“In general, I have been most interested in illustrative storytelling over the last few years,” says Berlin-based illustrator Larissa Hoff. While completing her master’s degree at the Berlin University of Arts, she additionally works as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer in her spare time. Working primarily for magazines, she has developed quite the knack for visually expressing other people’s stories, but never her own until now.
“Until now, I never had the courage to actually write a story of my own,” she tells It’s Nice That. Consequently, Der Wall marks a premiere of sorts for the illustrator, as it’s the first time Larissa has actually written a story rather than constructed fragments of her illustrative work into a narrative. “In general, a lot of the story is told in between the lines and it was a new challenge for me to balance the story between illustration, writing and reader’s intuition,” says Larissa.
The story revolves “the memories of an unnamed old woman that lives alone in a small house near a lake and surrounded by dense woods.” The narrative weaves in and out of the woman’s past and present, she recollects her past happiness with a girlfriend while in the present, a mound of earth, or “wall”, has grown around her home, isolating her from the rest of the area. On the story, Larissa adds, “I leave it to the reader’s imagination to interpret this as a metaphor or as a natural phenomenon.”
Similar to many illustrators, “drawing and painting have been a big part of [her] everyday life since early childhood.” As a child growing up in a small town in southern Germany, Larissa used to stay at home “reading comics for hours and hours” when she wasn’t outside soaking up the natural wildlife. “As a kid, I was very proud of my large collection of The Simpsons comic books and this first edition issue of the Futurama comic book,” says Larissa. And though her work doesn’t explicitly reflect the Matt Groening aesthetic, there are certain qualities of cartoonish playfulness and hints of yellow throughout the illustrator’s portfolio.
In other works, Larissa has taken on the challenge of illustrating the novel The Blazing World published in 1666 by Margaret Cavendish for her bachelor thesis. She’s also completed a number of editorial works for the likes of Missy Magazine where she was given the opportunity to represent European politics at the time through illustration. Namely, “the growing powers of far-right groups and their influence on everyday life and what you can do to stand against them as a liberal and open-minded society,” says Larissa.
“Essentially, what I like most about this kind of editorial work is that you often have to read up on a subject that you might not know anything about,” says Larissa. As an illustrator, “you constantly have to think of new ways to communicate information to the readers and open up a new conceptual window in just one picture.”
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