Interview with Illustrator, Katrin Funcke

How did you get started doing what you do?
I was studying Graphic Design in Braunschweig, Germany, at the School of Fine Arts. A new Professor arrived, Ute Helmbold, she was very interesting and taught me that making pictures really is a way of communication. I got into it more and more until Illustration just took over. In the end, my impression is that now I am doing what I always wanted and was always best in, but it took me some turns to get there.

How would you describe your creative style?
Vivid and spontaneous.

What’s your inspiration?
Drawing itself. Searching and finding interesting lines and expressions in a drawing. The process is relaxing and thrilling at the same time.

What does your typical day look like?
Get up, get the kids to school, cycling to the studio, Being upset because it just doesn’t work that day or being happy because it does, either going home in the afternoon to pick up the kids and spend the rest of the day with them or, in case my husband picks them up, working late- later than I thought I would.

How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
1-2 days, it depends.

How do you keep motivated?
I try to take a break every year. One week in spring I meet with old friends to work on a project together, always personal work. It is interactive drawing. We won’t make it this year, I already miss it. In everyday life, my studio keeps me motivated. We are 12 people there (illustrators, graphic designers, animators) -really good atmosphere. I can ask for an opinion if needed (Green or blue? Is it any good? Do you get the story?) we have lunch together- lovely people, it’s uplifting.

What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
Take the risk, don’t be overcautious! I tend to be overcautious. It stands in my way.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
“If you ever think your work is lame, crib your former self.” It means: look at your older work and you will see what accomplishments you have already. This helps you to focus- not to look left and right what all the others are doing and get confused, but do it your way.

Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
With your artwork, just get started. It’s about doing and practising. The more you do the better you get in the long run. To put it another way: if you are interested long enough you will get somewhere. The monetary aspect- talk to people, talk to art directors and colleagues. Search for an agent. You need to make them know you. Take business classes. It is not your hobby, it is your job.

People will ask you to work for free frequently. Be prepared or it will roll over you and you will be worn out before you have made any money to live upon. I allow myself to work for free 1-2 times a year for non-profit organisations I like to support.

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What are your thoughts on art school?
I had the time of my life. Very inspiring, something new came up every day: inspiring people, events, workshops. Loads of time to experiment and try out. Today, I have the impression studying is loaded with so much pressure and deadlines, there is no time to make a mistake and fail once in a while. Which is a shame. Failure is a way to start fresh- no mistakes, no serendipity.

Have any future aspirations that you’d like to share?
I can imagine it would be nice to have painted pictures animated. I would love to work with someone who knows how to do it.

What’s your dream project?
Some big fashion spread. Or a book about the life of Billie Holiday.

What art supplies do you use?
Mainly black ink and goose quills, acrylic paint and brushes (pointy and/or broad), coloured paper, Photoshop.

What’s your process like?
Sometimes I have an idea and simply go for it. Then it often does not work out and I have to alter it in the process. I am done when my picture tells the story. If I have no idea (which happens to be the case sometimes) I just start drawing and wait for something to happen. When the process is getting exciting, I know I am on the right path.

In portraits, I prefer to draw from a model- light is important- I use my desk lamps to lighten the face, mostly from the side to have hard shadows modeling the face. If I have to draw from photos, I search for different images of a person, so I can imagine different angles of the face. Then, I really fuss about getting started. I walk up and down and surround my table in circles. I guess I need this to get in the mood and concentrate. Mostly, the first portrait I draw or paint is rubbish. The second or third is good. If there is any background or surrounding scene, that is something I think about later on, based on the story or character. Some things just come up when I look at that painted face.

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