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Illustrator Profile - Sophia Martineck: "I am a slow but steady person"

By Robert Newman   Thursday July 7, 2016

Sophia Martineck is an illustrator, cartoonist and graphic novelist based in Berlin, Germany. One of her notable assignments was creating over 100 illustrations for a graphic reimagination of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Martineck creates her work with pencils on paper, and then colors digitally. In addition to her book artwork, she has contributed illustrations and comics to a wide variety of editorial publications around the world.

MY LIFE:
I live and work in Berlin, Germany. I have been working for the past eight years as a fulltime freelance illustrator.

My parents took me to museums a lot. At home tracing paper and coloring books were considered as cheating. I was told to draw from my imagination or from nature. Making an effort was important.

I studied visual communication in Berlin at the University of the Arts, and as an exchange student in New York City fine arts for one semester and illustration in Liverpool for a year.

I worked as a student assistant in my illustration course in uni, a job I liked very much. After leaving university, I took an office job for two months, which I found so horrible, that I have done my best in illustration ever since, for I don’t fancy to do it again. I also received a post graduate grant which supported me financially for one year.

MY WORKSPACE:
I work in a studio just by myself. Solitude is important for my work. So it’s just me, my drawing materials, computer and a radio. I also need an empty, white wall to look at for thinking about ideas.

HOW I MAKE MY ILLUSTRATIONS:
I draw with pencils on paper. I have a couple of different mechanical pencils. For the shading I use pencils from 6H to 3B. A lightbox is a very useful tool. The colors are digital. My original drawings are all black and white. I am very fond of working monochromatically.

MY FIRST BIG BREAK:
I am a slow but steady person. My first assignments—nine years ago—were for The New York Times and The Guardian newspaper, so this could count as my big break, as I got so much trust in my work as a total newcomer. In Germany I hardly got any assignments after leaving university. I would say I had my German “big break” three years ago with comics/graphic novels about Hamburg.

My style seems to appeal very much to American and British clients.

MY INFLUENCES:
Studying in NYC and Liverpool was my major influence, this you-can-do-it mentality, learning proper English, starting my career with American and British clients, who gave me loads of self-esteem and confidence.

Henning Wagenbreth was my mentor who showed me all the skills and techniques and also supported me with my work.  

MY MOST ADMIRED CREATIVE PERSON:
Henning Wagenbreth’s work to me is the most amazing so far. I admire his ideas—straight to the point, very unconventional, strong, funny, dark and witty—as well as his bold style and his use of bright colors. He is also a fantastic storyteller and a great poster and type designer. He is a creative decathlete.

MY CREATIVE INSPIRATION:
A lot of my inspiration comes from walking or cycling around. Also looking at newspapers, Instagram, museums/exhibitions, graphic novels, and books by other illustrators.

MY BIGGEST CHALLENGE IN WORKING ALONE:
Starting a new project is my biggest challenge—overcoming my doubts. When I get started, I am fine.

A MEMORABLE ASSIGNMENT FROM THE PAST YEAR:
The Hamburg Graphic Novels for Hamburg magazine was my most memorable assignment last year and the year before. Unfortunately the magazine was cancelled by the end of last year.

I was given the theme and the research material by the magazine. Turning the story into a double-page comic strip was up to me. I enjoyed writing the texts and deciding what was told by image and what by text. Putting in as much information as possible was the great challenge. The themes included “The Beatles in Hamburg”  and “Hamburg State Opera”—there were five stories in total. I had a lot of freedom and the client was happy and very great to work with.

DREAM ASSIGNMENT:
I would love to work with/for a fashion designer, creating textile patterns/fabric designs, making drawings for scarves, packaging, gift boxes, bags…

MY FAVORITE ART DIRECTOR:
Here I would like to name one from the past and a recent one: In 2008 and 2009 I loved working with Leanne Shapton, who was AD at The New York Times Op-Ed pages at the time. I love to draw landscapes and small everyday scenes and Leanne was fond of them.
 
In the last couple of years, I enjoyed very much working with Maja Metz, AD for various German magazines. She suggested me for the Hamburg graphic novels and for a philosophy magazine.  

SOME OF MY FAVORITE ILLUSTRATORS:
I love the bold, colorful styles, everything that is the opposite of my work: Andy Rementer’s bold paintings and comic strips, Alice Pattullo’s wonderful style, John Broadley’s crazy drawings and people, Lauren Humphrey's funny characters and Martina Paukova’s geomatric, colorful world.



OTHER WORK:

Recently I did a jazz album cover and poster, which was a great assignment. I also did small spots for a product catalogue MAGAZIN.

I am part of a play, where I project papercuts and play music with an autoharp. Being on stage is a total different experience.

HOW I STAY CURRENT:
So far the changes haven’t affected my career. I still think that old-fashioned personal networking is very important and powerful. Showing work in an exhibition also brought me new clients. But with all the great digital opportunities, face-to-face contact still works very well. A lot of the jobs I get are word of mouth or because I was published somewhere or interviewed on a blog.

HOW I PROMOTE MYSELF:
I am on Instagram, which is fun and a great barometer of what people like and a great source of inspiration. I have my website. Occasionally I send out emails and postcards.

Interviews are also really good. The most recent one was in February for AIGA's blog Eye on Design. Through a Felt & Wire blog called The Creative Chain I was invited to illustrate The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for Rockport Publishers.

I am part of a comics collective called SPRING. We are 15 drawing artists based in Hamburg, Berlin and Cologne and we publish one anthology of the same name a year and have exhibitions and go to festivals. As we are a big team, we have a louder voice and thus can attract more people for our exhibitions and for our publication. It's a great way to publish personal work. Maja Metz saw my work in SPRING #9 Reynard the Fox and contacted me.

I love to enter work in competitions. In 2010 I was one of the Art Directors Club Young Guns.

ADVICE FOR SOMEONE STARTING OUT:
Go abroad, learn a language—it’s fun and sometimes your market is in a different country (even if everybody supposedly speaks English). Team up with an artists’ collective to publish your work, make exhibitions, go to festivals.

See more Sophia Martineck illustrations, new work and updates:
Sophia Martineck website
Instagram: @sophiamartineck

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