Pairing flashy colours with scenes from the everyday, Nina Bachmann, an illustrator and graphic designer based in Munich, creates work that is equally ghastly as it is lovable. Centred around the lives of her playful characters, Nina explains that these figures are coined from her experiences within society. “My characters try to dissolve the feeling of fear and to focus on the childlike optimism in small things,” she tells It’s Nice That. “By exaggerating the expressions in situations everyone enjoys, I try to bring lightness, charm and laughter into daily life.”
This critical yet positive view of the world comes from the early influences of her youth. As a child, she often painted psychedelic record covers and posters from the 60s and 70s, those in which she stumbled across in her father’s record collection. “After finishing school, I worked in a screen printing company where I was able to print my first set of graphic t-shirts,” she says, stating how this led her to study communication design at the Munich University of Applied Sciences. Then, after graduating, she landed her first job at a graphic design agency – “where the main focus was on very clean and high-quality design, always digital and drawn up to perfection.” Simultaneously, Nina founded a beer brand with three friends that gave her the freedom to design and illustrate on her own terms. “But the desire for painting, modelling and illustrating for the rough, wild and analogue feeling and style became bigger,” she says. “At some point I knew where I wanted to go and what would bring me fun and variety.”
Having decided on the path of illustration, Nina now spends most of her time working out of the studio – “a place where I try out everything”. This can be anything from modelling, painting, illustrating, as well as working with analogue and digital processes; it’s “a playground for my own development,” she says. For Nina, there’s no classic structure or typical day, instead working instinctively and inviting friends over to cook, hang and drink beer together. “There is an open creative exchange in the studio; my ideas come to me when I’m not busy with work and I’m free in the mind,” she adds. Utilising her studio as a place to immerse herself in her ideas, she makes sure to switch off from the outer digital world to enable complete concentration – “I often leave my laptop at home so that I can get better involved; I don’t like to get into details, but my work often develops quickly and spontaneously.” A technique that’s served her well, and one that has enabled flexibility within her creative approach.
Nina cites Hubert Hilscher’s CYRK, a set of old Polish circus posters, as a large inspiration for her work due to the hand-printed nature, the colours and rough technique. Alongside this, she’s also drawn towards the “observation of facial expressions and gestures” as well as the “interpersonal interactions and exchanges made in everyday life”. Through her studies, she’s able to take the mundane and blend it with a colourful dote of playfulness, an element she thinks is lacking in the real world. Whether its human interactions, going on holiday or having sex, Nina’s illustrations depict the moments around us – “things that everyone does and knows” – and counteracts them with a hint of optimism. Because, let’s be honest, the real world can be a negative space sometimes, filled with uncertainty and dissatisfaction. “Everyone strives for quick profits and perfectionism,” she says. “These are the moments detached from all conventions, without the glamour and perfection.”
About the Author
Ayla is a London-based freelance writer, editor and consultant specialising in art, photography, design and culture. After joining It’s Nice That in 2017 as editorial assistant, she was interim online editor in 2022/2023 and continues to work with us on a freelance basis. She has written for i-D, Dazed, AnOther, WePresent, Port, Elephant and more, and she is also the managing editor of design magazine Anima.