Till Lukat talks TUFF LADIES

Till Lukat’s latest project celebrates some of history’s toughest and most remarkable women.

TUFF LADIES, published by Centrala, showcases 24 stories about 24 different women, each of whom had something worth fighting for.

From world-celebrated artist Frida Kahlo to Valentina Tereshkova who was the first female cosmonaut in space, the book includes an eclectic range of fascinating stories, each of which is accompanied by a short comic strip surmising a key point in the women’s life.

Contrasting colour combinations, striking patterns and heavy marks all go towards expressing the women’s incredible stories and fierce personalities. This bold aesthetic is extended through Till’s portfolio with confident marks and striking colour palettes featuring in many of the artworks he produces.

Can you tell us a bit about TUFF LADIES and how the idea for the book came to you?

The TUFF LADIES started as a screen-printed set of trading cards. When I was a kid I loved to collect trading cards. The cards that fascinated me most were the ones that taught me something, cool facts I could entertain my friends with, Cowboys, Mythology, Dinosaurs… So I decided to make my own trading cards. Since a lot of the cards I use to collect deal with topics that are designed around the interests of school boys I decided to base my cards around a topic that every boy is interested in, strong women. I named the cards TUFF LADIES because I didn’t want to limit myself to only show great heroines but also remarkable women of everyday life and sometimes even villains. TUFF LADIES is a collection of 24 of my favourite women in the history. Each of them has left her mark in one-way or another.

How did you pick which 24 women to include?

When I was working on the first portraits I was on an exchange program in Bristol, England. Since I didn’t know many people there I always tried to talk with everyone about my new project. It turned out to be a pretty easy way to start a conversation because most people already had some particularly tuff females in mind. So, in the beginning the TUFF LADIES came faster than I could draw them.

I tried to include very diverse women, I’m not just interested in warriors and women of heroic actions but also women who strike a fundamental emotional chord, women who highlight humanity or who demonstrate selfless acts for other people, for me these are the true tuff ladies.

All of their stories are remarkable but do you have a personal favourite?

That is a difficult question since every portrait takes a lot of effort. I have to explore the lady’s history, her surroundings and the time she has lived in. Then I choose the points that make these women so special and try to explain my fascination with each one in only two pages. When I’m done with one of the portraits I feel quite connected to this particular woman, which makes it hard for me to have favourites.

To be honest though I do like the tattooed lady, Nora Hildebrand very much. Her story is one of the harrowing ones that when you delve into her story you find more than a lady with lots of tattoo’s, but a lady who stands against the problems of everyday life, rejection and expression of self.

When did Centrala get involved in the book? And how were they to work with?

Centrala have been involved from the very beginning. Last year I won the Ligatura Pitching, a competition Centrala organises every year to give newcomer artists the chance to get published by them. Working with Centrala has been a real pleasure and I am very satisfied with how the book turned out. For Michal, the head of Centrala, no trip is to far to sell a couple of books at a comic festival. I admire their love for indie publishing. At the Centrala table you can usually buy the books directly from the guys that put all their hearts into printing them.

Can you talk us through your creative process?

Every TUFF LADY portrait begins with a lot of research before I start the actual drawing. First thing for me is to collect as much material about the person as I can get my hands on. I enjoy picking topics that are new to me so I can explore them during my work. Sometimes the ideas for my comics come to me quickly and sometimes it takes me a while to think of a strip that sums up the picture I imagined from my research. During my time of drawing TUFF LADIES I have changed my workspace around 4 times.

I created the first comics sitting on my desk and tracing the sketches by holding the paper up to the window, which is pretty uncomfortable after 5 hours. My work process has changed a lot since these first pages. I enjoy drinking a coffee whilst working and listening to Steven King audio books as I ink my comics. Even though the final steps of my work are always done at the computer I try to keep it handmade. TUFF LADIES is completely drawn with acrylic paint. I like it a bit dirty.

How do you go about promoting your work in order to get commissions? Any networking tips?

Up until very recently I didn’t have any social media. My publisher was joking about me being the proof that it is still possible to get a book printed without being on Facebook. For me it’s important to keep a healthy balance between using the Internet as a tool and at times keeping a distance from it. Though I use the Internet to connect with other illustrators who I look up to and to check out competitions and events. My tip would be: believe in what you make and send as much stuff out as you can.

There is nothing worse than comic pages that catch dust because they are stored in the bottom drawer of the ‘is this good enough?’ cabinet.

What is the creative scene like in Berlin?

It is great. There are a couple of shops that sell a really good selection of zines and comics. These places are also a meeting point for artists. Once a year there is the Berlin Zinefair and the Comic Invasion. Both events are great fun and no one who likes Comics and is around at the time should miss them. In Berlin you also get the chance to see some really crazy stuff. Last weekend I went to a big robot-monster show, all self-made. Really intense. It is called the “Monsterkabinett” by the artist group “Deadchickens”.

What influences your work the most? Are there any people or places who inspire you in your day-to-day life?

At the moment I am working in the attic of my parents house, where I life together with my girlfriend, Ellice Weaver. She is a great source of inspiration for me. Not only because her comics are cool but also because she can be extremely funny and sometimes turns my life into a bit of a comic itself. I love walks in the nature, old punk rock music (Black Flag, the Dicks, Ian Dury and the Blockheads), chocolate bars, watching people in their natural surrounding and horror movies. My favourite artists are Derf Backderf, Charles Forsman and my friend Hans Lichtenwagner.

What is your dream brief?

Since I was lucky and got to set my own brief for the TUFF LADIES book I am perfectly happy with this one.

Finally, what is next for you? Any creative projects you would like to mention?

I just bought a Camper Van. Ellice and I are going to try to live in it, to keep the cost of rent low (not that I needed that at the moment, living at my parents) and to explore Germany, England and everything around. At the moment I am working on a longer version of TUFF LADIES, which will be published next year in French. The book will be around twice as thick as the first version. I also just finished my Bachelor at the University of Arts here in Berlin. I made 10 boxes, that deal with the topic of “What will I be when I grow up?” This project was a lot of fun for me because I had not done anything 3 dimensional so far; it was great to see my illustrations away from the paper.




Posted on Nov 14th, 15 by

Greg McIndoe - also known as Headless Greg - is an illustrator and design writer based in Glasgow, Scotland. He regularly writes for design magazines and online platforms, interviewing fellow illustrators and leading creatives.

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