We first met illustrator Tatjana Prenzel at Eike Konig’s After School Club in Offenbach, and she doesn’t seem to have stopped drawing since. Soon after graduating from university, Tatjana’s delicate hand popped up in all manner of visual spots, most notably adorning The New York Times and The New Yorker’s pages on a regular basis. This regular work, and the regular practise that comes with it, means Tatjana’s style has gradually developed into an even stronger creative output.
“The last year was really busy,” Tatjana tells us as we catch up on her. “I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to work on so many projects with such brilliant art directors just one year after graduating.” Working on largely editorial commissions has meant the illustrator has become used to the process of consistent feedback: “I love trying to put different aspects of a story or an essay into a picture, it’s like playing with layers or different scenes,” she adds. “And I think the great feedback from art directors really helped me to go further and further, challenging the illustrations I’ve made before. Every job brings me something new to try and discover.”
In her work, this has seen Tatjana’s characters remain a focus (an attribute about her work we loved from her bachelor’s project) but also sees the illustrator expand into drawing landscapes, really adding the sense of building scenes as she mentions. It’s also seen her illustrate for novels, creating her first book cover for Penguin Random House this past year.
Whatever the project though, an ability to illustratively utilise space – whether the shape of an object or character or just hint at something through shading – is a consistent factor of her work. “I think I’m also making use of shapes and objects and letting them interact with my figures,” Tatjana elaborates. “Sometimes, I also show more of the environment but then again, I rather enjoy focusing on the figures and how they interact with each other. I always focus on atmosphere and seek for the best way to convey it through colour.”
Colour is definitely an area where Tatjana excels and she’s broad in her use of palettes – dependent on the topic, of course. In some areas this is overly vibrant, such as in her cover for Emma Straub’s All Adults Here, but is balanced out by the sensitive approach of Tatjana’s pencil marks. But in others, it’s realistic interpretations that really shine, for example, in the piece above, titled Relais et Chateaux.
An idyllic scene, Tatjana’s ability to interpret details such as the movement of trees shows her skill at interpreting a moment. “Today, I’m feeling much more confident with my style and do not always question how the illustration looks,” adds the illustrator. “This enables me to focus more on how I can translate something into the drawing.”
Looking forward – and after her biggest commission to date for sunglasses brand Warby Parker, making the interior and exterior murals for its store – Tatjana’s excited to take on several more projects, big and small. She hopes editorial commissions will always be a part of her practice, considering how much she enjoys “getting into contact with new themes that I haven’t dealt with before... the more I have to research for an article, the more I have the feeling that I find complete expression.”
Other dreams include developing a full-page illustration like a cover (rather than smaller spots) or a continuous series of illustrations, maybe about “something playful, like spots about food,” says Tatjana. “To illustrate a film poster would be really great, I think this would be a good fit with my work, trying to share the atmosphere that is created in a film, then transfer it into an illustration.”
Working with narrative, it seems, will always be the driving force behind Tatjana’s work, even concluding with the fact that a consistent goal of hers is to illustrate book covers. “It’s always been the biggest deal for me, to illustrate a story someone else has written,” she tells us. “Doing book covers has always been my biggest dream.” With one commission from Penguin already under her belt at such an early stage, it’s only a matter of time until we see more from Tatjana we think.
Tatjana Prenzel: Relais et Chateaux
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.