I’m a fan of Christiane Engel’s work for quite a while through her monthly desktop calendars that she produced, until she stopped in 2012. She’s back at it again for 2015 and I couldn’t be more thrilled! Read on about how her desktop calendars helped her shape her style and what happened in between in our interview:
Hi Christiane! Tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I’m an illustrator based in South East England by the sea and I mainly work for the kids’ publishing market. Recently I’ve done quite a few map illustrations for a variety of clients, which I enjoy a lot.
I also love creating hand lettering and patterns.
How would you describe your style and strengths?
I like to stay flexible in the tools and techniques that I use so there are some variations to my style. Also, quite often I find that a certain look suits one book or project better and the next one might be needing less texture or more lines, for example. However I think all of my work has a childlike spirit to it.
My main style is a collagey cut out style that uses hand painted textures, but I also use linear ink drawings and colour these digitally.
You’ve been creating these desktop wallpapers since way back! I’m a big fan of them, and was thrilled when you recently relaunched it again. Could you tell me a little bit more about them – what’s your process when you design them, what has made them popular, and why do you create them?
I’m happy you like them!
There’s something I really love about calendars, moving through the months and seasons. And I thought it would be a great way of sharing my art with people on a regular basis. Over time, a style that’s less crowded and more evocative than my usual picture book art has developed and I was looking forward to creating something seasonal each month.
The process is almost always like this: towards the end of a month, I think of an outdoor scene and setting that I would love to be in for the coming month. In most cases I even have a clear idea of the geographical location for this. (September 2015 is by the Mississippi Delta) I sketch it out on the back of an envelope or supermarket coupon and then create the final art on my computer, using Photoshop.
Some of my calendars were kindly featured on beautiful Poppytalk a few times and were therefore getting more popular. I was really thrilled about the fact that people around the globe were using my art on their desktops as well.
However all that came to a sudden halt in March 2012 when my first baby, Maya, was stillborn. The windy coastal road which was the March image stayed on my desktop for over a year I think. This was such a life changing event that time, days, seasons and calendars did not have any relevance to me… I delved into clients work and didn’t have much space for personal projects.
But of course life moves on fast and now I’m happy that I can squeeze in the calendars again. This time around they’re inspired by my nature loving toddler and feature scenes of an outdoorsy kind of childhood. I’m bringing together my two different directions now I guess.
You’ve been in the illustration world for quite some time now – what are your thoughts about the industry in general? Is there a big difference in the way things are done now, compared to before?
I think illustration has become a more recognized artform again and is used more widely across many areas plus amazing things can be done now with a computer.
Also it’s become easier to connect with people these days through linked in, twitter and so on. These things didn’t even exist when I was first starting out as an illustrator, even something as unspectacular as sending attachments and uploading final art digitally was still seen as something pretty amazing.
But now that I think of it, sending samples and book dummies in the post also had a straightforwardness and simplicity about it although it may seem too time consuming nowadays. The speed of things has definitely increased, and there are pros and cons to that.
What was something you wish you’d known when you first started out? (aka what words of advice would you give to up and coming artists and illustrators?)
You can download October’s desktop wallpaper from Christiane’s website right here!