Two Careers – One Passion

7 May 2024

Finding a balance between work and leisure isn't always easy – unless, of course, your greatest passion happens to be the thing you work with. Meet Niklas Tinnsten, the illustrator and visual artist who dedicates almost all his waking hours to creating images.

It feels like I live and breathe images. And I have almost always done so. Perhaps it sounds a bit dull but ask me what I do for a living and what my greatest interest is, and I will give you the same answer twice – creating images.

Creating images – A lifelong passion 

Since childhood, Niklas has been artistically inclined, and even though he played football and participated in other activities as a child, drawing was always at the top of the list. It was this great interest for the visual arts that also led him to apply for the "Informative illustration" program at Mälardalen University in Eskilstuna in 2002. After three years and with a degree in hand, he moved back to his hometown Östersund where he found employment as an illustrator at TIKAB (Teknikinformation i Krokum AB) in 2007. TIKAB was later acquired by Combitech in 2015. In other words, Niklas has been working as an illustrator at TIKAB and Combitech for 17 years, quite impressive considering he is only 41 years of age.


At TIKAB and subsequently Combitech, I have always been involved in illustrations, images, and graphics of various forms. It has ranged from schematic images, exploded view images and educational materials to more abstract things. It's very diverse, which I find enjoyable. It rarely gets boring, and that's probably why I have chosen to stay in the same position for so long.


Finding the balance between two careers 

However, Niklas is not only a talented illustrator, but also a visual artist. Two days a week, he takes leave from Combitech to spend his time in his studio at Härke Art Center, where he engages in drawing, painting, and other graphic techniques. Currently, he is working on a project where he paints acrylic on plywood.


It all started when Niklas took a year's leave in 2012 to attend a two-year course at Östersund Art School. Since graduating, he has taken 1-2 days of leave per week from his job at Combitech to be able to express his creativity and pursue his dreams as an artist.


It feels very luxurious to have this opportunity from Combitech to take leave and work in this way. They have been very understanding from the start. We've always had good communication, and I've always been given a yes when I've asked for extended leave and so on. But it's not just smooth sailing, taking two days leave each week also means that I must live a bit more frugally. I don't have children however, so maybe I save some money there (laughs).


Niklas describes the balance and interplay between his different roles as very good – one job contributes energy and inspiration to the other. Although both fall within the realm of visual creation, there are also clear differences. For example, in his artistic creation, he often works alone, while in his role at Combitech, he collaborates with colleagues and clients.


Niklas sees the variation as something positive – he appreciates that he can sometimes dedicate Saturday to Tuesday to an art project, as they often take quite some time to finish, and then switch to Combitech where he can gather new impressions and energy, and vice versa.


It's comforting to have both of my careers for balance; I appreciate the security that my job at Combitech provides. When it comes to my art it feels much harder to know what the future holds. It entirely depends on the opportunities for exhibitions and commissions, and if people appreciate what I do.


Embracing future challenges 

At Combitech, there's exciting times ahead. E-learning is currently on the agenda, which will require a lot of material provided by Niklas and his colleagues, something he finds exciting. Then, there is also the emergence of Ai to consider and whether it will help or hinder illustrators in their work. Even if Niklas finds the potential of AI exciting, he also sees the importance of maintaining control of the creative process – to make sure the content that he and his colleagues produce is of high quality as well as factually correct.


There's obviously a risk of disinformation when it comes to Ai. That's why it feels important that we maintain control, that there are real illustrators and writers and not just AI. I think that's a crucial part in creating a smart and resilient society.


So, what's ahead for Niklas in his career?


I would probably say that I am, in a way, living my dream right now. To have an outlet for joy of creation and creativity and at the same time have a secure job where I also get to create. I no longer experience any Monday blues. I'm not sure how much I had before either, but when I worked five days a week, there was naturally always some fatigue on Sundays. However, now I truly feel refreshed on Mondays and still have plenty of energy for my days at Combitech.

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