Oliver Weiss Design
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INFO > Interview with Spraygraphic

Art: Interview with Spraygraphic
Interview with Artist
Oliver Weiss


From: Sprayblog (2010)

Sprayblog – A Community of Creative Minds is a popular online blog dealing with art. The blog features interviews with artists on a regular basis.
>SUCEEDING AS A FREELANCE ILLUSTRATOR: Interview with FreelanceSwitch.

>NEVER STOP GETTING INSPIRED: Interview with PSD Photoshop.

>ELTERN MAGAZINE: Oliver's first illustration was published when he won a contest at the age of ten.

>OKTOBERFEST AWARD: Interview with Münchner Merkur.

>OKTOBERFEST AWARD: Interview with Illustration Magazine.

>3x3 MAGAZINE: Lunch with Oliver Weiss.

>OKTOBERFEST AWARD: Interview with music supporter Magazine.

lease tell us about yourself.
    Oliver Weiss: I work as an illustrator and also as a designer to some degree. I didn’t go to school for either, but have a background in engineering.

I never worked in that field, though, but have always managed to support myself through art and design. I have done quite a bit of other stuff on the side over the years, such as creating web sites, editing my own legal magazine, or making animations. But illustration has been the one thing that I have always felt closest to.

Where do you currently live and work?
    Oliver Weiss: I am based in a tiny place near the Bavarian mountains, but divide my time staying at different cities abroad.

What mediums do you work with?
    Oliver Weiss: Pretty much all I do these days is either assembled on the computer, or done digitally using a graphic tablet and archived ephemera – anything from textures and books to photos, postcards, and letters.

Describe your working process when creating a new work.
    Oliver Weiss: Until recently, I used to do sketches before tackling the final artwork, but nowadays I tend to get right to work on the final treatment, whenever possible. Working mostly digitally helps in that regard. And if the client doesn't like what I come up with, I still have a finished file that I can always use in part or in full for future assignments, which can be a great time saver when generating new artwork.

The greatest challenge with each new assignment is to come up with a cool concept that visualizes a topic or an article. Once the general path is set straight, I am trying to figure out what technique might work best. I usually have to try out a few things before settling on a specific style, and then go for it.

Finding Inspiration

What kind of things do you do when you get blocked or find it hard to create something?
    Oliver Weiss: Luckily, I don’t encounter blocks very often, as much of the work that comes in each day is so diverse that I am not doing one and the same kind of thing every day. Same with techniques – some topics call for whimsical outlines, while others are better treated using mixed-media. So it never really gets boring.

“Some topics call for whimsical outlines, while others are better treated using mixed-media. So it never really gets boring.”

Where are you currently finding your inspiration?
    Oliver Weiss: Inspiration typically comes with the given project. A friend of mine is an American film composer, and on a recent visit I found it interesting that his inspiration works very much along the same lines as mine – ideas come with a given project. Also, talking aloud (when noone’s in the room) helps articulating one’s thoughts and ideas in the process of finding concepts that work.

How did you get into being an freelance artist/designer for companies?
    Oliver Weiss: One of my very first assignments was with a university publication that was on the lookout for a cartoonist. I suppose I was the only one who applied for the job. Either way, I went to become their man of the hour. I also remember stumbling across an educational magazine which incorporated black and white illustrations, and this made me come up with a cute little figure with a long nose that would find himself in all kinds of bizarre settings. I xeroxed my first set of fifty drawings, and mailed them out to newspapers and magazines. This was before the Internet, of course.

Anyhow, a bunch of magazines said they wanted to use my stuff, and I also managed to close a deal with a big newspaper that would be commissioning me on a weekly basis for many years to come. That’s how I realized that I was indeed capable of making a living as an artist.

What kind of deadlines do you work with when producing this kind of work?
    Oliver Weiss: The deadlines are usually very tight. We’re talking anything from a few hours up to two or three days. Book projects are usually a little less restrictive in that they will typically give you a few weeks to complete a bunch of drawings. I have to say I kind of prefer tight deadlines as they force you to think of something cool quick. When deadlines are too far into the future I tend to forget about the assignment altogether.

Do the companies come back to you and say “change this” or “change that?”
    Oliver Weiss: All the time. There are instances when an art director will instantly like my treatment. The best thing they will usually say is, hey, wonderful work, Oliver, perfect, just what we wanted. However... we need you to do the following fifteen marginal modifications – change the guy to a woman, replace the dog with an elephant, and can we use the Eiffel Tower instead of the beer bottle? As most of my work is put together digitally, making changes is usually not a big deal.


Talking to Clients

How much are you willing to change? Is there some kind of negotiation process you go through?
    Oliver Weiss: The profession of commercial illustration, as I understand it, is not about making yourself happy and getting paid for it on the side. The client is the one who pays, and hence they are the ones in charge of making requests for changes. A good client will appreciate my experience and expertise, and listen to what I think, so most of the time we will go with my suggestions, or meet halfway. Of course, there are limits – I wouldn’t do stuff that I didn’t feel comfortable with.

“The client is the one who pays, and hence they are the ones in charge of making requests for changes.”

Where has your work been seen?
    Oliver Weiss: I’ve been around for while, and have published in a great many publications over time. My work has been commissioned by magazines, newspapers and book publishers like Prospect Magazine, Axel Springer, The Christian Science Monitor, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, DIE ZEIT, Rowohlt, Reed Business, Ravensburger, DER SPIEGEL, and many more.

Two years ago I made the grand prize in the annual Oktoberfest design competition from Munich which was extremely cool. Also, some jacket designs I did for Random House went to become major bestselling books in Europe: http://www.oweiss.com/kick-ass.

Where will it be seen next?
    Oliver Weiss: I am currently exploring the US market for my work more, so hopefully more will be seen of me in the States soon. If all goes well there will also be a line of nifty packaging products out later this fall.

What is your dream art assignment?
    Oliver Weiss: To have someone really rich commission a large canvas painting that stretches from one end of the ceiling to the other. No seriously, I couldn’t be much happier doing what I have been doing so far.

What is your favorite color?
    Oliver Weiss: Not sure I have a favorite color. I do use a lot of yellowish-orange-red in my work, so I seem to like those earth tones...


Who is your favorite artist or designer? And why?
    Oliver Weiss: Probably my greatest influence has been Tove Jansson, the Finnish artist and writer. Her work has been with me since my early childhood, and to this day I can’t seem to get enough of her. She authored the “Moomin” books which are overly popular in Scandinavia but not all that well known in the rest of the world. Her delicate illustrations are among the most wonderful pieces of art I have come across in my life.

And she was so incredibly versatile, too, doing everything from book illustrations to comic strips and, of course, writing. I was fortunate enough to exchange a few letters with her before her death in 2001. I have written a few articles about her which you can find at http://www.oweiss.com/tove.

Other major influences are people like Walter Trier, the guy who did the illustrations to Erich Kästner’s children’s books – he was a wonderful artist who liked jiggly lines to death: http://www.walter-trier.de.

“A major influence of mine has been Walter Trier, the guy who did the illustrations to Erich Kästner’s children’s books.”

I also like Erich Ohser’s work who published under the name of e.o. plauen – it is incredibly tragic that the creator of this warm-hearted comic strip called “Vater und Sohn” (“Dad and Son”) was forced into committing suicide in 1944, knowing that he would be sentenced to death the day after on the charges of what was considered treason in the Third Reich: http://www.vaterundsohn.de.

Jean-Jacques Sempé is another huge favorite. I remember when we were Very Small there was a poster hanging in our room showing all those kids playing a game of soccer – so he has been with me all my life, really. I am completely in love with his loose drawing style using subtle watercolors, and his nostalgic, gently humane humor: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Jacques_Sempe.

Ever do a self portrait? Where is it now?
    Oliver Weiss: Yeah, um, sure, I did self-portraits at a time when I’m assuming everybody does that. This was when I was in my late teens and up to my early twenties. Thankfully, I don’t think I have kept much of that stuff.

What book/magazine are you reading this week?
    Oliver Weiss: Tove Jansson’s fifth book of comic strips which has only recently been published in English by the wonderful people at Drawn & Quarterly (http://www.drawnandquarterly.com).


Final Advice

Where is your favorite place to hang out?
    Oliver Weiss: New! York! City!

Any final words of advice?
    Oliver Weiss: Many, many years ago, when I was still in high school, I inquired of Jupp Wolter, a seasoned political cartoonist, how to become a professional cartoonist. He wrote me back an ultra-lovely letter in which he outlined his thoughts which I would like to pass on, however vaguely: Love what you do, and don’t let people tell you that you won’t make it. Stick with what you love most, and pull through the hard times.

That said, always be truthful to yourself on the way, he told me – and if it turns out that you loved the thought of becoming an artist more than you love actually being an artist, then have the guts to put that dream of yours to rest. The business of illustration can likely grow into the one good thing you have in your life, but it takes more than a decent amount of talent to make a living from it. – I have always thought of this as very good advice, and am hoping it will be for anyone out there wondering if and how to break into the field of illustration. [2010]

(c) 1989–2018 Oliver Weiss Design Up! 
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