Jukka Virkkunen – a Finnish Artist Whose Long and Winding Artistic Journey Started at the Age of 7 with His Teacher’s Phone Call to His Parents

 

Jukka is a super friendly and a positive guy from Finland. Seeing the world through his 2.04m, he paints abstract paintings so colorful that these bring joy to our souls. His winding road to becoming a full-time artist makes an inspiring story that will certainly put a smile on your face.

Jukka has been interested in art since the age of 7. He remembers that art felt really natural for him to do, and that he was good at it. He told us the story of how, once, his parents were invited to school because of his talent.

In elementary school art class, he made a beautiful clay sculpture. His teacher was so impressed by the work that she called Jukka’s parents to come and see it. The teacher then suggested that Jukka’s parents send him to an art school. The parents followed the suggestion, an Jukka studied in the art school till the age of 18.

But this is not how he became an artist. The story had some twists and turns that took him far away from his homeland, even to an entirely different field.

At the age of 17, he did a year of youth exchange studies in Brazil. After that he just stopped painting for about 7 years. Instead, he moved to Brazil at 21 y/o and opened a hardware store with his Brazilian wife Silvia. At that time, he was convinced that he would be a hardware store owner for the rest of his life. That was the plan – done deal or so it seemed.

After working at his hardware store for two full years (regular working hours & predictable days), he suddenly felt the urge to go to the university. In his own words, he wanted to study something ‘useless’. So, he chose graphic design and took evening classes at the local university.

During the four years at the uni, he was reborn. Slowly but surely, circumstances led him back to his childhood passion.

At the uni, they had to compile a photo book, featuring a local artist. He did not know much about Brazilian artists, so an architect friend suggested a local artist José Gonçalves for the project. For the next 3 months, he documented the artist’s work. This experience reminded him how much he had loved art in the past. Wanting to paint again, he went and bought a canvas. It happened in 2013. He has been painting ever since. Now, painting is his full-time job.

However, something happened in Brazil that made him turn to art once and for all. Namely, working a lot, studying hard and dreaming about the future, Jukka’s wife, at the age of 29, got a stroke. That experience helped Jukka realize that there was more to life than being a hardware store owner, and that it was time to change their life and move. Moreover, the economic depression hit Brazil quite hard around that time. Luckily, despite the difficult times, Jukka and his wife managed to sell their shop on the last day of 2015.

They moved back to Finland in 2016 during vappu which is a very special holiday in Finland. Vappu begins on the eve of 30 April and continues to 1 May, during which the Finnish people drink large amounts of sparkling wine and other alcoholic beverages. The celebrations peak on May 1 with festive picnics in public parks which means even more sparkling wine and large amounts of food. It must have felt wonderful to arrive back home at the time when the whole country was celebrating the arrival of spring.

So far, Jukka has sold his paintings to numerous foreign art lovers. His costumers are from Brazil, Finland, Norway, the States, Canada, MexicoAustralia, Belgium, Germany, South Africa and so on.

He has already had exhibitions in Brazil and in Finland. In August, he will have his first solo exhibition in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

The international experience feels completely natural to him. For him, art knows no geographical limits and cultural boundaries. A good artist is an explorer, indeed.

What are Jukka’s best achievements in art so far? In his own words, the fact that he found the courage to follow his dream. That he had guts to turn his life around against all odds. He had felt lost in life for many years. Then finally found him-self.

That would make a great Hollywood movie scenario – his inner battle of choosing between the hardware store in Brazil and painting. Moreover, Jukka and his wife are both coming from entrepreneurial and practical families which, normally, would make it very unlikely for people to make such radical changes in life as they managed to do.

Jukka, according to him-self, is doing abstract art in its purest form. He enjoys many different artists, but feels that his work is not directly influenced by any of these artists. Could be that the Brazilian culture and life-style influenced him on a sub-conscious level, he agrees. However, he has always enjoyed colors, already back when he was painting at high school. His mission is to give joy through his art.

So, how did Jukka hear about Slowball? In Helsinki, from an American guy who is a good friend of Franke, the founding father of Slowball. One day, Jukka was working in a co-working space (since they did not have a studio yet), where he happened to sit next to Matt. They started talking and the rest is history.

Jukka thinks that the whole idea of Slowball is very nice. He did some murals in Brazil, so he is very keen on trying out other different surfaces as well. Why not painting on an old crappy car when the opportunity presents it-self so conveniently. For him, it is definitely a once in a life-time opportunity.

Welcome to Slowball, Jukka!