The Q&A: Tina Berning

By Peggy Roalf   Monday November 27, 2017

Q: Originally from [where?] what are some of your favorite things about living and working in [your current locale]?

A: Coming from the south of Germany I have been living in Berlin for the last 17 years. When I look around in my studio, I know exactly why this is the best place to live and work. A spacious, beautiful studio, shared with my husband, right in the center of an easy, always changing city, international but approachable in any sense. When I look out the window, seeing the cold November breeze blowing away the few remaining leaves, I could imagine warmer places, but here I am, and I’m happy.

Above: illustrations for  Atonement by Ian McEwan, for Folio Society; info

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between art you create on paper [or other analog medium] versus in the computer?

A: My sketchbook is a diary archive I’ve kept for many, many years. Loose drawings on found paper, finished in a daily process. Those that are not finished yet are kept in boxes: “Not So Good” and “Not so Bad.” This body of work feeds all other attempts, exhibitions as well as illustrations finalized on the computer. I love Photoshop for enabling me to eliminate any mistake and I love the analog piece of paper for teaching me that not every mistake needs to be eliminated. 

Q: What is the most important item in your studio?

A: The studio itself with the sun refracted through glass block, the old sink, spilled with paint, and a black cat strolling around. 

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

A: Forcing myself to finish a drawing a day, I embrace the panic moment, the eyes-closed-and-go-for-it situation. Step by step, day by day. The energy that reveals when you know you must finish is intuition. 

Q: What was your favorite book as a child?

A: Mein Esel Benjamin (My Donkey Benjamin) by Hans Limmer—a story told with black-and-white photos by Lennart Osbeck, first published in 1968.   

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

A: Au Bonheur des Dames (The Paradise) by Èmile Zola, written in 1883, really captivated me. It's a time travel, it's diving deep into an era that seems so far gone but has such a strong structural resemblance to the present. 

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

A: I'd pick oil on canvas, as I never do that now.

Q: What elements of daily life exert the most influence on your work practice?

A: Love, patience and my diary routine.

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

A: My parents' newspaper supplement (F.A.Z. Magazin) was the only magazine you would find in our house. My two elder sisters were the first ones to get hold of it, and cut out all photos. Left over were the illustrations by such great artists like Heinz Edelmann, Heinz Hillmann or Brad Holland. I still keep my cut-outs. 

Q: What was the strangest/most interesting assignment you've taken that has an important impact on your practice, and what changed through the process?

A: Years ago photographer Joachim Baldauf was looking for a project to post on the website of his magazine VORN rather than repeating the content of the magazine. I offered him my 100 Girls On Cheap Paper, at that point a box with 8 drawings inside. I finished [the project] posting one every day and the whole project ended up in a book and an exhibition traveling from Berlin to Tokyo to New York. This project brought me back to analog, to exhibition work, to appreciating the impact of imperfection and opened many doors.

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: Yeast dumplings with plum purée and cinnamon butter.

Tina Berning is a Berlin based artist and illustrator mainly focusing on figurative drawing. Her award-winning work has been published and exhibited internationally and is featured in numerous anthologies. Tina Berning’s online diary featuring her daily drawings can be followed on her Instagram account @tina_berning.
instagram: @tina_berning
represented by (US) (Europe) synergy (UK)


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