On first glance, you could assume that the illustration work of Tatjana Prenzel is relatively traditional. It’s drawing as we all know it, using a pencil to shade and elevate the expressions of her characters. But what Tatjana does differently is bring her illustrations to life, and not through the traditional route of animation, but sculpture.
While at university at HfG Offenbach in Germany, Tatjana attended several classes “that have coined my way of working,” she tells It’s Nice That. “What guided me into studying illustration in the first place was my passion for drawing and looking at pictures in all kinds of ways.” At this point Tatjana embraced a loose narrative into her works, writing stories as well as illustrating them. By the time it came round to completing her diploma project the illustrator’s process was in full swing as she “discovered the thrill of conveying my understanding of literature through my illustrations.”
Tatjana’s stories and subsequent illustrations always start with people, building inspiration from how groups, duos or just one person interacts. “That’s why I try to discover a new way for the viewer of my drawings to communicate with the people in my drawings,” she explains. This is where Tatjana’s use of sculpture comes into play, building giant silhouettes of her characters for viewers to inspect and circle around at her degree show, particularly inspired by the people Edward Hopper paints in terms of how "they linger around in an unspectacular way and do nothing, while having an air of melancholy around them.”
As a result, Tatjana builds atmosphere in her drawings through her coordination of colours, whether drawing on paper or onto wood. Working with 3D materials, and illustrating on them was a new experience, she explains: “wood is very hard and difficult to deal with which makes it a tougher job to get straight lines than drawing on paper.” Determined, and with a picture in mind of how her drawings could translate to an exhibition space – it “was what I wanted to do,” she confirms of the process of matching her stories with materials to “underline its characteristics”.
The results are textural triumphs and melancholic moments drawn into singular frames before enlarged into objects, proof of Tatjana’s eye for detail. At just the very beginning of her illustration career, the possibilities for her portfolio are endless as she’s crafted a style of work that is both instantly commissionable, as well as fitting neatly, but still commanding attention, in a gallery space.
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) is the senior editor at Insights, a research-driven department with It's Nice That. Get in contact with her for potential Insights collaborations or to discuss Insights' fortnightly column, POV. Lucy has been a part of the team at It's Nice That since 2016, first joining as a staff writer after graduating from Chelsea College of Art with a degree in Graphic Design Communication.