Posted on 18 Apr, 2013

Linda Aslaksen, often known as Zina, is a young London-based street artist who has become well known for her blue-scale portraits of women and children. She has been getting a lot of attention this past year and has been invited to an increasing number of street art festivals. Guest editor James Buxton finds out more.

painting next to Elfin in London

Why So Blue?

My name ‘Zina’ basically comes from cutting out of magazines: my style was more collage based when I finished university two years ago. It was quicker to produce a final piece and I had lots of fun making crazy and quirky characters. Zina also means ‘stranger’ in Greek; I find it funny how most people think of Xena the Warrior Princess when they hear it. Being a woman in a male-dominated culture I’m definitely OK with having a warrior name!

I’ve always drawn - it was basically a way my Mum kept three energetic kids occupied. I come from a creative family and I’d draw on the school desk, on my arms, etc. I’d draw on everything! That’s why I’m addicted to collecting sketchbooks now instead.

I got into using acrylic and gouache six years ago when doing my Art and Design foundation degree near Oslo, Norway (I’m from Norway originally). My teacher at university always encouraged me to paint bigger! I only started using spray paint two years ago, when I first moved to London. It took me a couple of pieces to getting the hang of it. Mostly, I’ve sprayed at live events. My older brother was a big influence: he was a [graffiti] writer and into throw-ups and bombing. 

When I’m finding portraits for my street pieces, I look for the expression of emotion and the right shading / light. The shading has to be interesting or challenging enough, with a certain depth to it. I also find inspiration from different ethnic cultures (I’m an ethnic minority myself - the Sami people in north of Scandinavia).

My themes keep changing; I stated copying cartoons, then drawing landscapes, characters, etc. Now I’m testing out realistic elements, with a more positive attitude and emotion behind it. I’m looking to somehow merge my illustrative paintings with these ‘blue’ faces. As for the illustrations, I do a lot of research before starting. I have a main idea, but all the details and meanings have to work together, like pieces in a machine. I read about mythology, symbolism and ancient cultures, and mix it up with a little bit of steam punk elements.

I have a lot of influences, from Dali to the stories and illustrations of Shaun Tan, to Mark Rydens and Brian Despains. The list is long! Right now my favourite street artists are Dulk and Belin; their level of craftsmanship and raw talent can’t be missed. I also like INTI, with his detailed cultural pattern work and warm colors. I prefer street art when it has an illustrative touch.

I love travelling, and I hope I can somehow mix that and painting very soon. I would paint the world if it was possible, doing events and collaborations with artists all over; South Europe and South America is top of the list. I hope to do solo show in the near future, I think I’m going to use the winter times to start producing more work. Anyway, I’m just going to dream big, focus on my work and keep evolving.


collab with False

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