I adore Ana Albero’s work. Looking at the worlds she creates and the people she depicts, with her unmistakably brilliant illustration style, is always time well spent in my view. Ana is a Berlin-based freelance illustrator with a dizzying client list. She is also one third of the Edition Biografiktion self-publishing collective. Despite not being a big fan of giving interviews, Ana was kind enough to find the time to talk to Pikaland about her work and her processes here. Thank you Ana!
Hi Ana, how are you? What are you up to today?
Hi! I am fine thanks! Today I am finally answering a lot of emails after my late summer vacation, cooking my secret salmon recipe, baking a blueberry cake and meeting my Spanish girlfriends in the evening so I think I am not drawing today.
Could you tell Pikaland readers a little bit about yourself and the art that you make?
I’m an illustrator, originally from Alicante, a seaside city in Spain. I studied in Paris and Berlin where I specialized in Illustration.
Since my graduation at the Berlin University of the Arts in 2008, I work globally as a freelance illustrator based In Berlin. I also spend my time binding books, self-publishing comics and walking around in Berlin staring at dogs.
Are you working on any projects or art pieces at the moment that you could tell us about?
I am working on some commissioned editorial illustrations and putting together some top secret book projects.
How long have you been making art, is it something you’ve always been interested in?
Since I can remember, I always enjoyed drawing but I never felt like studying Fine Arts. I wanted to study something creative yet practical, so I ended up studying Communication Sciences and not being very happy about it.
Luckily I got a grant to study abroad. At the Berlin University of the Arts I discovered almost by accident the Illustration class. I always loved illustration but never thought of it as a job. I felt that to study illustration was what I really was looking for so quit my studies in Spain and applied for the Berlin University of the Arts. That opportunity really changed my life.
How did you first get started really pursuing your art career?
I started being more focused about my drawing after graduating. Leaving my much-loved educational “bubble” I realized I had to become more serious and committed about illustration if I wanted to earn my living drawing. So I started working hard on my portfolio to create something visually interesting and cohesive to show.
Together with the illustrators Till Hafenbrak and Paul Paetzel you founded “Edition Biografiktion” in 2008. Could you tell us a little about Edition Biografiktion, how you came to work together, and the projects that you have created?
Besides my commercial and personal work I am a member of the comic collective Edition Biografiktion which I founded with Till Hafenbrak and Paul Paetzel. Back then we were all still students and attended illustration class together. We became good friends and naturally we decided to come together because we all shared the wish to put out our work. The first zines (Biografiktion) we published were comic stories about celebrities, adding fictional elements. We decided to start a second series called Human News whose theme varies in every issue and which is more focused on Illustration. To produce our artwork we use the printing techniques which are easily at our disposal: silkscreen, linocut and reprography.
Is it important to you to work within such an art community?
Of course! There are many advantages in working in a group. As we lack financial resources we can’t pay others to do the printing for us. All the processes of the production are also very time consuming. As a group we can work together and share the workload. Even if we do most of the production process by ourselves there are still costs for materials like paper or inks also booth costs on comic festivals can be shared. Another advantage is that working in a group gives each of us bigger recognition and exposure.
We try to motivate each other in our work, also helping each other and offering constructive criticism. The best of it is of course spending lots of time with good friends.
How do you balance your time between working on projects with Edition Biografiktion, your solo work, and ‘life’?
Unfortunately, time management is not one of my strengths. I spend most of my time drawing right now. I prefer to work on two projects at a time to be able to switch between projects and have a little “break” that way. I tend to be more productive under time pressure which leads me sometimes to overwork myself. Nevertheless, I try to keep the pens down on the weekend, it is important to disconnect from work and enjoy some free time.
Do you have any top tips for overcoming procrastination? (I’m a huge sufferer of procrastination and I’m left with endless still-to-do lists as a result).
Oh, sorry no tips… I also suffer from chronic procrastination!
What’s your work space/studio like? Do you tend to surround yourself with things/images/artefacts to keep you company or inspire/ motivate you?
I tried to work in a couple of shared studios but I ended up working mostly at my studio at home. Maybe it is because I prefer a more cozy atmosphere to work till late in the evening. I live together with my boyfriend who is also an illustrator but you never could tell that seeing our apartment. We own tons of stuff, gorgeous prints and frames to hang but for some reason our apartment is sadly under-decorated. Actually that is one of our perpetual New Year’s resolutions.
Can you disclose a bit about the creative process behind your art making? Also, what techniques of illustration do you most prefer to use; what are your tools and materials of choice, and how did you come to work with them?
I start doing some rough sketches to figure the composition out and then I keep working on that drawing using transparent paper layers until the illustration is ready. When I work on a designed topic I do a research first.
I work mostly with graphite because that allows me to create a lot of different textures. Of course, I also use a computer mostly for digital coloring purposes.
At university I was able to try a lot of mediums and techniques, but at the moment I mostly work with pencil and paper for my commissioned work. I also work on screen-prints sometimes and would love to do some etching again but those mediums are very time consuming so I rather would use them for personal projects.
Which people, projects, or artists have made the biggest impact on your personal life or shaped your artistic vision?
Other decades inspire me a lot, whether in the past or the future… I like to research how people and things used to look and love to imagine how everything could be someday in a weird future time. I enjoy looking at all sorts of illustrations and vintage fashion magazines. As a teenager I even used to think I was born in the wrong time period. I also find inspiration in common people and everyday life. My colleagues Paul and Till also influence my work a lot.
I find it interesting how and where people gain access to their own confidence, and self-belief. Particularly in terms of how they are able to produce and create with a sense of assurance, belief and certainty, or taking the leap to make art their central focus.
What is your personal relationship with confidence?
How did you personally learn to access your creative and artistic talents, and gain the confidence to make, sell, and exhibit your art, as well as working freelance for various publications? Is confidence over your work something that comes easily to you?
I am quite an introverted person, that means I don’t really enjoy talking about my work, I feel uncomfortable at presentations and I avoid giving interviews. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t feel confident about my illustration work. In fact, I think I have a strong vision of what I like and dislike, what I want to do and don’t. I am very critical and demanding of myself and I enjoy being professional at my work.
To get a feel for your geographical location/’scene’, are there any Berlin artists, events, galleries, projects, magazines (etc) that particularly excite you right now? Where are your favourite places to create or be in Berlin?
My favorite place to create in Berlin is my studio at home. I need a calm atmosphere to get things done so you will never see me doodling in a coffee shop, I’d actually be drinking something there. For exhibitions I’d rather visit an old school museum like the Dahlem Ethnological Museum than the latest super hyped exhibition opening in a gallery.
You have lived and worked in a few European countries over the years. How do your different surroundings/environments, and your attention to the details of them, affect your art and creativity?
I enjoy traveling as much as staying at home. When I get to go somewhere I prefer to explore my new neighborhood in order to run around visiting all the possible tourist spots. I really enjoy the illusion of living an everyday life in a complete new environment. I don’t keep travel sketchbooks, that’s not for me at all, I’d rather take some pictures instead. I would probably live every year in a different country if I could. I’ve lived in Berlin for over 10 years now. It is a great city to live in because it is huge but not stressful at all. I would say to live here is important for my work because in Berlin I can stay focused on it.
What are your top tips for others who wish to be creative but feel stuck, don’t know where to start, or feel like they aren’t ‘good enough’ to do so?
Frustration is normal feeling in a creative job like this. Also feeling uninspired or unmotivated… the best tip I can give is try not feeling anxious about that… take some days off, be lazy for a while but then start working hard again. For me it is particularly hard for instance to start working again after a long trip or a vacation away from my studio. The only solution is starting over again and not thinking too much about it.
What is it that makes you burst with energy, keeps you inspired enough to keep going, and makes you want to continue being an artist?
What makes me really want to continue being an illustrator (although it is not the easiest profession) is imagining myself working in a regular 9 to 5 job and being too tired to do something creative when I get home.
There’s many pieces of your work that are presented as comics strips, with panels of drawings. How interested are you in comics work?
Although I am drawing more often comics right now I still prefer to work in single illustrations because I enjoy taking more time for the composition and the drawing itself. A good illustration always tells a story anyway.
What would your dream art project be? And what do you hope to work on next?
Working with people I admire and creating what I feel like.