With work featuring whimsical scenes, soft tones and the odd strange creature, we talk to Anja Bartelt, an illustrator based in the German capital of Berlin! Anja's use of mixed media and layers of texture pleases our creative eyes. Let's chat!
Your work is deep with textures, materials and colour! Could you tell us more about your illustration process?! And what has inspired you over the years to illustrate the way you do today?
As I don’t have a favorite medium or certain approach in working on a project I need to spread out all my materials, such as watercolors, acrylics, pens and pencils. After a while of staring at the white paper and thinking about what could appear there, I slowly start to draw and begin to really get into it. But I need some time to try to get into the flow and trust my intuition. I also do lots of drawings on loose paper or within sketchbooks. I put them away and give them a break until I get back to them later when they find their purpose.
Yes, textures, materials and colors are really important to me. I take lots of photos of textures and structures and use them as inspiration later on. Recently it was the carpet at a doctors waiting room. I am always looking to maintain the analogue aesthetic / feel in my work and experiment with different materials and techniques. I like to cut out shapes digitally to get a collaged affect and if the message is key to the piece I try to reduce my color palette and work more boldly, with simpler shapes. If it is about a certain feeling there can never be enough details, colors and textures.
I get mostly inspired by everyday life situations, surroundings, human interactions, such as overhearing funny conversations on the train or gesticulations. My images emerge of imagined and experienced situations that I translate into whimsical, soft-toned images. Besides that, I love to travel and even move to other places. I find adapting yourself to a new environment is exciting and challenging. I recently stayed for three months in Madrid, because the Berlin winter just felt endless this year. It helped me learn a lot about myself and how to get by when times are busy.
Your Madrid adventure seems so inspiring! However with your home being based in the amazing city of Berlin – what creative opportunities are available in the capital? Do you find for such an arty city, there are lots of fun things going on!?
There is so much to do in this bustling city, everyday there are cultural events, exhibitions and nightlife - It feels kind of overwhelming sometimes and instead people just take it easy and spend the whole summer in parks or sitting by the lake. I worked at this years’ Pictoplasma Event, which is about contemporary character design and I had the chance to see so many inspiring talks, from illustrators like Edel Rodriguez, Charlotte Mei and Jim Stoten. Summer in Berlin is great, as there are so many outdoor activities and festivals on the streets. I like the contrast of the urban roughness and the easiness of escaping to one of the green spots and finding yourself in peaceful nature.
Anja studied Visual Communication Design at the University of Applied Sciences Potsdam. Anja how was education for you? Had you always wanted to do something creative with your career?
It took me a while to take the path of becoming an illustrator. Speaking for myself, I would say I needed to be a certain age to be confident enough about choosing a career that is going to be tough and not straight-lined. Even though I was always drawing and interested in creating images, I started working in the hotel business. As most of my family‘s surroundings had gastronomic backgrounds, I just couldn’t think of anything else. This was not something I wanted to do for the rest of my life, so then I decided to study Visual Communication Design and very early-on I noticed my obsession for illustration. Before I didn’t really know a lot about the subject and it was great to grow in an environment of like-minded people and be supportive with one-another. I have earned some useful skills which seem quite basic, such as the ability to talk about your work and be reflective about it.
What is your creative space like?! Are you a messy-studio person, or one for the clean and minimal look? And do you feel more productive in the day or the night?
I’m using my flat as my studio. It can get quite messy, but sometimes after I‘ve finished a project, for a fresh start I need a clear space so the chaos needs to be eliminated. Just so that same chaos can start to arise again. A great thing of working as a freelance illustrator is being able to allot your time as you wish and follow my own creative impulses. Usually I start the morning by replying to e-mails and eventually doing accounting. I try to start creating afterwards, but it seems 17 o’ clock is the hour when the magic starts to happen. Before I am almost unable to do work I am satisfied with.
As a final and fun question, do you have any exciting projects lined up for the future?!
Currently I am creating a piece for Le Timbre, a monthly art subscription based in Barcelona. I love the concept of it, that each month the subscribers receive an exclusive piece of art, which is produced limited edition and using special print techniques. So I am excited to explore and experiment with some new techniques, such as risography. Another opportunity that I am excited about is that for the first time I will paint in big dimensions. Something I always wanted to do - I will do my first mural under the hot andalusian sun. I’m always trying to find time to have personal projects going on besides commissioned projects.
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