INFO > Interview with PSD Photoshop Magazine
Interview with PSD Photoshop Magazine
Never Stop Getting Inspired
Interview: Magdalena Mojska
Oliver Weiss is an illustrator from Germany who works in a variety of
different techniques ranging from whimsical drawings to mixed-media
collage artwork. His clients from twenty years include Random House,
Rowohlt, Reed Business, DIE ZEIT, The Christian Science Monitor, DER
SPIEGEL, Deutsche Bank, and the Munich Oktoberfest.
The cover of PSD Photoshop Magazine
liver, could you tell us a few
words about yourself?
I remember the first time
a drawing of mine ever got published was in a large parenting magazine
in Munich when I was ten years old. The school had entered an art
competition, and my drawing yielded an award that paid for a hiking trip
for my class. I guess that’s when it all got started. I have always
wanted to be an illustrator, and for me being able to work in this field
professionally is like a dream come true, especially given that I come
from a wholly different background in engineering and science.
do you like the most about being a digital artist? Why do you think it is
worth to choose this profession?
Most of what I do is
created and assembled directly on the computer, so I think it is fair to call
me a digital artist, even though I still do use pen, pencil, paint and glue
from time to time. It is such fun getting up in the morning and having a whole
day of art ahead of you. I couldn’t picture myself doing anything else these
days. I am always at awe that I am actually making a living from doing fun
little images all the time.
I think what is so exceptional about
the art of illustration is that unlike fine art that hangs in galleries and
museums your illustration needs to fit with a given topic or an article in a
magazine, and this commercial aspect of it all gives you an immediate feedback
about your work. I find that very gratifying. I also like working with editors
and publishers, and crave to see the final product. I feel the best concepts
are those that are receiving constructive critique on behalf of the client,
and the final result is often (though not always) better than what I would
have been able to come up with on my own.
there any downsides of being an illustrator?
As with every profession,
I am sure there are negative sides to being an illustrator. I am a freelancer,
like most of us, which means that in lack of an employer you need to motivate
yourself to get to work. Also, you only make money once you actually nail a
given project. You don’t have regular working hours and sometimes have to pull
an all-nighter. The very concept of “vacationing” is unheard of. The royalties
are usually quite low, and so forth... But frankly, for me these aren’t really
downsides but rather essentials that go with the profession and make it
exciting. I am not sure that my peers will agree with me here, but this is how
I feel. So all put together I don’t see a great deal of downsides to the
profession as such.
Achievements & Ideas
Tell us about your biggest
achievements. What are you especially proud of?
I don’t really think I am
“proud” of anything I have done, as pride is not a term that I can
relate to. I do feel happy about a variety of projects I have been lucky
to be involved in, even though I am not really looking back on my
“achievements” all that much. I often feel the happiest when I am
working on a new project, and I am sensing that it is turning out
“I often feel the happiest when I am working on a new project, and I am sensing
that it is turning out nicely.”
That said, there have been a
number of lovely projects that I feel good about to this day. One such
project is my Oktoberfest poster design award from 2008 which came about
through a competition that I was invited to take part in. My design was
chosen to be displayed on posters, beer steins and kitchenware, and on a
great deal of apparel, too. That was really cool.
Another venture that proved quite
fortunate was my jacket design for a book on philosophy written by Richard
David Precht. It got published by Random House, and has evolved into Germany’s
bestselling nonfiction title currently, selling well over a million copies so
far, with no end in sight.
I also enjoy assignments I do for DIE
ZEIT, Germany’s largest weekly newspaper. In one such project I designed a
large poster on the history of German parties since 1848. I used rivers as
visuals for the political streams coming from the left, the right, and the
liberal middle. The fun thing about the poster was that there was very little
art direction involved, and so first I had to educate myself about the
hundreds of German parties that evolved over the years through a PhD thesis
from the 1960’s that they handed me, and through complementary research on the
web before I was able to come up with suitable imagery.
A really fun product that will come
out this fall is a number of packaging designs for coffee, tea, sugar, flower
and the like that I created for a large manufacturer of tin boxes. I am really
excited about seeing them up for sale in the store shelves soon.
do you get your ideas from?
Actually, the ideas come
with the given assignment. It’s not like I have a preconceived mindset about a
specific topic, but rather, once I tackle a project I need to get into things
rather quickly, often within minutes. You develop a sense of coming up with
visuals swiftly though –
I guess this comes with the profession after doing it for a while. Typically,
I conjure up a small handful of concepts before getting to work on the final
for the Novice
Any advice for the beginners in
I think it is important
to keep in mind that the profession of illustration is not all about
drawing fun little pictures, but it is about running a business. The
business of illustration, as I see it, is not so much about getting paid
for art that you enjoy creating, but you get paid for creating art that
pleases the client. Ideally, of course, both sides of the story will be
addressed to in the process.
have come to learn that many of my peers are lacking common business sense big
I have come to learn that many
of my peers are lacking common business sense big time. One of the
greatest mistakes that artists make is that they are outsourcing all
issues dealing with business matters and legal stuff. I think that is a
big mistake, and quite irresponsible at that. As a freelancer you need
to be in full control of your goings-on, and understand all financial
matters. By this token, never sign a contract without knowing what
exactly it says. I usually draft my own contracts, or modify the
client’s contract to my liking. Also, never spend more money than you
make, and always leave a little on the side, especially when you are
As far as the artistic aspects of the
profession are concerned, I recommend learning as much as you can, and see to
it that you never stop getting inspired – not only by art, of course, but by
the multitude of things going around us. Art is all about creativity,
inspiration, and fun, and you shouldn’t lose that on the way.
Also, it might be good to know for
those starting out that even though the world is your market nowadays, there
are substantial cultural differences that need to be taken into account. For
example, if you are working for the American market, which in my view is the
largest and most versatile in the world, you need to know that art directors
don’t like it when you give them more than one style. Europe is probably the
least restrictive market in that regard, but unfortunately the market for
illustration isn’t all that large, particularly in German-speaking countries.
do you currently work on? Do you have any ideas for your future projects?
I got a number of things
lined up for the future. I am working on some concepts for books, and in the
longer run I also want to focus a little more on doing paintings and artwork