Collage Letters

T his project started with the idea to create some one-of-a-kind birthday presents for my family. Then it grew larger to include some loved ones from my ›extended‹ family, as well as members of the family of my girlfriend. It just so happens, that their birthdays are coming up soon. So my beloved suggested to make some more letters for them. She even joined me for a while and made a beautiful C for herself.

I’ve been wanting to do some collage work for a while now, but never found time to do so. Before I started with my university education, I used to do collages every day for many years. It’s very meditative and you never have full control over the outcome.

Every letter is in the favorite colour of the receiver (hopefully) and was meticulously built out of recycled paper, magazine clippings, pattern samples, fabrics, foils and stickers. With the exception of the letter E, all the letters are fixed with foam mounting tape on the card stock. This way they hover on top of the paper and provide dimensionality.

Title: ›Collage Letters‹
Status: private project
Medium: postcards
Tech. spec.: DIN A6 105 × 148 mm
Year: 2016

The Knick

I was so impressed by Steven Soderbergh’s first season of the tv series »The Knick«, that I wanted to draw an illustration about the main character Dr. John W. Thackery, outstandingly played by Clive Owen. My main focus was on his secret drug abuse, and less on his achievements as a doctor at the Knickerbocker Hospital in New York. I hope that the little details like the apothecary bottle, the microscope, nurse Lucy Elkins, the doctor’s case and the typographic hints make it clear, what character we’re dealing with, without showing him in an OR.

The little skull and the pig are metaphors to describe his personality, as well as clues to the show itself. Thackery and his colleagues have to experiment on dead pigs to test new methods and medical instruments for lack of human corpses.

The chinese dragon, the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) and the apothecary bottle are hints to his secret drug addiction. Thackery spends most of his nights in a chinese opium den. Later he starts to inject himself with cocaine from the hospital, which at the time is used as an anaesthetic. Even at a time of critical shortage of such anaesthetics, he steals the supplies from the hospitals storage to drug himself, so he can stay awake and work. He’s not only poisoning himself but also his surroundings, up to the point where his colleagues see no other way out than to hospitalise him in a rehabilitation clinic.

The alchemical symbol for antimony (a.k.a. The Gray Wolf) at the top, is the penultimate stage in the making of the Philosopher’s Stone. Both physically and metaphorically speaking, the gray wolf can symbolize either success or failure, as the final stage of making lead into gold is yet to come. I decided to have this symbol illustrate Thackery’s ambition to outshine his rivals in the medical world.

The little vignette behind the large Thackery figure depicts Dr. Algernon Edwards, Thackery’s only true rival at the Knickerbocker. Because of the racism at the time, he’s unwillingly standing in Thackery’s shadow, oppressed and detained from working on white patients, so he can’t flourish to his full potential. He still manages to invent a groundbreaking machine, forcing himself into the light and becoming Thackery’s partner on a scientific paper.

Nurse Lucy Elkins is Thackery’s love interest and probably his only ally. Out of love she helps him to steal drugs for his addiction. She’s trying everything to help him get up on his feet with the little possibilities she has. She’s a little candle in an endless see of darkness, reason why I depicted her sheathed in shadows.
The man in front of her is Dr. Everett Gallinger, Thackery’s protégé. Even though he is less qualified than Dr. Algernon Edwards, he has his mentors full support, simply for being white.

The Knick (final)

Title: ›The Knick‹
Status: private project
Medium: illustration
Tech. spec.: 13:7, 210 × 390 mm,
600 dpi, 16 Bit
Year: 2015

Ex Machina

A fter seeing Alex Garland’s debut film ›Ex_Machina‹ I was so thrilled, that I decided to draw a fan artwork. It’s as much a homage to Garland as to the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt, who’s painting ›Margarethe Stonborough-Wittgenstein, (1905)‹ built the basis for my own work. The painting is shown in the movie as an allusion to Ludwig Wittgenstein, who’s being referenced a few times throughout the movie.

Title: ›Ex_Machina‹
Status: private project
Medium: illustration
Tech. spec.: 4200 × 7200 px, 13:7, 600 dpi, 16 Bit
Year: MMXV

›Margarethe Stonborough-Wittgenstein‹ by Gustav Klimt, 1905

Although Ava is an artificial intelligence, she does have an artistic side and demonstrates it several times in the movie. Unfortunately her results always tend to look mechanical and constructed, lacking an organic element, and so they feel a little strange to humans. In order simulate this uncanny feeling, and to set the end result apart from a picture perfect reproduction of a Japanese ukiyo-e print, I added outlandish elements like glitches, digital artifacts & halftone printing patterns. This way I could subtly highlight the digital nature of the artwork.

You can create your own Ava styled portrait via  Ava-Sessions.

I was striving for a printed, aged and worn look inspired by traditional Japanese woodcuts from Utagawa Hiroshige. At the same time, I tried to stay close to Klimt’s composition and choice of colours. Instead of his common swirls and ornaments, I found printed circuit boards (PCB) to be more appropriate as decorative elements for a robot-themed illustration. Even though Ava’s creator Nathan uses a memory gel for her ›Wetware‹ brain, I guess he would still have some use for common PCB’s. In any case, I think they capture the idea of an artificial interface and look beautiful.

Ava’s original dress from the movie, was designed by the Italian fashion designer Giambattista Valli for his Spring 2013 ready-to-wear collection. If the creators of the movie wouldn’t already have picked out a perfect and contemporary dress for Ava, I probably would have gone for something similar. Margarethe’s dress in Klimt’s painting felt a little antiquated to me.

Instead of writing my own little haiku, I decided to use one of the two official taglines as a typographic element in my work, because I find it to be very aphoristic: »To erase the line between man and machine is to obscure the line between men and gods«. Even though the typography shows parallels to the social marketing campaign by Watson Design Group, this typographic treatment is common in my work.

The title “Ex Machina” was set in the font ›Kolo‹, created by the American type designer Paul Shaw, and is a display font specifically designed for Art-Nouveau-period graphics. Shaw got his inspirations from the lettering of the members of the Secession, Vienna’s turn-of-the-century Art Nouveau movement, mostly from Koloman “Kolo” Moser, Gustav Klimt and Alfred Roller. It seemed to be an apt and obvious choice to me.

I leave you with some full resolution close-ups of the original, showing you some of the finer details hidden in the illustration.

Zhen Wu Braunschweig (Business Cards)

T he goal was to create a business card for the independent Gong-Fu-trainer Nassem Raufi.
He wanted to have something fresh, playful & unconventional, that he could hand out to interested people. His customers would have a certain expectation regarding classical Chinese martial arts – probably less playful and more focused. So we settled for elegant, traditional & sincere, getting my inspiration out of old woodblock prints and Chinese calligraphy. On the front we printed a unique illustration, depicting Nassem in a dynamic fighting pose, framed by typographical details to bring out the Chinese heritage.

We decided to leave out the address, because he’s still searching for a suitable training space. Instead we highlighted an empty area at the bottom, where he could write some personal notes for the potential customer.

To enhance the tactile experience we chose high grammar paperboard that’s generally used for beverage coasters. This way, the business cards are extremely thick (0,9 mm), yet remarkably light. The material strongly emphasizes the striking illustration on the front and gives the finished product an almost handmade appearance.

Der Garten

Title: ›Der Garten‹ (or ›Hängende Gärten der Semiramis‹)
Status: private project
Medium: illustration, haiku
Tech. spec.: 420 × 296,8 mm, 600 dpi
Date: 27.10.2014
Text: Klaas van Kreis

queen of Babylon,
how mysterious’ thy gardens.

Der Garten (final)



St. Sebastian

Title: ›St. Sebastian‹
Status: private project
Medium: illustration, haiku
Tech. spec.: 420 × 296,8 mm, 600 dpi
Date: 20.10.2014
Text: Klaas van Kreis

Praetorian guard.
The Lord is my savior.
Cloaca maxima.

St. Sebastian (final)