Simon Stålenhag is an artist and designer specialising in futuristic artwork focused on stereotypical Swedish countryside environments. The settings of his work have been adapted into a range of art books and a tabletop game.
Stålenhag grew up in an rural environment near Stockholm, making illustrations of the local landscape inspired by artists such as Lars Jonsson. He only attempted science fiction artwork after discovering concept artists like Ralph McQuarrie and Syd Mead; initially this body of work was done as a side-project, without any planning behind it. Thematically, these pictures usually combine his childhood with themes from sci-fi movies, resulting in a stereotypical Swedish landscape with a neofuturistic bent. This means Stålenhag’s work can feature giant robots and megastructures alongside regular Swedish items like Volvo cars.
As his work has evolved, Stålenhag has created a backstory for it, focused around a governmental underground facility. In parallel to the real life decline of the Swedish welfare state, large machines slowly fail, and the eventual result of this remains a mystery. According to a 2013 interview with The Verge, “The only difference in the world of my art and our world is that … ever since the early 20th century, attitudes and budgets were much more in favour of science and technology.”
Outside of his usual canon, Stålenhag also drew 28 pictures of dinosaurs for the Swedish Museum of Natural History’s prehistoric exhibits, after he rediscovered his childhood interest in the creatures, and contacted the museum to see if he could do anything. In 2016, he followed this with pictures of hypothetical results of a rising ocean under climate change for Stockholm University’s Resilience Centre. He also did some promotional artwork for controversial video game No Man’s Sky.
Stålenhag uses a Wacom tablet and computer to illustrate his work, which is designed to resemble oil painting. Initially, he attempted to use various physical media to mimic a more traditional style, including gouache. Even after switching to digital methods, he stated that he puts “a lot of effort into making the digital brushes behave naturally and preserve a certain amount of ‘handwriting’ in the brush strokes.”
Stålenhag also worked on the platformer video game Ripple Dot Zero with Tommy Salmonsson. He has also been involved in a variety of commercials, films, and video gaming concepts. In conjunction with the crowdfunding of The Electric State, he produced and released an electronic music album with the same title as a backer goal. (Wikipedia)