illustration practice

To illustrate is to make decisions

I can’t think of anything, A. Shemilt


In this post I reflect on a paragraph I read the other day and that is still resonating with me. It is an excerpt from the book Illustration – 100 ways to draw a bird by Felix Scheinberger. Unfortunately it is currently only available in German, but I will do my best to translate the mentioned paragraph.


“Ruminating and hesitating does not make you a better Illustrator. Take risks when you work. The time wasted with indecision can be used to create two bold images instead of a single, timid one. (…)

Creating means making decisions and illustrating means making one decision after another – confidently until you have reached your final result.”

Felix Scheinberger (p. 34)


Yes. True. However, it does require knowledge of the desired goal, namely what message I want to communicate, something that Scheinberger states in the previous chapter. So: What is my message, who am I as an illustrator, where do I want to get with my practice and how? Questions, that I am still in the process of answering as I proceed in my studies.

Felix Scheinberg is a contemporary German illustrator, artist, designer and professor for illustration. He is the author and illustrator of Urban Watercolour Sketching as well as several books in German on illustration, and he has illustrated more than fifty children’s books in the last decade. His work has appeared in magazines including Harvard Business Manager and Psychology Today. He teaches at the University of Applied Sciences in Münster, Germany.


Felix Scheinberger: 100 Wege einen Vogel zu malen (english:”100 ways to paint a bird”)


Scheinberger, F. (2013) Illustration. 100 Wege einen Vogel zu malen. Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt


Keyword outcome

Coming across Jon McNaught’s work and his creative approach inspired me to look closer into the field of ‘silent comics’. It is impressive what you can achieve in terms of mood and intimacy without a dialogue or even a plot.

Encouraged to apply this to my chosen keyword I picked a daily routine (making tea) and structured the activity as a silent comic by breaking down the different steps.


Sketch: daily routine of making tea – A. Shemilt


Color 1. Daily routine of making tea – A. Shemilt


Color 3. Daily routine of making tea – A. Shemilt


There is still room for experimenting, not only with the theme but also with form and style. The idea that is growing slowly in the back of my mind is to combine the aspects from Taarika John’s approach with artists portrayed in Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. Possible outcomes could be book illustrations or a series of posters. Work in progress!

I learned that even with the absence of words or a preset storyline in comics there are different ways of suggesting subtle narratives. By providing just enough visual information through colour and composition I can evoke potential narrative layers and have the viewer fill in the (visual) gaps. To my own surprise I discovered that I don’t have to have a meaningful meassage as a starting point. This was and still is a bit of a learning curve for me to trust the ongoing process enough that some way or the other an idea will develop.

I benefited from researching other artists and their works and by doing so I began developing an interest for silent comics; something that was not on my horizon before and something that I would like to explore further in the future.



Why graphic recording appeals to me

From time to time I catch myself flirting with the idea of giving graphic recording a go. It is fast, intense and it requires little, if any post editing. According to the article The Big picture (Breselor, S. (2015) ‘The Big Picture’. Communication Arts 56. pp. 24-27., also available from my tasks would be to “synthesize a constant stream of information in real time, select and sketch only what is most insightful and relevant, all while in front of an audience.“ As challenging as this might sound there is a liberating angle to it. I am left in complete control over every line I draw on a white board or paper and all discussions with clients and art directors are rendered obsolete. Any artistic ambition is surrendered to a literally bigger picture since graphic facilitation and recording is not about aesthetics but communicative power and purpose. Applied strategically it can “facilitate meetings and conversations or answer questions that are not manifestly pictorial in nature.” (p. 27)

In context of the MA programme I find the article very encouraging. It is a valuable reminder of the power of the visual mind and the ability to create meaning through images.



Breselor, S. (2015) ‘The Big Picture’. Communication Arts 56. pp. 24-27.


Communication Arts (2017) The Big Picture [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 4 November 2017]

Visiting the Frankfurt Book Fair 2017


Book Fair at Frankfurt Exhibition Centre


A few weeks ago a friend and colleague suggested I join her and visit the International Book Fair in Frankfurt, Germany. The largest international event in the book and media world is a great opportunity to both get a broad overview of current trends in book design and illustration as well as connect with  interesting people such as publishers, writers, illustrators, designers and editors. Needless to say, this visit had the potential to provide an enormous inspirational and creative boost!

(It was very rewarding to discover among all the new publications some books that I had designed and that were on display at the respective booths.)

Norddeutsche Heimwehküche (Northern German Comfort Food), Dorling Kindersley


Together with a friend, Pina Gertenbach, a published children’s book illustrator we dove into the world of books and images – which, I admit, was overwhelming at times considering the vast amount of new and beautiful publications on display!

Unlike her I didn’t have any scheduled appointments with editors or publishers but intended to simply allow myself to browse new titles within the topics of design practice and theory, creative thinking, and illustration. Always on the lookout for new angles and approaches to my practice combined with the given assignment on the MA programme to challenge established routines and methods, I came across the following books: 

Notes on Design and How to Research Trends


Booth: BISPublishers, Netherlands


Later Pina introduced me to Niklas Thierfelder, who runs the publishing house Kunstanstifter in Mannheim, Germany, where she had her first book published. 

Kunstanstifter Publishing House was founded in 2006 by Suse and Niklas Thierfelder in Mannheim. Together, we decided on a daring venture – publishing illustrated books apart from the mainstream, art that charts new frontiers, fresh and provoking, smart and masterly crafted. Our vision grew into an award-winning, independent publishing house.”

I’m still processing an information-overload of different visual impressions and conversations.

My conclusion is that I definitely intend to re-visit the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2018. It is invaluable to talk to people in the industry in person and experience the vibe and overload of information first hand. However, I would select and research potential clients/publishers beforehand and then try and schedule appointments, so as to make the most of my next visit.


Kunstanstifter Verlag für Illustration (2017) About Us [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 28 October 2017 ]