(She/Her) • Berlin, Germany
Based in Berlin, Zellmer freelances as an illustrator and lectures on illustration and photography. Her artwork blends dream-like ideas with stark, graphic elements. Zellmer combines collage, painted textural effects, photography and handmade ink drawing to produce visually-exciting images. Using line, paint stains, and ink washes, she creates illustration that has a weathered look, and her images show multiple layers of information.Read more
BBC, The Financial Times, LA-Times, VITRA Design, The Sydney Morning Herald, Financial Review Magazine, Range Rover, KFC, Dresdner Bank, WDV Publishing, Mercedes/Daimler Chrysler, STERN, Lonely Planet, ARTE, WPP advertising, Tearfund, AOK, HM Revenue & CustomsRead more
An interview with
Can you recall the first time you realized you were going to be an illustrator? What were your earliest impressions?
I studied at an art academy in the Netherlands and I think it was during
that time, that I realized, “Ok, now this is actually getting real.” I was excited and also a little bit apprehensive. I was worried about paying the rent and surviving financially. I was so busy creating, learning, and meeting other illustrators that those worries never got the upper hand.
Who or what influenced your art when you were young?
My mother and children’s books were the greatest influences. My mother was always very creative with us kids at home. I would make drawings for her recipe book and postcards for birthdays. I can also remember that I made covers for her music tapes. They were collages made from pages of magazines. We had great children’s books around the house with fantastic drawings, too. When I was able to save pocket money, I bought books and art materials.
Do you remember what your first artwork looked like? Do you still have it?
I still have it. Yes, it is a robot collage made in kindergarten from aluminum foil: one of my best paintings ever.
Why did you choose illustration as your life’s work instead of, for example, filmmaking, law, or even medicine?
It just happened. I was very fortunate. After college, I went to Australia and took my portfolio along. That proved to be a good decision. Luckily, I found work as an illustrator almost immediately. I love illustration and am happy this is my path. I could have also imagined myself becoming a marine biologist or a psychologist.
Did you study art in school?
Yes, I studied at the Minerva Art Academy in the Netherlands. It was much more than just art. I learned to speak Dutch and took lessons in art history and philosophy. Practical courses such as life drawing, illustration, printing, photography and animation were also part of the program. One of my teachers, whose class was a favorite of mine, built a theatre-like world for each session with props such as stuffed birds, cloth, feathers, skeletons and chairs, then put a life model in the middle of this assemblage. Wonderful!
Where does your inspiration come from; your impulse to make art? Do you have a source for your ideas?
Ideas come to me out of nowhere. Wherever they come from, ideas have an uncanny way of striking at the oddest moments like when I put my pen down and attempt something totally different. Ideas come to me when I’m walking the dog or having a sandwich.
How would you describe the process of creating art?
Sometimes art just happens. And sometimes it doesn’t, even if you are in the flow. A spark of inspiration gets me going then time is needed to refine an idea. Making sketches, playing around with ideas visually, giving an idea time to germinate is part of my process.
Finally, it’s time to focus, clean up my desk, get supplies, and start on the final artwork. Toward the end, I like to reflect, move things around, paint over sections, until I feel the work done.
Do you have a favorite illustrator? What is it about that illustrator’s work you like?
Not one favorite illustrator. I like art that is different from my style, and unique, in general. If a work has the capability to inspire me and speak to me, then I like it because it has an effect on me. I love when an artwork prods me to think differently about something I thought I already knew.
If you could do something else, other than creating art, what would it be?
I am also an art therapist. I would like to focus on that more; and perhaps, travel more.
Do you remember your first set of paints, pens, or markers?
My first supplies were cheap, from the supermarket. My mother bought them for me for school. I had a favorite pen though that I used all the time.
When I grew up, I appreciated having good paints and pens.
If you could give a viewer clues to understanding your art, what would you say?
Understanding art can be highly subjective. Everything is valid.
My work can be layered, especially the paintings, which are often abstract. Look, see, and think, and hopefully, you’ll find something that speaks to you.
Why does art matter to you? Why might it matter to the world?
Art matters because it gives us an experience that nothing else can. This includes both creating art and also looking at it. It can excite, provoke, soothe, or inspire. For me, art is meant to move people either on an intellectual or emotional level.
Art allows every individual a platform to express their unique thoughts and creativity to the world. It is able to cause a reaction and can cause synergy, a new way of thinking, or a change in attitude.
If you could look back or forward a hundred years, do you think the life of an illustrator was or will be better than today?
It depends on what you think is better or worse for an illustrator. What is important to an illustrator? Money, fame, public awareness of art? Or is it more important that art matters or perhaps that you’ve expressed yourself? These are all questions we must ask.
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