“I live on an island just out of Helsinki, and the weather here is very present all the time. It’s in the sea, the sky, the colors, and the atmosphere,” says Finnish designer, printmaker, and illustrator Aino-Maija Metsola, whose ink, marker, and gouache illustrations change like the weather—at times they look foggy, at other times clear. The dramatic climate has obviously rubbed off on her.
Using a water color case that she’s had since age 14, Metsola depicts her natural surroundings on textiles, book covers, and postcards. “I love how with watercolor you have to be very present and you can never plan that much, the end result is always a surprise.”
Take her pattern designs for Marimekko in 2012, a line of “Weather Diary” textiles that recorded all the changes in atmosphere she observed on the island over the course of a year.
Observing her surroundings and creating work in the moment means Metsola’s designs are a kind of visual stream of consciousness. So it’s apt that she’s just designed six new paperback book covers for Virginia Woolf novels (to be released by Vintage Classics on October 6, 2016).
“Painting with water color enabled me to create pictures that suit Woolf’s fluid writing,” says Metsola. “I was interested in making pictures with strong, possibly mysterious atmospheres, pictures that captivate the viewer, but not in an obvious way.” The cover for Mrs. Dalloway abstractly draws from the flowers arranged by the protagonist; The Waves from the rhythms of Woolf’s words; and on the cover of The Years, shapes flow by like passing time.
“For Orlando, I was thinking of the great oak tree that connects the main character to his/her roots while he/she changes, and evolves through the centuries,” Metsola explains. “For A Room of One’s Own, I painted abstract characters falling. I was thinking that they could symbolize text flowing freely without restriction, like rays of sun, or rain.”
It’s the cover image of To The Lighthouse that seems to strike closest to Metsola’s own world and way of thinking. Set on an island, most of the novel is written as thoughts and observations, and the illustrator seems to have brought her own stormy experience of island life to the design. Like Lily Briscoe, the discerning painter in the book, Metsola passes her eyes over the local scenes in front of her before “untying the knot in imagination” and putting brush to page.