Sex in an Airbnb, a girl falling in love with a peacock, plus a piece identifying the so-called beauty premium and society’s nuanced understanding of ugliness. These are the current themes of Germany-based illustrator Lea Heinrich’s latest work, and each piece is as thematically relevant and entertaining as the next. With a whimsical and romantic colour palette that goes hand-in-hand with dot drawing and charming characters, it’s clear that this artist’s style has positively matured since we last featured her.
Back in 2015, we wrote about Lea’s witty urban comics, which saw the illustrator depicting tales of her surroundings in the ever-evolving city. “Around this time I was living a life between countries, projects and different circles of friends and fellow artists. I think that my work gained and suffered under these circumstances," Lea tells It’s Nice That. "I would let myself be inspired by new surroundings, styles I would see on the streets, events I witnessed and the exchange with other artists but I missed out on building a steady base and it was difficult to delve into long-term projects.”
A year ago, Lea took on a teaching job at a school of art and design in Kassel, Germany, which “put an end to the restlessness”. Here, she worked with students and thoroughly enjoyed the social aspect which also allowed for plenty of time to work on her own projects. Now, the artist is in full swing and has been commissioned to illustrate for various publications, including regular pieces for The New Yorker, The Guardian, Colorama Clubhouse, and The Pitchfork Review.
In terms of inspiration, Lea continues to pick at her surroundings and references anything she lays her eyes on. “There are so many aspects that trigger my inspiration. I can’t get tired of looking at architecture or at people, for example. I guess every project has its own way to come about, but there’s always a tipping point when I find the key idea that gives me access to the subject I want to work on. That can be the loosest sketch, a found object or something I overhear people saying,” she says. “From that moment on work is a piece of cake.”
Her most recent illustrations for Colorama’s Clubhouse serve as an amusing and insightful look into the life of a girl falling in love. The premise for the project was to draw a “comic or series based on a poster of another artist from the group”, and the whole book was created in a single week. This evolved into a piece titled Peacock Island, inspired by a poster by George Wylesol, that tells the story of “youth, boredom and the fact that you can’t change someone to your ideals and take them home and own them”. Peacock Island begins with a curious girl walking at night who encounters a beautiful peacock. Then, like all traditional fairytales, the peacock turns into a person of desire. “They make out and when she wants to bring him (or her) home with her, the sun rises and then he (or she) dissolves. And life — in the form of a peacock —smiles at her,” Lea explains. “The end.”
Further to this, Lea was commissioned to illustrate an article about Airbnb sex for The New Yorker. “It was fun to test how explicitly sexual the work could get, and to use all the good old tricks to cover body parts with fruits and flowers,” says Lea. “To me the most rewarding thing that can happen while drawing is to surprise myself with new ways of visualising something that I haven’t tried before… Generally I have been very lucky to mostly get commissions with lots of freedom to create something original.”