Meet illustrator and writer – Christiane Engel
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We spoke with Christiane to find out about her illustration style, creative processes and what inspires her. She grew up in Germany and is now based in Kent, England.
Christiane has illustrated over 50 books and enjoys projects that share a mindful, inclusive and environmentally conscious view of the world.
How long have you been an illustrator?
“I started working as an illustrator after I graduated from University in 2003 (with an MA in Graphic Arts+Design). My MA project was a picture book series based on a little boy and his dog. One of those books got published by Chrysalis (now Anova Books) and was called Louis+Bobo – We Are Moving.
From then on, I got really busy working on many different projects from board books to advertising campaigns, editorials in magazines, puzzles and other kids’ products.
Over the years I’ve focused on non-fiction children’s books and wrote my own ABC Book series with Quarto Kids (USA), titles range from ABC Yoga to The World+Me and Earth-Friendly Me.”
When did you first realise that becoming an illustrator was something that you wanted to pursue?
“When I moved from Germany to England in 2001, I was amazed at the different illustrative styles featured in children’s books here and spent a lot of time in book stores and libraries.
I was always interested in creating beautiful kids products but studied animation before and wasn’t always set on becoming an illustrator in the publishing world.
However, it became clear quickly that this is the perfect job for me. I love coming up with concepts and creating art for a wide variety of clients.”
How would you describe your style?
“I like my work to look playful and free-spirited; I hope it speaks to a wide variety of age groups. Digitally is how I mainly work but use handmade textures and like everything to have an organic feel to it.”
The playful and lovely free-spirited style really comes across. What is your favourite illustration in your portfolio and why?
“That’s difficult to say as my projects can be quite different from each other and I’m proud of all of them. I’m currently working on some self-promo pieces of middle grade fiction covers. Here I can take a mysterious and darker approach and come up with really strong kid characters who take on the world which is fun!
Very different from one of my latest books WATER (with author Catherine Barr). For this I illustrated real-life scenarios of water scarcity around the world. The cover for WATER is one of my favourite pieces. It has a lush waterfall on the front cover, but the back cover reveals a desert-like landscape with dried up lakes. I think this brings the message of ‘Protect Freshwater to Safe Life on Earth’ home.”
Everyone at Frank Water absolutely loves the illustrations in Catherine’s WATER book! So what do you do if you overcome a creative block?
“Creative blocks happen from time to time. Especially when the world around us is changing so quickly and certain aspects become very uncertain or challenging. I think with creativity it can work both ways – if you’re overwhelmed with whatever is going on in the world, you can still use that energy to carry on being creative.
A lot of the things I draw are just for the sake of mark-making, like doodling. This approach can take the pressure off from thinking everything I create needs to be up to portfolio standard; it’s just carrying on and ‘showing up’ on paper or on my iPad screen. And you never know – this doodle could turn into a pattern for products!
Something else I do is sketching along to nature documentaries, sometimes with my daughter. It’s great for learning something new and for seeing landscapes from different angles.”
Sketching along to nature documentaries sounds wonderful – what a great way to keep learning. What’s been your favourite project so far to work on?
“I enjoy all my projects, especially those that have an impact to children’s lives. For example when I receive a note from a parent telling me how much their little ones enjoy doing Yoga with my ABC Yoga book or finding out about the world with ABC The World+Me – that’s so awesome!”
That’s so lovely! What inspires you the most?
“I draw inspiration from the nature around me – I love going on walks and dips in the sea. As in other artists – I like to look at German Expressionists paintings and print making, but my work is probably more influenced by the 70s style children’s books I grew up with. I’ve always loved Eric Carle’s collage cut out style, as a child and also now as an illustrator.”
What drives your creativity when starting new projects?
“I like to research and to look at real life inspiration for my sketching, for example. Non-fiction projects I find really interesting to illustrate. Collaboration within the team is very important, so that itself feeds my creativity and approach. I often get to travel (virtually) around the world for some of my books which is very inspiring.
When I work on my self-initiated projects, I focus on my own interests – animals, nature, food, the environment. I think about what I’d like to express.”
Where can people find your artwork?
My own website: www.chengelillustration.com
I also regularly post on Instagram @chengel_illustration and on on my blog www.chengelillustration.wordpress.com/.
I’m represented by GoodIllustration www.goodillustration.com/portfolio/Christiane-Engel-55/.
I also have 2 shops: www.society6.com/chengel and www.etsy.com/shop/ChEngel.