Stephanie Wunderlich / How illustration changed my life

Stephanie Wunderlich


As a kid I was more the one doing handcrafts. The last weeks before Christmas no one was allowed to enter my room. I was busy making gifts for my family. Those presents from long ago are still gathering dust in my mother’s cupboards.

My parents showered us with arts and crafts supplies – except when it came to paper. My aunt would bring home reams of computer print-out paper from her office, complete with mysterious numerical codes. My sister and I used to churn out drawings like workers at a conveyor belt.

I studied graphic design at the university of applied science in Augsburg and at the ISIA Urbino/Italy. I had no lessons in illustration at all but I somehow managed to resolve almost all the design tasks with illustrations. Whereas the others designed a logotype I would make a figurative mark.

After graduation I dreamed about becoming an illustrator but I had the vague idea that this meant sitting at my desk all by myself not knowing if I would get enough work to earn a living.

So the more convenient way seemed to start looking for an employment in an ad agency like all my fellows did. After all I was also attracted by the glamour of the advertising industry.

After working in New York and Vienna I moved to Hamburg still on the track of an agency that hired me. Quite soon I realized that advertising wasn’t my cup of tea. I was bored by all the fuss that was made about the meaning of some average product.

I quit and started working as a freelance illustrator. My new companions, at that time were the endless joy of creative work and the fear of failure .The joy is radiant with colors, she is multiplying her arms to get more work done. Her playful fluid forms seek to experiment with different forms of representation.

On the other hand the fear of failure, not to produce work of relevance, not to be commissioned, is pulled heavily downwards.

As being a freelance creative you have no choice than just accept her as your attendant, try not to be too much intimidated or paralyzed by her, just see her as the ultimative kick in the ass, a motivator to question yourself and to produce even more good work.

What really mattered was the enormous passion I now had for my work. The involvement in the subject matter was as important like the design, the execution of the artwork itself.  My work seemed meaningful and full of variety now.

In the first years of my freelance work I almost exclusively did editorial work. However I still started in the golden era of Print.

I loved the challenge to boil things down to the essence in short time. Being focussed on a certain task with a small time budget and constantly being faced with new subjects.

During my practice as an illustrator I was primarily specialized on paper cut illustration. When I started working as an illustrator paper cut was a very rarely used and exceptional technique – today you see a lot of illustrative work using paper for 3 and 2 dimensional work.

After the boom of digital illustration you could observe a sort of return to traditional analogue techniques.

What I always loved about papercut illustration is the bold, striking, expressive and very graphical visual language. I like the slightly rough and edgy appearance. The technique invites you to always find new ways to simplify, to reduce, to see things in an abstract way. I just love the playful flexible aspect of the working process. I can always change and move the elements until I find the right composition.

In papercut illustrations you see the traces of the analogue work, the imperfection of a form cut by scissors, the shadow edges beneath the elements after being scanned. The whole working process offers you sensual inspiration.

At the same time I always did digital illustration. Today I work as much with pixels than with scissors. I just love to switch back and forth between analogue and digital work.

I also do black and white analogue drawings for Branding projects.

My first commission in that style was for Mailchimp back in 2016 shortly after I signed with Anna Goodson Illustration Agency. Since then I am so lucky to be subsequently asked for a lot of similar branding projects.

I am very thankful for all the opportunities that came via Anna Goodson.

I have three children. Thanks to a helpful grandmother and my husband, who took care of them as much as me, I could all the time, while they were growing up, go on with my creative work. I am very proud that two of them are now studying design. At the same time I have hope that the third who is still attending school will surprise us with a total different career wish.

I feel so privileged that I could pursue as a professional career my real devotion – to be creative, to draw, to cut, to compose, to generate ideas.