The Q&A: Thomas Fuchs

By Peggy Roalf   Monday October 15, 2018

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

A: I was born and grew up in the South of Germany, where I also went to art school. Afterwards I lived in New York City for 15 years, starting my professional life there, so that would still be the place I think has influenced me and my work the most.

Now I live and work in Berlin, which is quite different in many respects. For one, it is much more relaxed, yet it’s still a big and happening city, which I do think fits me quite well. Since I still work a lot for clients in the States, being at least six hours ahead sometimes lets me start a piece that’s due on Monday AM on Monday AM...


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: Not religiously. For a job I usually do my sketches on simple letter-sized copier paper. I do however have a sketchbook sitting next to the dinner table, so when an idea strikes me that I’m afraid I might forget later, I can quickly sketch it out. To never look at again.

In terms of traditional versus digital it’s about 50/50. With some combinations of the two. I usually try to pick the medium according to its ability to best communicate the concept.

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

A: Since my work is rather varied, stylistically, I can’t really narrow it down to one item. I guess the most important item is therefore always the one I’m using for the project I’m working on at the time.

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

A: Either when the AD calls asking where the bloody art is, or when I get at to the point at which I think that any more is just going to ruin the whole thing.

Which doesn’t mean I always succeed in catching that moment...

Q: What was your favorite book as a child? 

A: As a little kid, Grimm’s Fairy Tales. A little later definitely the Asterix series.

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

A: I just finished reading 1984 again, and, as cliché as that of course is, I’m still amazed at its relevance today.

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

A: Acrylics

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

A: I guess at this point it’s the Internet, email alone being such an important part of communication (professionally or otherwise), as well as the tool I use most for the research necessary for any given assignment. All the other influences, the ones in “real life,” happen mostly unconsciously. Which is not to say they play a lesser part. Just less consciously.

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: That would probably be the first gig I got from the NYTimes Op-Ed. I think that was my second assignment after arriving in NYC, and being fresh out of art school, it’s opened my eyes quite a bit in terms of the professionalism and speed required to try and play with the big boys.

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: Depending on the cook, probably Fugu.

Thomas Fuchs is an award-winning illustrator and graphic designer who studied graphic design and illustration with the illustrious Heinz Edelmann (art director of the 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine) at the Academy of Fine Arts Stuttgart. After completing his studies with an MFA in '97, he moved to New York City in November that year. His work has appeared in many publications in the US, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time, Rolling Stone, GQ, Scientific American, Texas Monthly, The Wall Street Journal, Mother Jones, and Esquire. He's a regular contributor to Wirtschaftswoche and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in Germany. He has worked on numerous projects in design and advertising, for clients as varied as Landor, Enterprise IG, Hasbro and SpotCo.
His work has received numerous awards from The Society of Illustrators (Gold Medal), American Illustration, SPD, Print, the Art Directors Club of New York and Germany (of which he is a member) among others.
Apart from his commercial work, he regularly creates image series as visual commentaries in response to political and societal tendencies. In 2004 he released GOP 100: Deconstructing Dumbo, 100 reinterpretations of the GOP logo with fellow designer Felix Sockwell. He frequently lectures at art schools such as the Academy of Fine Arts in Stuttgart and holds illustration workshops for various institutions like the Art Directors Club of Germany.

Ed. Note: Thomas Fuchs’ portrait, which appears on home page, is by Tom Vasquez.