Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Lunch with Oliver Weiss

We had the pleasure of having illustrator, designer, multi-media artist and cartoonist Oliver Weiss over to the studio for lunch. He's in town for a couple of weeks following his trek out to Pasadena for this year's ICON conference. After a few minutes of conversation I could tell Oliver is not your typical illustrator; he's done just about anything you can imagine including art. He's been an author—short stories, poems and children's stories, writer, freelance editor, freelance copywriter for ad agencies, ghost writer, founder and editor-in-chief of his own magazine, web designer--the first in Germany and comic strip writer. One look at his site and you're not sure where to look—a bit disjointed but full of energy and a good reflection of the artist except for the disjointed part. Through all his experiences he has gained valuable insight into the workings of  the editorial, publishing and advertising worlds which puts him head and shoulders above many out there.

A native of Munich, Oliver laments how illustration in Germany before the war was vibrant and original and wonders what has changed all that. Too many German illustrators must find the really exciting projects here in the States—he doesn't have a good reason for why that should be the case. He senses that the publications in Germany are far more conservative than you may find elsewhere. And he chuckles when someone refers to his work as "kindergarten" since most of his drawings are humorous, humor is relegated to children's literature in Germany—a tough climate for someone who likes to poke fun at institutions and the absurdities of the world.

We had a spirited debate concerning styles and having more than one; the fact is Oliver has dozens of styles and prefers it that way. The solution to the problem should define the style used is his mantra and he's had some success exploring different ways to solve problems visually. My caution was that in America there tends to be singular styles and it is expected when showing work to an art director. Perhaps Oliver is so successful at promoting unique solutions to each problem because of his editorial background; maybe there is more trust from the other side of the desk due to his experience.

On the subject of reps, he was adamant that he didn't want a rep—ever. He had had one for a week and was so disappointed by the contract that he pulled out and hasn't looked back. He is a big believer in illustrators having solid contracts and approaching projects using good business sense.

In talking about insecurity, he admitted as did I that insecurity is a positive thing, it keeps us grounded. As I related every great designer or illustrator I know has some insecurity, and it was most evident in our latest issue when I interviewed Ed Sorel who candidly replied that he is afraid of every job that comes in the door, afraid that he can't do the job. Great designers are always fearful of being found out as shams.

After a delightful quiche, a few glasses of red wine and a homemade raspberry/red wine sorbet, the lunch was over and Oliver was on his way back to the City, the city he might one day call home.

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