In Focus: Luisa Jung

Surreal, whimsical and other worldly, the work of Luisa Jung is a pleasure to get lost in. Luisa speaks to us about her creative journey from architecture to illustration, how she stays inspired, and more.

Luisa Jung studied Architecture in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and shortly after moved to Germany working for many years in architectural competitions. “I got used to working on a tight schedule, and learned how to interpret a brief, and develop a concept to fit a clients needs.” reveals the illustrator.  Spending a lot of time in front of a screen became tedious and as a way to escape this, she started making analog collages in the evenings and on the weekends. “I guess I found the limitations of the old school collaging soothing. I kept on working on my collages, and about a year later I was showing them in my first solo exhibition in Germany.”

In time, I grew more and more confident about my work and started combining these collages with other techniques (watercolour, pencil and woodcut). Once I had built a convincing portfolio, I decided to explore the illustration business. Slowly, one commission at a time, I started building my career as a freelance illustrator in Germany. Germany is a very peaceful place, the amount of silence that surrounds you would be unthinkable in Buenos Aires. I guess this calm way of life, the slow pace, and the inherent loneliness of being an expat, made me remember the long forgotten need to do art and pushed me to pursue my vocation.”

How do you begin, plan, and end your day?

I am definitely a morning person. I used to have the theory that people who were born really early in the morning have their peak of productivity within the first hours of the day. Though I’ve met many people that have proved me wrong, I secretly still believe it to be true. Usually I start my day really early and jump straight into work. I try to seize on the clarity and energy I have when I wake up to produce new work. I have my first coffee with my pencil/mouse in my hand. Of course this varies depending upon the stage my work is at, but when I’m about to start a new commission I usually prefer to do it in the morning.

“Armando”, analog collage, 2013

Before I start sketching, I normally do a bit of research around the topics I have to work on. I sketch the first thing that comes to my mind while reading any text that I’m to illustrate. Then I start going through my magazines, looking for material to work with. The part I enjoy the most is finding imagery I wasn’t expecting and coming up with a new idea. When working on editorial illustrations, I usually present two ideas per image to the editor-in-chief and let him/her decide which one to pursue.

Once a fellow illustrator gave me a very important piece of advice: “when presenting several options never show an idea you are not completely convinced of, if you do the editor usually chooses that one.”

I try to leave the more “administrative work” for the afternoons and evenings. That’s when I process orders, answer e-mails, write to-do lists, do research and plan the next day. That way I can reserve the mornings exclusively for being creative. Any downtime I have I spend with my family. I recently became a mother and so get a lot of energy and inspiration from this change in family life.

Commissioned illustration for Psychologie Heute ‘How to stay calm when things go wrong”, 2016

Commissioned illustration for Wirtschaftswoche on Robotics, 2017

On slow days, I usually dedicate my time to personal projects. Currently, I am working on a picture book project about the city I live in (Cologne). I use these moments to explore new ideas and techniques in order to broaden my portfolio. Its important to leave room for experimentation and to play with ideas. Recently, for instance, I started painting over some old Finnish wedding pictures, and almost without noticing it, the series “OMG, I Married a Monster” was born.  I’m also constantly working on building my own digital library in order to gain flexibility regarding my work location.

Do you have any rituals or daily routines to help get you into the right mindset to be creative?

This might sound peculiar, but I like to listen to one album per project, on a loop. It seems to help me get in the right mood, to concentrate, and is a great way to keep track of time. Though it can also drive the people you’re living with crazy.

“OMG, I married a Monster!” personal project, mixed media, 2017

Creative block can strike at any time – how do you overcome this when it happens?

If I do get stuck at some point, when working on a commission, I get up and go for a run. I’m not really the sporty type, but this always seems to work. I live close to the river Rhine. I love to walk or run along it. It has both a soothing and an energising effect on me.

The most important part of overcoming creative block is to let the images “rest”.

Luisa Jung

If the schedule allows it, I find it ideal to let them “rest” overnight before making decisions. Usually, I find it helpful to discuss my work with my husband, who is a photographer, or my mom, who is also an artist.  Their insights are always very enriching.

“Aliento”, analog collage, 2013

“Galaxia”, analog collage, 2014

Can you describe your working environment and the split between time spent working with your hands and digital rendering?

My working environment consists of two spaces, a digital one and an analog one. Whenever I’m working on analog projects, I try to stay away from the computer in order to avoid distraction. The analog workspace has a lot of natural daylight. In my workspace you’ll find some artworks from friends, some “motivational” images, and the images I am currently working on. I find it extremely helpful to look at the images again and again while doing something else, in this way I get as many “first impressions” as possible, and can decide whether an image is strong enough as it is or needs improvement.

Luisa’s digital workspace (Ph: Florian Jung)

There is an important part of my workspace that is dedicated to my precious vintage magazines. I work almost exclusively with material from the 50’s and 60’s. Those decades have something really theatrical that I love. Whenever I travel, I always spend some time in second-hand bookshops buying new-old material. My collection includes vintage magazines from Japan, South Africa, Argentina, US, Germany and Finland. I sometimes find it really hard to cut them up, but like to think of my work as a sort of up-cycling.

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Posted on Nov 19th, 17 by | Twitter: @lisahassell

Founder & director of Inkygoodness, Lisa is a published writer and arts journalist, focusing on creative business, graphic art and illustration and design education. Her words regularly appear in Computer Arts, Creative Bloq, Digital Arts and IdN.

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