BIOGRAPHY: Lars Sjööblom

Lars Sjööblom was born in Lidköping, Sweden in 1956. He became interested in engraving when attending the Stockholm School for Advertising from 1977 to 1979, where a teacher introduced him to the graphic art form. This teacher soon noticed how talented Sjööblom was, and encouraged him to participate in the training course set up at the School of Engraving; a joint project from the Royal Swedish Post and the printing company Tumba Bruk. While there, from 1979 to 1981, Sjööblom was taught the art of engraving by the famous stamp engraver Arne Wallhorn. He obviously became a role model for Sjööblom, although the other classes during the course, focusing on art history, instilled a deep respect and admiration for classic graphic artists such as Dürer and Rembrandt. At the end of the course, Sjööblom, just as the other eleven students, was offered a position at the printing company.

In 1982, the Royal Swedish Post held a competition for that year’s Europa stamp. Sjööblom duly entered and won the competition; his stamp portraying Anders Celsius was issued in April of 1982. For someone just starting out, the stamp was praised for its professional approach of a light but assured engraving.

Shortly after, in 1983, Sjööblom was offered permanent employ at the Swedish post. While having a number of colleagures at first, among which his former teacher and role model Wallhorn, for a long time, Sjööblom was the only engraver actually employed by the Swedish post, with all other engravers working on a freelance basis.

Sjööblom had chosen the portrait of Celsius after seeing the 19th century lithograph of it, which whetted his appetite. According to Sjööblom, “portraits are amazing fun to work with”. His favourite stamp, too, is a portrait stamp. It is the 2000 7k70 Nobel Prize winner stamp portraying Nelly Sachs. Another Nobel Prize winner, Sigrid Undset, appeared on a stamp in 1998. It has been praised for its very high class engraving.

During his career, Sjööblom became well-known for his animal and nature stamps. According to him his love for nature, and for trying to capture it in his art, came when he walked the hills one day and found a Garden Angelica so beautiful that it warmed his heart. He took it home with him and it ended up on a Swedish stamp issued in 1984, part of the ‘Mountain World’ set. It could be argued that his talent for engraving animals culminated in a special engraving he did for a map type booklet issued by the Swedish Post in 2004 called Four Engravers Under a Magnifying Glass. His large engraving of the Golden Eagle is truly stunning.

In 2006, Sjööblom got the honour to engrave the stamps marking the Swedish king’s 60th birthday. He created an engraving which was inspired by the etching technique of aquatint. This was born out of necessity: the photo material given lacked any real nuance differences, and so Sjööblom tried to recreate that by engraving thousands of small strokes, so that the end result was not like a traditional line engraving, but like engraved colour patches. The stamps also illustrate Sjööblom’s views on typography on recess-printed stamps; this should fit the engraving seamlessly, be clear and uncluttered, and in no way interfere with the engraved parts.

Sjööblom won two awards in the biannual polls organised by the Government Postage Stamp Printers’ Association. In 2006, he won in the category ‘Best Intaglio Stamp, with his 2005 Danish 4k50 stamp portraying H C Andersen and in 2014 he won again, this time in the ‘Best Combination Stamp’ category, which honours stamps which are part recess, part in other printing process, for his 2012 Johanne Heiberg stamp, also issued in Denmark.

Sjööblom was one of the five engravers who worked on the Belgian sheet of 2014 celebrating the Grand Place in Antwerp. The idea behind this international collaboration was that the sheet should also become a showcase of engraving techniques. Sjööblom’s stamp, the one in the top left corner of the sheet, for example, was engraved entirely by dots alone. Whilst in the beginning his way style of engraving was frowned upon as being ‘against the rules’, he is now seen as a pioneer in the art.

The dot engraving technique facilitates fluid transitions between darker and lighter parts of the design, which is especially ideal for organic subject matter. No wonder then that Sjööblom in his career has tended to specialise in flora and fauna. But it works well with portraits too. His 1993 portrait of the Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, shows how he combined the traditional technique, used for the lady's swirling hair, and the dot technique, used for her skin, in the most beautiful way.

Sjööblom was still riding the waves of his artistic success story, when in 2016, out of the blue, the Swedish Post decided to stop issuing engraved stamps, leaving Sjööblom suddenly without a job and a future. It took him about a year to get over this shock, but he has since tried to establish himself as a freelance illustrator and designer, and as such has managed to land himself a number of stamp design commissions for Sweden and the Aland Islands.  

You will find Lars Sjööblom's database HERE.

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