“I don’t want it to be exclusive”: Anna Beil’s illustrations are fun, emotive and for everyone to enjoy
The Berlin-based illustrator has spent the last few years refining her practicing, and likes it best when her work is joyful and accessible for all.
- Ayla Angelos
- 29 April 2021
It’s been five years since we last touched based with Anna Beil, an artist and designer based in Berlin. Back then, she was in the final year of her BA in communication design, focusing her practice on a mix of illustration and graphic design. A short break after completing her studies, and she’s back here once again, only this time she’s come armed with a more interdisciplinary focus, and is currently studying for a degree in Art at HfG Offenbach. “I’ve started to paint on bigger canvases and I’ve finally started experimenting with airbrush and spray paint, which I’ve always wanted to try since it’s my favourite brush in Photoshop,” she tells It’s Nice That.
Looking back to her childhood, Anna recalls the enjoyable moments watching cartoons and anime – her family had immigrated from the old UdSSR to Germany, and hadn’t previously owned a TV. Collecting Disney movies and manga therefore became a hobby, Anna and her sister would spend hours copying cartoons and drawing “nice” off the back of their findings. A few years down the line and Anna has built an impressive portfolio filled with zines, paintings, books and illustrations. This includes a recent illustration for Rom Magazine, accompanying an article on the topic of different forms of protest; as well as a recent zine published by Gaffa World and made in collaboration with illustrator Eric Reh.
From years of collecting zines, catalogues and art books, Anna has amassed a healthy collection of reference points for her work. “They’ve taught me well and are always fun to look at,” she says. “But in general, I try not to dig too much, and I feel like the more I search, the less it feels good.” Instead, she finds talks with friends, watching movies and going for walks as her main source of inspiration. “And of course the internet was a big game-changer, like early Facebook and now Instagram. I remember it was so mind-blowing to see all of this great art from people all around the world, and all of a sudden it also felt less lonely and wrong to do the style that I like to do. It also opens this competitive level, but the bigger win was to find aesthetic similarities and people with similar approaches and styles.”
Anna’s aesthetic is squiggly and rough, created using either acrylic paint, airbrush, spray paint, marker pen, chalks or oils. For her more illustrative pieces, she’ll start off with sketching and use cheap markers as her tool of choice (sometimes a “rough pen”). And when she puts her thoughts to paper, she finds herself drawing similar shapes and lines throughout the entirety of her process, “but with tiny differences in the face, the most emotional part,” she explains. After which she’ll scan her work and give it a revamp in Photoshop, brightening or changing the colours and making various iterations.
Sometimes, Anna’s pieces will feature her own poetic words printed on the page – such as “Missing no-one besides everyone” and “Going home when there is fun,” which provides a bit more context to what’s otherwise quite an abstract display of colour. Around a year ago, Anna first started working in this manner, combining her writing and illustrations in form of a booklet. “To use my writing in that way was very new for me and felt much more private and intimate than working with just images,” she notes. And even if she’s always written down sentences or crafted little stories along the way, this is the first time she’s ever made her written thoughts public. “The project has motivated me to be more brave with my writing, even if it’s just fantasy nonsense of funny songs.”
In other news, Anna was recently approached by Eric to work together on a small zine. It started off as a joke between them, where they’d laughed at how Eric’s better with drawing and Anna’s better with colour. “So we tried this as a concept,” she adds. “He gave me a bunch of drawings, which I rearranged, mixed, and coloured them with bold strokes and colours. We both really like the result!” Not only did it make them realise how rewarding a collaboration like this can be, but it’s also inspired them to collaborate more in the future. And we can fully see why; it’s a joyful collaboration that blends the skillsets of two esteemed creators.
The future for Anna is looking bright, and she’s thankful for spending the last few years experimenting with new approaches. It’s also opened up a new dialogue between herself and her work, as she’s realised that she doesn't always need to create something with a deep-rooted context. “It’s important to me that my work is not too complex or that you need some intellectual background to enjoy it – I don’t want it to be exclusive,” she says. “I like it best when it’s simply fun and filled with colours and emotions, which are telling little stories.”
Anna Beil: Doggod (Copyright © Anna Beil, 2021)
About the Author
Ayla was an editorial assistant back in June 2017 and has continued to work with us on a freelance basis. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.