Availability for Work
Are you available for freelance work? Do you take commissions?
I'm currently not looking for any type of commissioned work and I don't see myself taking any freelance jobs in the foreseeable future. Instead, I'm dedicating all my time to personal projects.
Can I get one of your artworks tattooed?
I don't make artwork for this purpose and most pieces probably wouldn't be a good fit. But if you see a drawing that you like and find a tattoo artist that is willing to give it a shot, I'm 100% ok with that. It's extremely flattering to think that you would want to wear my art on your body. Please, send me a picture when it's done. I'd love to see it!
Education and Career
How old are you and how long have you been drawing?
I was born in 1990 and I have been drawing ever since I could hold crayons. It has always been my passion, but I always saw it as more of a hobby. But finally, in 2009, I decided to become a professional artist and started putting a lot more time and effort into improving my craft. You can see the progression in this Improvement Meme that I put together.
How did you learn to draw? Did you go to art school?
Fanart has been my driving force since I was 5. I watched a lot of anime shows and wanted to be able to draw characters as well as the ones I saw on TV. So I copied them from magazines or drew them from memory. Later on, I would make up my own characters and look at reference for poses and costumes. I never received any formal training, but I was always seeking out resources that could help me make better images. In 2009, I started taking art very seriously. Tutorials on YouTube and books gave me most of the information I needed (see Resources). However, studying photos and the works of my favourite artists probably played the biggest part in my artistic development.
I did go to university, but not art school. I enrolled in Japanese Studies in 2009 and switched to Education in 2010, which would qualify me to become a school teacher for art and English (In Germany, there's a specific university programme for becoming a teacher). My plan was to improve my art in my free time, so that I would be at a professional level once I graduated. I finished all my courses in 2015 and handed in my Master's thesis in 2017, which officially made me “Master of Education.” While it was hard to juggle university, art and part-time jobs, I'm glad I pushed through and got my degree, in case I ever want to pursue teaching or any other career path.
How did you become a professional artist?
In 2009, I started putting my work on Deviantart and started to grow my following that way. As a result, started getting private commissions in 2012. Later on, I expanded my online presence to platforms such as Instagram and Twitter to get my art seen by as many people as possible. In late 2015, when I finished all my courses at university, I started sending out my portfolio to gaming companies. Right away, I got picked up by Ulisses Spiele and started painting characters and a few covers for them. I went full-time freelance and also worked on trading card games, board games and kept doing private commissions for indie authors.
How do you make a living as an artist?
After working as a full-time freelance artist for one year (2015-2016), I got burnt out and had to realise that I wasn't happy with the work that I was making. My own artistic voice got lost along the way and I knew that something had to change. So I took the advice that I had heard on my favourite art podcast, One Fantastic Week, and started taking steps to restructure my business. I set up a Patreon account as a way to fund a few personal pieces here and there. A few months later, I opened my online store and started selling limited edition prints of my artwork, as well as original drawings. This allowed me to take fewer and fewer freelance jobs, up to the point where I didn't have to rely on them at all. In 2017, I ran my first successful Kickstarter. I'm continously focusing on my online store and new product launches: Zines, pins and other merchandise. Right now, I'm making a living exclusively through the direct support of my followers, whom I love dearly!
Can you give me a portfolio review or career advice?
As I'm gaining more followers on social media, I'm also receiving a lot more messages of people asking for advice. I'm trying my best to get back to everyone individually, but sometimes I just can't. I hope you understand.
If you're an artist wanting to become a professional, I can give you the following three pieces of advice: 1) Work on your craft 2) Don't try to force yourself into a style that isn't natural to you and 3) Share your work on social media. If you have great work, but skip the sharing part, you're not doing yourself a favour. Putting your work in front of people leads to so many opportunities. And also, don't give up, it is possible to make a living as an artist. It is challenging and unlike most conventional career paths, but in the end it is absolutely worth it. The only secret is to keep going and to keep learning. The artists that make it are those that just refused to give up.
Materials & Techniques
What medium do you work in and what supplies do you use?
I mostly work digitally. For a detailed list of my software and supplies, check out the Resources section.
What is your process for digital artwork?
You can find some timelapse recordings of my work on my YouTube channel. I'm also sharing Photoshop files on my Patreon, so that you can see a detailed breakdown of all my layers. Generally, I can say that I'm always starting out with lines. I've always been more of a drawing person. I see the world in lines, not shapes.
How long does it take you to finish an illustration?
I can't give you an exact number of hours, because 1) I don't really keep track and 2) it depends on the individual piece. But generally, I like to plan ahead and break it down into big chunks that I spread over roughly 4 days. Day 1) Gathering reference and drawing the detailed sketch. Day 2) Detailed lineart. Day 3 and 4) Colour. Depending on the complexity of the image, I might only need a few hours to complete the task for the day or I might work until midnight. It depends. I like this structured approach, since it gives me a concrete goal for the day.
Inspirations & Style
Do you use reference images?
Yes, absolutely! For me, gathering reference images is as much fun as drawing itself – if not more. There is so much cool stuff out there, so why would I stick to the limited library that I have in my head. If you want to take a look at my reference boards, I have everything neatly organised on my Pinterest account. That being said, I avoid copying a single image directly (unless it is a study and done for practice). Nothing bothers me more than seeing an illustration that is clearly based on a photo that I know, with just a few minor changes. So I always use multiple images and take bits and pieces from each. I treat reference as a means to inform the concept that I have in mind, rather than a single image that dictates it – my final illustration is a puzzle that I'm piecing together from all the diffrent elements it requires. So I'm often using up to 20 or 30 for a single illustration – faces, colours, lighting, environments, constumes etc. etc. For poses, I always take photos of myself or a friend, using my phone camera and a timer. To display my reference on my second monitor, I use the programme PureRef (see Resources).
Where do you find your inspiration/ideas?
I love finding cool stuff on Pinterest and I always get inspired browing my collections. But overall, Japanese aesthetics (especially anime) are my biggest influence. Everything that I consumed at a young age has been engraved into my brain and has shaped my taste and interests. Studio Ghibli movies in particular reflect the kind of feeling that I want to capture in my work. When I was a child, I used to spend my summers in my gradparents' garden. It was surrounded by wide fields, forests and a canal. I would stroll through the woods and make bows and arrows out of branches. Most of what I'm creating now is an attempt to capture that wave of nostalgia that washes over me whenever I think about those summers. That's also why nature and plants are recurring themes in my work.
Other than that, I've always been drawn to stories that had strong female leads and fantastic elements in them. When I was younger, I was obsessed with heroines such as Sailor Moon and Princess Fantaghirò. And now, I still love to read about them in books. Generally, genre fiction is where I find a lot of my inspiration. Taking an author's decription of something and turning it into a concrete image is incredibly exciting to me.
Who are your favourite artists?
My number one favourite has to be Iain McCaig, because his pencil drawings evoke such a strong sense of wonder in me: A combination of familiarity and excitement that I can't quite explain. When I first saw them it felt as if I had finally found a piece of myself that had been missing.
And then there are so many more (in no particular order): Kazuo Oga, Charlie Bowater, Karla Ortiz, Amei Zhao, Sachin Teng, Tran Nguyen, Hiroshi Yoshida, Loika, Pete Mohrbacher, Nadia Kim
How did you develop/find your style?
In 2009, I found out that there was such a thing as concept art and fantasy illustration and that people were actually being paid to do it! That was the first example of “art as a career” that I had ever come across (aside from the fine art market, which still is a mystery to me). So I decided to become one of those fantasy illustration people. Since the style was universally realistic and highly rendered, I assumed that it was the only available option if you wanted to make a living as an artist. So I worked hard and forced myself to paint realistically. I got good enough at it to be hired by gaming companies, but it never felt quite right. Not to mention that I was not one of those kids that grew up reading Tolkien and playing DnD. It just wasn't my world, but nevertheless, I thought that I had to make myself fit in.
In 2016, as I discovered more and more artists on Instagram and Twitter whose work was very stylised, it dawned on me that they were making a living, too. And they had the luxury of being themselves! I wanted that, too. So I had to do some soul-searching. I had always been annoyed when my pencil sketches got more traction on social media than my final, rendered paintings. But now I decided to embrace it: If I was good at line drawings, why not keep them in my final work. I took a few weeks to experiment with different colouring styles until I arrived at the one I'm still using today: cel shading. Once again, my anime influence was stronger than everything else. Since I had worked in this style as a kid/teenager, it had become second nature to me and felt very natural. With that, I was able to play around with colours a lot more and my illustrations became lighter and more saturated as a result. So, only when I stopped fighting what I was good at, everything fell into place. I scrapped the realism and embraced my natural strengths instead. You can see my stylistic progression throughout the years in this Improvement Meme that I put together. Often, all it takes to find your style is to open your sketchbook and a box with old drawings that you did when you were younger.
Buying from my Store
Why do you only sell limited edition items on your website?
I want my prints to be premium collector's items. Also, I prefer making new work on a regular basis that can replace my older illustrations. So keeping the number of prints limited, is a logical step for me.
Will you ever restock a print that is sold out?
If a limited edition is sold out, it won't be reprinted. But that does not mean that I'm never going to use the illustration on other products again. I might include it in zines, for example. I also reserve the right to release another print run to sell at conventions, but on smaller paper and in a quality that can in no way compete with the fine art limited edition print. This way, I can guarantee the exclusivity and value of the limited editions.