Welcome to another artist spotlight! I hope you’ve been enjoying these as much as I have. It has been fascinating to meet and speak with artists from all over the globe about something similar we all have in common. Gaining new perspective and hearing stories about other calligraphy artists has been incredibly eye opening. Today I would like to introduce you to Skyrenia.

Skyrenia (@graphtype)

Skyrenia is a full time artist from Zurich, Switzerland. I was very anxious to speak with Skyrenia. When I first discovered her work, I could tell she was extremely committed to her craft. Skyrenia dedicates countless hours of time to her art and through growth and experimentation, produces calligraffiti that undoubtedly pushes boundaries of the modern artform.

I’m incredibly excited to share this interview with the world. Skyrenia shares some serious insights about her creative techniques, as well as philosophical words of wisdom that every artist should live by. Enjoy!

Portrait of Skyrenia

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me! Ever since I found your account on Instagram, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed and found inspiration in your work. Would you mind speaking about your artistic background?

Dear Jake, I feel very honored that you consider me to be a part of your art blog and that I get the opportunity to share my story and my art with you and your audience.

First I’d like to introduce myself and tell a bit more about me: I am Skyrenia, but many just call me Sky! My real name is Svenja and I was born in February 1995 in Switzerland.

Drawing was always one of my biggest passions, next to reading books, playing video games and practicing martial art.

The Japanese subcultures, which includes animes, mangas and the cosplay culture had a huge influence on my childhood and fantasy worlds like Final Fantasy and many other hero universes fascinated me.

And how did you get into calligraphy?

After I finished school, I went to the “Vorkurs” in Zurich, which is a design class you have to attend before you’re allowed to visit the 4 year apprenticeship as a Graphic Designer. In this school, we had a special subject called “Typography”. We learned everything about the origin of writing, the basic architecture of letters, the different type families and most importantly, the use of the available space. We didn’t learn calligraphy or the techniques and did not practice them, the course was very limited to theory only. Nevertheless, the knowledge gained during that time is probably the most important skill I use in my artworks nowadays.

'Have Heart' by Skyrenia

‘Have Heart’ by Skyrenia

I’ve learned a lot about the composition of single letters and what are the key points of a great typography. They taught us, that the message of a good design has to be easily readable and that “bigger is not necessarily better” but that “less is always more”.

You’re in Chicago, correct? Did you grow up there? What is the arts/calligraphy scene like? Do you work with other local creatives?

At the time of the interview I was in Chicago, but only to explore the north-east of America. However, I grew up in the same country, as the famous Graphic Designer Max Miedinger; in Switzerland. He is probably best known to most as the designer of the famous and often used Helvetica font. Although I grew up in the Canton Zurich, a part in the north-east of Switzerland, I also have roots in Thailand, which influenced me as well as my art works in many ways.

Most of my friends are great artists, but the local graffiti / calligraphy scene is rather small. To be honest, I do not even know any calligraphy groups near my place. However, I know of some other Swiss (German / French) artist through Instagram and I’d love to meet up with some of them.

Nevertheless, I met some awesome people through traveling, like ox3_art during my time in Chicago! It was incredibly awesome to exchange views about art and everything else. And I’m looking forward to do some collaborations with him and we try to stay in touch with each other.

Your calligraffiti work is unbelievable! There are obviously a lot of calligraffiti artists out there, but I truly think you push it to the next level with some of your compositions. What inspired you to begin pursuing this style and where on earth do these ideas come from?

Thank you very much. I started some years ago with the classic calligraphy alphabets. I especially practiced the Gothic-based alphabet. Through Instagram I discovered this new calligraphy movement, called “calligraffiti”, which is a mix of the classic calligraphy and graffiti. Niels Shoe Meulman, who is basically the inventor of this style, which already got rather famous in 2007, was very inspiring to me. I was fascinated by the contrast of traditional and urban influence, while both styles are combined in the same masterpiece. I even bought some of his books and checked out the Calligraffiti Ambassadors.

'Circle' by Skyrenia

‘Circle’ by Skyrenia

It is a beautiful mixture of art styles which connects many different cultures, from the Arabic to the Cyrillic or some Asian calligraphy alphabets. I love that it combines so many cultures from all over the world and unites them to create a novel kind of art.

Being half European and half Asian I know the struggle of growing up with two completely different cultures and that it can be pretty challenging. But with this art, I found a way to fuse them together.

'Enigma's Eye' by Skyrenia

‘Enigma’s Eye’ by Skyrenia

What would you say is your favorite piece/project that you’ve done?

My favorite piece so far is a commission I did for a customer in Moscow. It contained so many hours of hard work and required uncountable minor adjustments, but it was beautiful to see my own work grow while I was growing with it. This showed me once more, that art consists of an endless progress and is some kind of journey. You cannot force it, as it just needs enough time and love.

You’re obviously skilled in diverse set of tools. What are your favorites? And if you don’t mind me asking, how do you achieve such amazing textures?

I work with different backgrounds such as wood, cardboard, foil, textile etc. which allows me to create interesting new textures, that can even break the boundary between two-dimensional and three-dimensional art.

'At The Border Between The Worlds' by Skyrenia

‘At The Border Between The Worlds’ by Skyrenia
'Illusionary' by Skyrenia

‘Illusionary’ by Skyrenia

I also like to work with clay or worbla as part of my cosplay creations, but I have not yet found the time to combine it with calligraffiti, which I definitely want to do.

Right now my favorite tools are brushes and acrylic based colors from Molotow while I prefer to use plywood plates as a background. It is not only very easy to transport them, but can also get much larger formats for a much lower price than by working on canvas. That’s why I try to use them for my own practice.

I love you’ve done on objects like clothing and umbrella! What inspired that? Do you have any plans to market or sell work like that?

A German proverb says “Not macht erfinderisch”, which can be translated to “Necessity is the mother of invention”. This is pretty much how I started to draw on objects. I always wanted to work on large Canvas. However, as probably everyone knows, they can be pretty expensive. That’s why I started to draw on different objects that were available at my home place right away.

Do you do lettering/calligraphy full time?

Till two months ago, I was worked as a Graphic Designer in a small agency in downtown Zurich, right at the beautiful lake. After an accident last year, I was forced to take a timeout from work. I spent the most time in hospitals, where I got the chance to learn how to live with my condition. During my hospitalizations, my art focus moved from digital to traditional and I noticed the positive healing effect for myself when I was able to create new things. Trough art I found new hope and inspiration in life. It helped me to see light in my darkest times.

Due to the fact that I’m still not able to perform physical work, I’ve decided to start over as a full time artist.

'Approaching An Ice Planet' by Skyrenia

‘Approaching An Ice Planet’ by Skyrenia

As an artist, what does a day in the life look like?

Whenever I leave my house, I have my Sketchbook in my backpack so I can write down all ideas that come to my mind. I try to keep a daily routine, because this keeps me productive. Through all the stress I try to take enough breaks, and by breaks I mean real breaks. No smartphone or digital distractions. I also try to take walks as much as I can, because when you spend your whole day in the atelier, you stand or sit at the very same spot for several hours. And to be creative, you have to open your mind and keep your body as healthy as possible. I think, as an artist, it is really important to take care of yourself, as we often adapt unhealthy routines, such as not getting enough sleep, are always stressed because of deadlines or even forget to drink or eat. These things happen very quickly as have to be very focused during our productive times and if things do not work out, we often get stuck in negative thoughts. So I try to be as positive as I can be. And the highlight of my day is definitely the evening, when my boyfriend returns from work and we take our time to cook and eat together ♥

A multi-panel canvas by Skyrenia

A multi-panel canvas by Skyrenia

Do you have any big aspirations you’re working towards with your artwork? And if so, do you mind sharing? I’m curious to know what can the world expect from the incredible Skyrenia in the next year/couple years!

All I can say is, that this is just the beginning. I have many projects in mind, which I will start in the next few months. I’m already working on my portfolio and to finally finish my website. I also try to include a little shop as I get amazing feedback and so many requests to sell prints, shirts etc. and of course umbrellas 😀 Furthermore there will be some exhibitions and I just started some larger projects including redesigning the walls of a nearby skate park. So stay tuned, there are many things to come and I cannot wait to share them with all of you.

'Approaching An Ice Planet' by Skyrenia

‘Details’ by Skyrenia

If you had to give one piece of advice to an aspiring artist, what would it be?

In art, there is no shortcut. Don’t get demotivated if you see other artists artworks or their success.

And don’t be afraid of mistakes, as they are only there to help you. If you’re not satisfied with the outcome, just take your time and do it over and over again.

Be kind and patient to yourself, if you want to build up something great, it needs time and love to grow!


You can follow Skyrenia on Instagram(@graphtype) and purchase her work on http://skyrenia.com.