Fast alle Bücher im Verlagshaus sind illustriert. Oftmals bleiben die Illustrator_innen bei Lesungen und Präsentationen im Hintergrund – das werden wir ändern! In den nächsten Wochen stellen wir euch hier auf unserem BlackBox-Blog die Köpfe hinter den Zeichnungen und Illustrationen unserer schönen Bücher vor!

Wir starten die neue Reihe in der BlackBox mit dem Illustrator Brian R. Williams. Er lebt in Ohio, Columbus (USA) und studierte dort Illustration, Bildende Kunst und Kunstgeschichte am Columbus College of Art and Design. Seit 2003 arbeitet er als freier Illustrator, Grafikdesigner und Lehrbeauftragter.

Für Mikael Vogels neuen Band »Dodos auf der Flucht« entwickelte Brian eine Serie von Zeichnungen zu den Tieren, die Mikael in seinen Gedichten beschreibt. Er schafft in seinen Kompositionen eine Annäherung an die Tiere, die an eine Tradition aus dem 19. Jahrhundert anknüpft: „Seine“ Tiere sind stets Persönlichkeiten, die mit Willen und Eigenart dem menschlichen Blick gegenüberstehen, dabei jeweils die Menschenmode aus dem Jahr tragen, in dem sie ausgerottet wurden. Seine Zeichnungen sind eine Hinwendung zu den Tieren jenseits einer Anthropisierung – gerade dadurch, dass sie sich in der Mode der Menschen zeigen, wird ihr Charakter als Tier in den Vordergrund gerückt. Diese Art des Zeichnens entspricht in der Geste, die an eine Hommage heranreicht, den Gedichten von Mikael Vogel, Bild und Text treten ein in einen Dialog, an dem sich die Leser_innen der »Dodos« beteiligen sollen.

Wir schauten Brian über die Schulter, fragten nach seiner Arbeit und Themen, die ihn interessieren. Dabei ging es natürlich viel um das Zeichnen und sein Arbeiten, aber auch die Lehre kommt zur Geltung, offene Wünsche und Donald Trump – Vorhang auf für Brian R. Williams!

Doppelseite aus dem Buch »Dodos auf der Flucht«Doppelseite aus dem Buch »Dodos auf der Flucht«

Doppelseite aus dem Buch »Dodos auf der Flucht«Doppelseite aus dem Buch »Dodos auf der Flucht«


»Dodos auf der Flucht« / Illustrations by Brian R. Williams

→ How do you create illustrations?
I start with thumbnail sketches: quick, little (hence „thumbnail“) sketches to figure out the best way to arrange the subjects in the picture. Then, depending on the subject of the illustration, I search for image references. The drawings for Mikael’s poems required lots of research to understand what the animals looked like. For some, like the Kakapo, I could use photos. But for „Das Paraceratherium“ I had to study skeletons as well as other artists‘ reconstructions showing how the animal may have looked in life. When the line drawing is done, I shade the piece. That part takes the longest amount of time. For some of the illustrations, it took me a week or longer to complete them.

→ Do you have favourite materials and how would you describe your style?
My favorite medium is graphite pencil, but I also work in colored pencils. I like to paint in oils too, but I rarely get the chance. The last time I painted in oils was a few years ago, for a project for the Columbus Museum of Art. They commissioned me to paint 100 wooden puzzle pieces for a game in one of their galleries.
I would describe my style as representational but with surrealistic elements incorporated into the image. I think a surrealist approach allows me to get to the underlying truth of a subject beyond its physical or superficial appearances. But surrealism can also allow me to express the mysterious and unknowable nature of things.

→ What’s special about book illustrations?
I think the creative collaboration between the writer and the illustrator is what makes book illustrations special. An illustrated book is a unique creature that comes into existence as a result of the combined creative efforts of two individuals. Without the contributions of both the writer and the illustrator, it would evolve into something else entirely different.

Nicholas II. Thylacine, 2016 © Brian R. Williams

Oakley Stegosaurus, 2016 © Brian R. Williams


Illustrations by Brian R. Williams

→ How do you approach illustrations for poetry?
I read the poem a few times and sketch some ideas that the poem inspires in me. Mikael couldn’t have made my job any easier; his poems evoke such vivid imagery in my mind. For a few of the poems, I had already envisioned exactly what I wanted to draw as soon as I had finished reading them! For others, I reflected on the poem for a while before sketching a few different ideas. For all the illustrations though, I worked on them until they looked as close as possible to the images in my mind.

→ Are there any social issues that are important to your artistic work?
Environmental conservation, protecting wildlife and mitigating climate change are very important to me. I’ve always loved animals, so naturally conservation is a subject that I’m passionate about. Like all artists, self-expression is a big reason why I make artwork, but one of the more rewarding aspects of being an artist is connecting with others who share my values and interests. Teaching is also important to me. I teach a drawing class at the Columbus College of Art & Design. The time I spend in class with my students is the best part of my week! I have had many young women sign up for my class in recent years, which is encouraging to see, since Illustration has historically been a male-dominated field.

→ What or for whom would you never illustrate?
Donald Trump. He’s a national embarrassment and I can’t listen to or watch him for more than a few minutes. Drawing his portrait would be torture. (That being said, I do appreciate a good caricature of him. I have to give the illustrators who draw Trump a lot of credit for having such strong stomachs.) I’ve been mulling over the idea of whether or not I should create a protest artwork about his presidency in a way that doesn’t involve drawing his portrait. I may still do one if I come up with a good idea. I suppose my artwork about extinct and endangered animals is in its way a subtle form of protest, in the sense that I am calling attention to what we are losing because we continue to let men like Trump run the world.

Hinter Schwarzen, 2016 © Brian R. Williams

Zukunftszoologie, 2016 © Brian R. Williams


Illustrations by Brian R. Williams

→ Are there any artists you’d want to collaborate with in futures?
For a while now, I have been wanting to organize a group exhibition with other local artists who work in graphite. As for illustration commissions, I always thought it would be fun to create album cover art for a musician. One of my inspirations and all-time favorite illustrators, Edward Gorey, designed the sets and costumes for a Broadway production of „Dracula.“ I think a theater production project like that would be a rewarding challenge, creatively. But I thoroughly enjoyed the process of illustrating a poetry book, so if my next few commissions were for books, I would be satisfied!

→ How much of your work is for fame, how much for fortune?
That’s a good question! It’s certainly not for fortune, that’s for sure! Whenever I make a few extra dollars selling prints, I usually donate the money to the Sierra Club or the African Wildlife Foundation. So I would have to say at this point in my career that it’s mostly for fame, in the sense that I have focused primarily on getting exposure for my work.

→ How much is the fish?
Let’s just say that an illustrated poetry book is a better deal for your money!

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