Donnerstag, 5. Mai 2011

small talk ::: jens bonnke

today i have a small talk with jens bonnke, a berlin-based illustrator. i have come across him via the awesome picture book "flugsaurier = gaulfriseur. tierische anagramme" (flugsaurier = gaulfriseur. animal anagrams) that he has illustrated.

(c) jens bonnke
i was born in paris and grew up in brussels and bonn. my studies then took me to trier and i later moved to berlin, where i still live and work today. i studied visual communication at the berlin university of arts. during my studies i already began to specialise in illustration, taking classes with jürgen spohn and later with jan lenica. with the latter also completed my thesis – a series of illustrations for anthony burgess' “a clockwork orange”.

illustration for the nyt (c) jens bonnke
after my studies i spent a while working as a graphic designer, which didn't make me very happy. since the mid-90s i have been exclusively focusing on illustration and have been doing it ever since. my work is mostly of an editorial nature, i.e. my clients are magazines and newspapers. but some work also comes from publishing houses, advertising agencies or designers.

these clients are varied, including the german news magazine stern, the new york times, the magazine of the german süddeutschen zeitung newspaper, harvard business manager, rolling stone magazine, le monde diplomatique, geo saison, impulse, business week, runners world and the women’s magazine brigitte.

my first children’s’ book was published three years ago: schräger vogel, krummer hund (editor’s note: these are german idioms for what would be termed a “shady character” in english. literally translated they mean “weird bird” and “crooked dog”). it is about german idioms and turns of phrase which feature animals. included in the expressions are german sayings like “to give one’s monkey sugar” – or, rather, to ride one’s hobby horse in english. it’s all designed as something like a picture puzzle: the illustrations show a scene which depicts a turn of phrase or idiom which can be guessed by the reader.

title from flugsaurier = gaulfriseur.
tierische anagramme
(c) jens bonnke
my second book was published a few weeks ago. it is a cooperation with stefanie urbach who had the idea for the book and who wrote most of the texts. this book is also about language and animals, but this time about anagrams of animals' names.

where do you find your inspiration?

i get my inspiration from all aspects of pop culture – be it television (such as sponge bob square pants, curb your enthusiasm or the simpsons), films and music videos (anything by michel gondry!), adverts (especially those from the 1960s and 1970s), comic books ( such as those of hergé, kamagurka, daniel clowes and mark beyer's amy and jordan) as well as from all aspects of the fine arts – everything ranging from japanese woodcuts to american folk art by henry darger to max ernst, jean-michel basquiat, sigmar polke and lots of others.

illustrations from the picture book flugsaurier = gaulfriseur. tierische anagramme (c) jens bonnke

how do you approach illustrating a children’s book?

a great inspiration for this are the children's books by lane smith and j.otto seibold – both americans. their books combine a very particular mixture of weird humour, a refreshing sense of irreverence towards conventions and a warm-hearted atmosphere that really celebrates life. this mixture is also a recipe which i like to use when approaching a children’s book – it contains all the things that i welcome.

in addition, i also consider the moment or element of surprise to be very important – depicting or illustrating something as it has never been seen or shown before. “surprise your audience!” is a decisive principle that is valid for artists of all disciplines.

(c) jens bonnke
what do you especially love about your work?

i really appreciate working with a large degree of artistic freedom, but, at the same time, operating within certain predetermined parameters. these include the topic, the format and the deadline. i really like this mixture, and i relish being free and independent in the planning and composition of my work. i love not having to get permission to take holidays from anyone!

what does your workspace look like?

i work in a shared studio together with three other illustrators.

and finally what makes a good – a successful – illustration from your point of view?

left illustration "axtmörder" (engl. axe murderer) is selected
for the american illustration annual 
a successful, well-rounded illustration is – for me – one which, first of all, surprises the viewer once they have turned the page and the illustration has been revealed.

secondly, it is one which conveys an impression of the issue it is trying to convey – without visualising that in all detail.

and thirdly it is an illustration that does not simply show what is said in the accompanying text but which adds a new aspect or interpretation to the issue so that – on the whole – the combination of illustration and text is more than the sum of its parts.

thank you very much, jens, for taking the time to answer my questions. and thanks to heide waechter and fiona d. wollensack for translating them.

more of jens´ illustrations you find here. if you would like to have a look at his book please click here.

1 Kommentar:

  1. herrlich! die tierischen anagramme haben es mir ja angetan. am meisten gelacht hab ich über das indische panzernashorn mit der prinzessin rosenhand, ach!
    das buch kommt definitiv auf meine wunschliste!
    grüße nach berlin!