“Every child draws, but most children stop at some point,” says artist and illustrator Julia Hosse. “I just didn’t get the note, so I never stopped drawing. It came naturally to me and so studying illustration came as a logical step.”
Originally from Berlin and now living in Hamburg, Hosse is one of the first in her family to pursue a creative career, though she says she’s always had the support of her parents. Since gaining a BA and MA in illustration at HAW Hamburg in 2013 and 2017 respectively, Hosse has been working on a mix of her own work and editorial commissions for various German-based publications including Zeit, Dogs magazine, and Psychologie Heute.
Covering an array of topics and subjects, Hosse tries to capture the world around her. “I like to draw the light,” she says. “I like to draw landscapes, I like to draw animals and people. I like to draw from life. The colours are vibrant, the drawings full of movement, and the layers of colours and structures create a moody atmosphere.”
There’s a tenderness to Hosse’s work and this, combined with her use of colour, draws you into her painterly style. “I work with coloured pencils on an acrylic or gouache foundation,” explains the illustrator. “Sometimes I use coloured or white ink. The paint of the foundation has to be in a very fine layer or the coloured pencil will not hold.”
This analogue approach is carried out from start to finish in Hosse’s creative process, even with editorial commissions. “I tend to read the text a few times, then I draw everything that comes to mind,” she explains. “By drawing I get new ideas, maybe combine two ideas to see what works. I draw really small at first because it’s easier to create a nice composition on a small piece of paper.
“It’s faster and it leaves me some open space in the final drawing. I hate having finished the picture in my head before I have drawn it. It sucks all of the fun out of the picture for me. I need to surprise myself.”
Once the client has approved the image, Hosse says creating the final drawing is the easy part. “It’s just the transfer of the little sketch to a bigger piece of paper. Plus researching what things actually look like.”
This research element of her work is part of what Hosse loves most about working for a variety of editorial clients. “I enjoy having to read up on issues I never thought I’d deal with,” she says. “To immerse oneself in a subject, to learn something new – that’s what I like the most. For me, the best kind of brief is a precise one. ‘You are free to do what you want’ never turns out to be true in the end.”
As a freelancer, Hosse works in a studio with other illustrators and enjoys the creativity of what that can inspire, as well as the freedom to come and go as she pleases. “I like being able to get the groceries, do the home chores at any time I like, not only on the weekends,” says Hosse. “I enjoy the freedom part of freelance.”
Getting a constant flow of print editorial jobs isn’t always easy though, so Hosse has also found work through startup businesses and private clients, however this process has been a learning curve. “You have to be careful,” says the illustrator. “Many of these clients think a computer somehow magically makes the drawings, therefore they are not as willing to pay a proper price for a drawing or they want many, many changes. Sometimes you have to teach the client to be a good client.”
The illustrator is unafraid to highlight some of the other cold realities of being an illustrator and believes it’s a career that shouldn’t be taken on lightly. “Think really hard whether having this potential dream job is worth potentially not being able to afford your own apartment over 30, not being able to support a family, not going on vacation for years and having to do side jobs for your whole grown life,” warns Hosse. “If illustration works out for you, it’s the best job imaginable. But if it doesn’t, it can be quite bitter.”
However, it’s not all doom and gloom and her advice to aspiring young guns is, if you can, to study illustration at a good art school and try out everything the school offers. “Otherwise; draw, draw, draw. Don’t look too much on Instagram, don’t compare yourself in that way. You are your own standard,” she says.