How did you get started in illustration and design? It all started with that classic, boring story about the kid who always drew a lot. From these early days on, I never thought about doing something other than drawing for a living, so my formal education followed accordingly. After my A levels, I did an apprenticeship as a media designer, and after that, I studied graphic design at the Hochschule Darmstadt in Darmstadt, Germany. Simultaneously, I started to get into the hardcore punk scene of my hometown and made artwork for album covers and merch for local bands. In the last few semesters of my studies, I put my work on Instagram and Behance and got inquiries from editorial clients. It strangely kept growing automatically to the not-taken-for-granted situation I’m in today.
Your work seems to inhabit a convergence of Dali-esque surrealism and ’80s and ’90s nostalgia. What inspired you to develop your visual language? This is a hard question to which I haven’t found a coherent answer yet. I can’t say that I actively looked at surrealists’ work to learn and adapt, but somehow these artists—and others—have found their way into my subconscious mind. When it comes to the ’80s and ’90s nostalgia, I’m definitely inspired by the old science fiction book covers and tech ads of that period. Both influences have a commonality: s
How have you adapted your visual language for commercial work? It’s not that I proactively change anything—it’s more that, with given topics and briefings, different, foreign motifs and elements find their way into your work. You have to figure out how to include them in a way that feels natural and make these elements your own. It’s still quite a challenge.
You’ve worked on everything from posters and album covers to editorial work to zines to skateboard graphics and clothing. What have been some of your favorite projects to work on? Some favorites include the poster for the film High Life released with pop-culture collectible brand Mondo or the one I did for Eddie Vedder’s concert at the Beacon Theatre earlier in 2022. Then, the entire album and single artworks for rock band The Dirty Nil’s album Fuck Art, or my first and only cover for newspaper Die Zeit. Also, all my collaborations with skate and apparel brand Volcom and the skateboard designs I did with design director Dave Gitlin for the skate brand GLOBE have been absolute dream gigs.
How do you approach all these different applications for your illustration? When it comes to skateboard graphics and clothing, I like to treat the illustrations more like stickers with enclosed outer shapes that interact with the surrounding form of the board of the shirt. Also, briefings tend to be more open here, so it’s almost like I’m doing freewheeling personal work. In my editorial and album cover art, I like to treat the illustration more like a snippet of a larger scene. I absolutely love to work with lyrics, the music and the atmosphere of the album and find a visual translation or encoding for it.
What inspired you to create your personal works Daymare Boogie and The Psychic Vault? How do you balance your personal and commercial work? The Psychic Vault emerged from a mere technical bookbinding course at university where we had to come up with our own content. I just got back from an internship semester, and it felt like my creative juices were loosened up. I had a strong connection to myself, my doubts, my view on daily life, and my inherent tendency to melancholic, morbid and gloomy stuff. So, basically, all I did was sit down and start drawing whatever emerged from my subconscious—not in an esoteric, drug-induced-like way. The same process applies to Daymare Boogie; I was given 100 empty pages, sat down and filled them in a few weeks. I have never again felt this feeling I’d describe as a “creative high” yet—but I’ve also never tried!
What is your biggest challenge as an illustrator? Until not long ago, I struggled a lot with loving my own work, comparing myself to other artists too much, and getting depressed. By focusing on projects with an actual physical presence in the real world—instead of creating content for the colorful flood of images known as the internet—and on projects closer to my heart, like gig posters or album artwork for bands, I somehow managed to overcome this struggle. My work now feels more relevant—for a while, I hope.
What other profit centers could illustrators explore besides commissioned work? Creating and selling prints of your personal work seems like an obvious way to go. At least, that’s what I would like to do more often.
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? If you haven’t already, I would create a body of work and get that out and seen on platforms like Instagram and Behance. This body of work does not need to be commissioned at all—it could be re-creations of your ten favorite music albums or the last ten headline articles of the New York Times—if either of these are the kinds of work you want to end up creating. Try to find out where you want to go, keep an eye on the map, find your own path and put on the right shoes. ca