The DART Q&A: Birgit Schossow

By Peggy Roalf   Monday March 30, 2015

Q: What are some of your favorite things about living and working in a small village?

A: I lived in Hamburg for 30 years, so I feel like a city dweller although now I live in a village of about 400 people. It's 10 minutes from the Baltic Sea, with a wild garden and much peacefulness, but close enough to Hamburg to have both city and country life.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between the art you create on paper versus in the computer?

A: Yes, for me it’s necessary, and it is fun to sketch ideas or make drawings when you are in a cafe or at the beach. When I started to work with the computer, I used to scan sketches—but now I also make sketches digitally. I like to draft with my iPad. Is there a difference? Hm, right off the bat, I would say “yes”, because in analog days, I used to experiment with different materials. But I'll do it in a certain sense even now with my Mac—there's always something new to discover in Photoshop.

New Yorker covers

Q: What do you like best about your workspace?

A: The silence; the view into my garden; my cat sitting beside or directly on the keyboard; and last but not least my husband who often makes us a good cup of coffee—and jazz playing in the backround.

Q: Do you think it needs improvement; if so, what would you change?

A: My room is full of things. Whenever I clean it up it looks a little more “professional”—but after two days, every surface is filled with very important new things.

Q: How do you organize an assignment before you start drawing? Do you make lists and thumbnails ?

A: Most of the ideas come to me when I'm not working—while driving a car, having a shower, while I’m cooking. Since images are often created in my head, the next thing is to sit at my Mac and draw some thumbnails.

Q: How do you know when the art is finished?

A: When the client is satisfied and the money is in my bank account. Or to express it in a less material way: there is this “gut feeling,” which tells you that it is finished. 

New Yorker submissions.

Q: What was the strangest or most unusual assignment you’ve taken? 

A: Hm... perhaps it was not an assignment, but the impersonal invitation to send suggestions for The New Yorker topics to Françoise Mouly for her “Blown Covers” blog. First I just observed—but then I started to send my drafts—and now The New Yorker has published some of my artworks during the last several years.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child?

A.  It wasn’t a book. My father told me a story every evening when I went to bed. Sometimes he was sleeping and snoring before the end, but I liked these wonderful stories of his childhood and his tales about&n bsp;a rabbit family. And of course I also liked the Grimm Brothers Tales, Astrid Lindgren´s stories and Peanuts.

Q: What is the best book you’ve recently read?

A: Richard Yates Disturbing the Peace. I like his blunt description of relationships. And I love the thrillers by Fred Vargas.

History of Loew's King's theater, Brooklyn.

If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all  others, what medium would you choose?

A: The Mac.

Q: What are some of your favorite places/books/blogs/websites for inspiration?

A: I like to stand on the beach looking at the water. Actually I am fascinated by the drawings of Nikolai Lockertsen on his iPad. I like Seth´s drawings and Christoph Niemanns humorous work. Or the human-ness of Sempe's work. And an art exhibition can be just as inspiring as a ride on the bus.

Q: What was the painting or drawing or film that most affected your approach to art? [the Thunderbolt]

A: I was influenced by films, I think, film noire, Disney, Eisenstein. Hergé, Hockney, Steinberg, the opening titles of Saul Bass, Trier, Ungerer, Lucian Freud.

Q: If you could be anywhere but where you are now, where would that be?

A: In a cabin on a wonderful, sunny beach without having to worry about anything.

Q: What advice  would you give a young artist about applying to an art school or college?

A: Draw, draw, draw and use your sketchbook wherever you are. Everything around you is good for sketching.

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: Fruit is great to take on a journey—even to the next world—because it is easy to digest and does not sit heavily in the stomach. And you don't put weight on. 

Illustrations for Member of the Wedding, by Carson McCullers.

I was born in Hamburg were I studied illustration at Hamburg University of Applied Sciences (HAW) and after that I began making illustrations for books, magazines, TV and all those who also want illustrations. Birgit Schössow’s Website.