Einar Turkowski grew up in a small town near Kiel, Germany, and received his degree from Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. His first book, it was dark and eerily quiet , received several international awards. Classically and wonderfully, he creates his work with graphite pencils.
- Hi Einar! Please tell us about your background. What originally make you want to become an illustrator?
Well, in fact there was never a doubt that I always wanted to make something with art. In reality I started to make small book projects at the age of five or six. It began with little magazines about ghosts and monsters. Then later on I already made three complete book projects before I began to study illustration in Hamburg. But on the other hand I always loved to make big abstract works painted in Acryl. It has been a little bit luck as well because a very long time I didn’t knew that it would be possible to study illustration. But at the end I came in exactly the right illustration class at the Highschool of Applied Sciences in Hamburg. That was the best thing that could happen to me.
- What superpower do you have?
I don’t believe that I have a superpower. But I think that I have a good feeling for the right composition, the right feeling of what makes a drawing or illustration interesting. When I was in school before studying I remember to become some A4 sheets about the most important contrasts in painting. I recognized that all these contrasts could work for black and white drawings as well and I found out that you can make contrasts out of much more things. To use all these on exactly the right place to catch the viewers interest is what I do again and again. This formed a high analytic way of seeing. This is what I am good in on the one hand. On the other hand I have a real vivid fantasy and I am given a high power of imagination. But I also started to form an own aesthetics while studying old masters of arts especially in black and white graphics so I get used to this very early. And one thing that I am really good in is to have patience …
- What is your work-day like?
My work day is not very spectacular. I work each day in the week but I am just capable of drawing just 4 hours per day, two in the morning and two in the evening. This is because I have to be very concentrated and after two hours of drawing my eyes get tired and my concentration gets bad. So if I want to hold this high precise level I always need breaks in between.
- What materials do you enjoy working with the most?
I like everything that has to do with drawing or graphic techniques. I like all kind of pens and pencils, coloured pencils, marker or fineliner. But of course graphite is my favourite material.
But if I work in bigger sizes on canvas for example I also like acryl paint. And I really like to mix techniques that are not to be meant for this.
- How do you make the leap from an idea in your head to the action you produce?
I always try to think very early about the concept of a book.
So thinking about the typography and the layout at first is essential
and extremely important if you want to reach a really exciting overall picture. And every new story wants to have its own attention and its own concept. If the typography is good, the pictures will be pushed once more.
Once I have been an intern of stage design and sometimes (not every time) my illustrations could be reminiscent of stage designs perhaps. When I was young I liked to make short films with an old super-8-camera and today I like to figure an illustration as a room or as a space where all the action takes place. That is one of the reasons why sometimes I leave out characters. In my point of view it could be very interesting to show just a scenery in which several things even could have happen or will happen. That‘s what the reader has to find out and that‘s why he is invited to let his fantasy work.
So a stage design and an illustration have similarities. They both try to catch the readers view to lead him into a special world. And if you just have the scenery without characters you have the chance of reliving the story many times, and perhaps, each time it will be different.
Mostly I have very detailed thoughts about my characters when the story already exists. So I just try to imagine how they should look like and thenmake some sketches to bring my thoughts to paper. Moreover I try to put forward some characteristics.
Because my ideas in my head are mostly relatively clear, the most important thing is to ask myself if there couldn’t be another version of the picture that already exists in my head. Even when making the first sketches it is very important to find more than one solution for one idea. So because of this I always try to produce many variations for just one illustration before I decide which one ist the best. Sometimes the first idea is the best one but sometimes the better versions come later.
The secret is not to be too satisfied too early.
- Your illustrations are so vivid , do you use photo references or illustrate base on your memory?
It depends on what the story wants me to do. Sometimes it’s better to work just with your fantasy, sometimes I prefer to make a lot of black and white photos as reference material. But I never copy, it’s just to see how things look like in reality and to be correct in proportions.
- What types of illustration projects do you enjoy working on? Why?
I really like to move on the boundary between fantasy and surrealistic components on the one hand and the reality on the other. This produces irritations that makes my illustrations interesting. The viewer sees elements he/she knows and suddenly there are objects that are not so easy to classify. I enjoy these confusing moments.
- How much does it take to complete a project?
The first book took me almost three years, because the original illustrations were not really small and moreover I wrote the story, made the typography and everything else. These days I am a little bit faster but one project could take one or one and a half years. I need one month for one illustration more or less.
- Which artists are you most influenced by?
At the beginning it was Ludwig Richter, A. Paul Weber, Albrecht Dürer and Horst Janssen that really teached me many things. Hal Foster, Tomi Ungerer, Friedrich Karl Waechter as well. In these days there are so many outstanding artists that I am impressed of very often. I like artist from free art like Michael Fieseler, Neo Rauch or Laurie Hogin as much as illustrators like Emanuel Lepage, Chris van Allsburgh, Thierry Murat or Romain Renard. There are much more …
- What memorable responses have you had to your work?
The most memorable responses have been the two grand prix that I achieve for two of my books, but every winning award is great as a response. And of course winning awards in the countries is very nice. There are also many little stories that really impress me. Sometimes I become friendly letters from all over the world that a really great.
- What do you think about the role of an illustrator in the society?
I never thought about my role of an illustrator in the society. I just try to make my way. But what I would like to be a side effect is that people learn to develop their own aesthetics. So I am just a small part of offering another style of illustration and of being part of a huge variety of authentic illustrative and narrative handwritings. So even if my artwork is just for a small group of people, it probably helps them to see the world in a different way. I prefer not to push the well known but to raise interesting questions.
To make people aware of seeing in their own way ant to see exactly and twice is what I want them to encourage. And of course I want to bring them a little bit of magic. But this depends on what every single person brings with itself while looking and reading my books.
- What do you like and dislike about the illustration world?
What I really dislike is mainstream illustrations and people who ask questions and who are not willing to find an answer for these. And of course the payment could be better. But the rest is one of the best jobs in the world because everything is about to bring exciting stories to the people. And you can work for this whenever and wherever you want to.
- How do you think online design resources have influenced the art being produced today?
I can’t say this but what I realize is that everything is getting faster and faster so that people have more and more difficulties in taking time for watching and for searching for answers. I think that for the development of ourselves and our children it is dangerous to get used to just one kind of medium and one kind of illustration. Variety is the spice of life …
- What are some of the most important considerations in creating an illustration today?
To give time and happiness and to move peoples fantasy. To show them a different way of seeing and of course to teach them to be fair and full of respect towards theirselves, other human beings and nature.
- Where do you see illustration going in the next few years?
What I realize is that students and professional illustrators more and more use digital methods for illustration. I hope that on the other hand the analogue techniques will survive so that everyone is able to chose and see the difference.