The Q&A: Jan Robert Duennweller

By Peggy Roalf   Monday September 17, 2018

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

A: I was born in Cologne, studied in different places (Istanbul; at the Bauhaus in Weimar; Linz, Austria) and now live in Passau, South Germany, with my girlfriend and son in a house where I also have my studio. Three rivers, including the Danube, cross the city and we live in the historic center, with coffee shops, bars and ice cream all within walking distance. From spring to autumn the region is great for cycling; the Alps are about three hours away for hiking and skiing. And whenever we´re bored of the drawbacks of a midsize town, Vienna and Munich are close by.

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: I keep sketchbooks but mostly for ideas and notes. Personal work and sketches are often done on loose paper. I guess I work about 60% on the computer even though the art usually starts on paper. 

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

A: My coffeemaker and my computer.

Q: How do you know when the art is finished—or when to stop working on it?

A: In general I find working analog helps a lot to regain trust in making the right decisions, while the computer invites seeing every work unfinished. Often it's a feeling that starts to emerge when I'm almost done; it helps to leave the desk for a while, then come back for a fresh look. Tight deadlines accelerate the process.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child?

A: My favorite illustrated books as a child were Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak and Le petit Nicolas by Sempé. My favorite nonvisual one was Momo by Michael Ende.

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

A: I currently nod off at night to Fables for Robots by Stanislaw Lem and Sculpting in Time by Andrei Tarkowski. Recently I finished 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. It took me a while to melt that brick but it was very much worth it.

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

A: Ink, pen and paper.

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

A: My family, friends and everday life; cinema, reading, exhibitions, cycling and travelling. The odd times we live in. 

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: The most influential one was one of my first assignments right after I graduated, for Brand Eins (a German finance magazine) which led to a regular collaboration with the magazine and its agency, Meiré und Meiré. This helped me to gain trust in my work and become a freelance illustrator.

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: Hazelnut ice cream which I loved as a child but am now allergic to.

I live with my family in Passau, where I illustrate and animate for editorial, cultural and commercial clients and agencies, including Zeit Magazine, der Spiegel, Süddeutsche Zeitung Magazine, GQ, The Bavarian State Opera, Bureau Borsche, Pentagram New York a.o.