Artist Q&A: Katarina Kühl

August 28, 2016

We speak with Hamburg-based illustrator Katarina Kühl about her charismatic and distinctive images.

Is your background in illustration? 

As long as I can remember I’ve been drawing. I always wanted to become an artist! I love to draw and to paint, simply to create. I studied illustration design in Hamburg, Germany, and now I’m a freelance illustrator.
Have you always aspired to be an illustrator?
I always wanted a job where I could draw, but I didn’t know what that job could be exactly. But one day it became crystal clear: as an illustrator I realised I could work with literary texts (I adore books), where I could just imagine a drawing from the text and then create it. A perfect combination.

Where does your inspiration come from?    

From everywhere and everything: movies, people, fashion, fabrics, paintings, books, music, poems, and more. I always adored Frida Kahlo’s and Gustav Klimt’s work, to name just two. Although I'm doing all kinds of illustration, I'm mainly focused on fashion.

I’m very interested in the beauty that lies beneath the surface. That's why there’s always something in my drawings that distracts the viewer’s eye, like bugs or a skeleton of an ostrich.   

What does your creative process look like?    

I study whatever inspired me, and then I start drawing. I rarely make sketches, only doing so to arrange the setting. That may sound weird, but when I’m inspired, it just flows.   

What’s your favourite project you've worked on?   

I worked for the German publishing house Wäldchen Verlag, to illustrate the baking book Die drei Damen auf Café-Fahrt, which was a great experience. I also did work for an online competition by Draw A Dot where I got to illustrate the look of fashion designer Giambattista Valli (and he even posted it on his Instagram account and followed me, which was a highlight for me). 

Do you have a dream client project you’d one day like to work on?    

A big dream of mine is to illustrate the cover of Vogue magazine. That would be amazing! Maybe one day...

Your artwork largely focuses on people’s faces. What is it about faces that compels you to draw them?    

People’s faces, especially the eyes, tell so much about a person. I'm fascinated by them. Drawing eyes is my favourite part: if the eyes don’t have that certain spark or expression, the whole drawing doesn't work — it’s lifeless.   

Do you ever suffer from creative block? And if so, what do you do to remedy it?   

Oh, of course — too often for my liking! At first (as if I don't know better) I try and try and try to force myself to get something on that blank piece of paper, and if that doesn’t work (and when does it?!) I try to step back from it for a while.

I take time to clear my head by taking a walk through the forest or something similar, and usually, with new energy and less pressure, the inspiration returns.

Follow Katarina on Instagram.