Berlin-based illustrator Hagen Schönfeld has been working for around six years and his style adopts a fairly graphic approach with a dose of surreality added in. “I get inspired by a lot of things. I look for things around the streets and nature, sketch them or take photos,” Schönfeld explains. “Also, I’m of course inspired by other artists from different times and medias. There’s just so much out there.”
The precise nature of the illustrator’s work is what’s most intriguing, and his works are packed with odd little characters accompanied by different shapes in pleasing compositions. Schönfeld’s clients are mostly in the music scene and he creates album covers, flyers and posters for a range of bands, producers, DJs and festivals.
“At the beginning, the majority of my clients were friends and acquaintances of mine, a lot of them still are,” he says. “I was fortunate to get to know great musicians and festival organisers. Through them I was able to get started with commercial work, such as posters and album covers, and then things evolved. I grew more confident and my work caught the attention of other people from the scene.”
The illustrator’s compositions work well in the tight confinements of album covers and posters, with muted sorbet tones against cream backgrounds and black line work. “It makes me happy to see my personal work in combination with typography and tangible information, especially on posters,” says Schönfeld. “It is a pleasure to see my work supporting another artistic project.”
Whatever the project, Schönfeld starts work in his sketchbook. “Depending on the guidelines of the project, or how freely I can choose imagery, I work more intuitively or more rationally,” he explains. “I mostly draw in my sketchbook. These drawings often turn out to be intricate works instead of sketches. I rarely just sketch.”
Typically Schönfeld works in ink pen, partly because it doesn’t allow for corrections and retains that hand-drawn quality. Once the drawings are finished, it’s time to add colour. “For the past two years, I have often scanned my works and continued colouring on the computer. But lately I have been pushing myself to go back to analogue colouring,” says the illustrator.
Working freelance means that Schönfeld’s income depends on the work he creates, which can add a little pressure. “Sometimes it is difficult to not lose a playful approach, and to not compare oneself to others, to not take oneself and the work I do too seriously, but still serious enough to continue,” explains Schönfeld. “The self-discipline and pressure of working on your own can be hard at times. As well as the process of monetising my craft, making it a service and a business is weirdly confusing sometimes.”
On the other side of this, being given time to hone his craft has meant Schönfeld has been able to explore his passion. “What I enjoy most is the vastness of possibilities, and to be able to explore different medias, formats and materials,” says the illustrator.