I also like a lot of Derek Riggs paintings. I remember how I used to spend lots of time to just wondering his magnificent paintings. Specially I love "Killers", "Live after Death" and "Somewhere in Time" artworks. Images were so powerful and there was a lot of little details.
However I must point out that I think that Riggs strength is in traditional paintings and I believe that his computer art is weak and there is no power at all.
When we talk about paintings I have to mention a artist that is almost as great as Riggs. Andreas Marshall is really talented painter and his artwork to Blind Guardian album "imaginations from the other side" is one of the greatest artwork ever.
Have you ever stumbled upon the works of fellow Finnish artist Juha Vuorma? He has done some work for various metal albums in the past and I think his art is truly magnificent. Have you ever seen his art? If so, what do you think of it?
I know his work. I think that is works are a little bit too depressing and dark. Maybe his style is not accurately what I like. He is however really talented guy, I cant deny that.
You have done layout work for a couple of artists in the past, for example your country mates Wizzard for whom you created a homepage as well as a CD-sleeve. Is this something you could imagine doing more of in the future? Are you working on anything in these days that you would like to tell us about?
I hope that I could have more music related works in the future. Those works are always fun to do and it is also a great way to promote my art. I never learned to play any instrument and maybe this art thing is my way to take a part in a music industry,
At the moment there is not any certain design work that I am doing but I am having discussions with one finnish label.
Do you think you will ever be able to earn a living just by doing artwork in Kaamos?
I really hope so but honesty I don't see that it would be possible. Fees aren't that big and there is not that much work to do that income would be regular. Sad but true. My dream is of course to live out of art and jump away from 9-5 rat race. Just to be a free artist and live my life just the way I want.
What's your final goal with Kaamos really and where do you see yourself in a decade if everything goes accordingly to your will?
If everything goes like I want, in year 2012 I would earn my living from art. Also I hope that I am enable to do so good images that some new artist say that I have been his biggest influence. Then I can say that I have achieve something great.
Well Jarno, thanks for taking time answering my queries. I wish you could luck with Kaamos in the future and if you feel that anything has been left unsaid, then feel free to speak out before we end this interview session.
Thank you and remember to visit my site at www.kaamos.com