If Jan Buchczik were to start a fan club – one which you could enter only by correctly spelling his surname 15 times or more – we’d be first in line, happily clutching our Jan badges. And not least because we’ve got his name down. Finally.
The Frankfurt-based illustrator has made witty, fun, sharp images his bread and butter, working for Bloomberg Businessweek, Zeit Campus, The Sunday Times Magazine and even us every once in a while, and while our updates on his work recur on a biannual basis like some kind of digital love letter, we thought it might be time to give him some time and attention. So here he is on his practice, his workspace, his invaluable advice to fresh illustrators looking for commissions, and his podcast recommendations. Take it away Jan!
Hi Jan! Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I’m an illustrator working and living in Frankfurt, Germany. I’m a student of Eike König’s class, AKA Koenigsklasse, at the University of Art and Design in Offenbach. Hopefully I’ll be finishing my diploma in the next one or two years.
Where’s your ideal place to work? Do you like to stay at a desk, or can you create work on the go?
For the actual drawing I definitely need a desk, a chair and a computer. For ideas and sketches, which in my case are mostly words or a short text instead of a drawing, I prefer public spaces like trains or cafes. Something with noise in the background to drift into. Also riding my bike seems to help me get into the right way of thinking and at the same time not thinking to get the ideas flowing.
Who are your favourite illustrators? Is there anyone who continues to inspire you year after year?
There are a lot of illustrators whose work I really like, but it’s not really possible to point one out. All I can say is I’m a big fan of line drawings and illustrators who combine a witty drawing style with good and fun ideas or solutions.
If I really, really had to point one out I would probably say Jason Polan. Mainly because of his really great Instagram feed. He’s a sensitive observer, a good storyteller and funny, which sums up what, in my eyes, makes a great illustrator.
I tend to get my inspirations from different sources, rather than from other peoples’ illustrations. The silent films by the likes of Buster Keaton, The Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin or books by Lydia Davis, John Berger or Peter Bichsel are much more inspiring to me at the moment. If you look and listen closely you can find inspiration in anything you want to.
“Get off the internet, have fun with drawing, do drawings on a day-to-day basis, get a website, join in on calls for submissions, and write to art directors who seem fitting for your work. Don’t overdo it or force it, but in the end there’s not much to lose.”
Do you think it’s important to keep up with personal projects alongside commercial work?
Besides some drawings here and there I haven’t done a personal project on a bigger scale for some time now, but it’s very important to me, and I’m planning on expanding it in the near future.
At first, personal work is a great way to explore what and how you want to draw, to create a language and build up a portfolio before acquiring some jobs. Working on your own topics and ideas is very rewarding, as you can go deeper into a topic and take time to figure out how you want to tell the story. Also, personal drawings give you space to leave the confinements you build up in your commercial work, which make you predictable for art directors and clients. If I get bored of myself I can always venture out and try something new for me. Even if the end result isn’t too far off what I did before, the process or way of thinking might have been different.
What advice would you give to young illustrators just starting out who are trying to get commissions?
Recently I heard the saying “You have to turn your weaknesses into weapons,” and I kind of liked that, whatever people take from it.
Seriously though, I don’t really know anything besides the usual stuff, and I still feel like I’m just starting out myself. Get off the internet, have fun with drawing, do drawings on a day-to-day basis, get a website, join in on calls for submissions, and write to art directors who seem fitting for your work. Don’t overdo it or force it, but in the end there’s not much to lose. Oh, and listen to the Escape From Illustration Island podcast by Thomas James!
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