Just Start

Nothing is set in stone and we can always go in new directions.
— Myriam Van Neste

Can you tell us about you and the inspiration behind your work? 

I am an artist and illustrator from Quebec, Canada, currently living and working in Vienna, Austria. My background is actually in sculpture, studying in Canada and Finland, and I spent the first seven years of my artistic practice working on large sculptural installations in public spaces.

Three years ago, my practice shifted toward illustration and surface pattern design, and the bold and unique Finnish design culture that was part of my everyday life back in Helsinki started to inspire my new body of work.

Today, my background as a sculptor is still very much present and infuses my current process. The need to work with my two hands is at the core of my artistic practice, so every one of my illustration projects starts with scissors, colorful paper, and a playful collage session. I think it shows in my final illustrations, which is important for me. Making things with paper is what fuels my creativity and gets new ideas flowing.

Bush Garden

Bush Garden

Cut-out Flowers

Cut-out Flowers


Is Your path into illustration something you set out on or did something in particular move you into that direction? 

A couple of years ago, making illustration as one of my daily activities was never on my radar! I think the 20-something me would have been quite surprised to see what I do now.

When I had my son, the challenges of working on large-scale public artworks was bringing me more anxiety than joy, and so I knew my practice would slowly drift toward something else, although I did not know what. Illustration and collage actually came quite spontaneously! While I was on maternity leave, my family and I moved to a small town in California, and I found myself a little lost. I think the intense shift to parent life does that to many people and artists, and that first year was difficult and a darker time for me. After a couple of months of struggling, I knew I needed to start making something with my hands and to have a creative outlet, for the sake of my own mental health.

So one morning I got myself a bunch of color paper and started making abstract collages. And it was so much fun, making just for the sake of making! I would spend big chunks of my days cutting and pasting paper shapes into quick compositions. When I think about those first colorful works, they had such a feeling of urgency and happiness; it was so liberating. So over the next year, a new body of work started to form, until I was making illustrations during all of my free moments. It all felt so natural. I think the most rewarding thing for me now is to be comfortable in saying, "I am an artist and illustrator," when people ask me what I do, which is something I did not confidently say about myself for the first seven years of working as a sculptor.


What has been one of the most inspiring moments?

It’s hard to pinpoint one specific moment. After making illustrations for a couple of months, I started to familiarize myself with the world of surface pattern design, and it was so great to learn and practice new skills. I am still a beginner in this vast world of illustration (which I embrace!), and it is so incredibly inspiring to be in a learning mode. I feel more openminded and don't worry as much about making things that are not perfect, not only when making art, but in my life in general.

And I feel more confident taking on new challenges too. A couple of months back, an old friend asked me to work on a children's book with her, a dream project really, but something quite honestly out of my comfort zone. But that did not matter! I am learning as I go, and embracing this somewhat scary challenge is so fulfilling creatively!


Are there women that have inspired/impacted you?

When I started sharing my work online, I found a wonderful community of fellow women artists and illustrators, and Lisa Congdon was among them. Her work is so amazing and unique, and her path as an artist really spoke to me. She was a late bloomer, starting her professional artistic practice in her late thirties, and seeing how she was thriving now was really inspiring. It made me feel more confident about the new journey I was embarking on, and empowered me as an artist.


What’s the best piece of advice you have been given that you would like to pass along?

I think the best advice has been, "Just start." In my twenties, my artistic practice was constantly accompanied by a lot of self-doubt, and when I hit my thirties I was stuck between a feeling that I needed to continue on the path I had forged for myself, while wishing for a totally different creative outlet and career that would better respond to where I was in my personal life. But somehow I felt that it was too late to change. Now I see how silly that sounds, as nothing is set in stone and we can always go in new directions. I am much happier as an artist now.

Illustrations on scandanavian floral fabric

Illustrations on scandanavian floral fabric


Myriam is an artist and illustrator based in Quebec City, Canada. She was trained as a sculptor in Montreal, Canada, then in Helsinki, Finland, where she obtained a Masters degree in Environmental Art. Her practice recently shifted towards illustration, and her new body of work includes art prints, surface pattern design and mixed media collages. See more of Myriam's work here. Shop here.  Connect @helsinkimonamour

Words: Myriam Van Neste