Constanze Guhr is a book lover and prolific German illustrator living in Berlin. Her inspiring 100-day projects and imaginative handlettering designs livening up the pages of her notebooks caught our eye, and we immediately wanted to learn more about her creative journey. When Constanze is not drawing, doodling or illustrating, she is reading or collecting books and dreaming of running a bookshop in a greenhouse.
1) When and why did you decide to become a professional illustrator?
I studied art teaching at the University of Arts in Berlin, but I was pretty sure from the beginning that I didn’t want to be a teacher because I hate getting up early. One year, we had a children’s book illustration class and I got hooked. Later that year, some of the students and I organized a booth at the Leipzig Book Fair. It was a pretty crazy booth because we had no money for it and it was all very rough and improvised, but we had fun selling our little handmade illustrated books and postcards.
In 2000 I sent my first proper illustrations to the Bologna Book Fair. They host a competition where you can send your artwork and if you are chosen your work is presented in a huge catalogue which lots of publishers used to buy in those days. So, when I was chosen out of 2000 participants, I was really happy and excited; and so, I also got my first illustration commission. This was the point when I decided to become a professional illustrator. (It was still a long way from there…)
2) Has anyone or anything in particular inspired your creativity and artistic passion?
Yes of course. I get inspired by so many things. First there are famous artist like Paul Klee, Frida Kahlo or Lyonel Feiniger who inspired me a lot. But also, great illustrators like Sara Fanelli or Keri Smith, just to name a few.
3) Were you a creative child growing up?
Yes, I was very creative. I loved drawing and creating, made pottery and played the piano. Whenever I felt bored, I created treasure hunts inside our house or designed surprise bags (that is something I still love doing).
4) How would you describe your personal style and aesthetic?
That’s always difficult to answer. Other people call my style feminine, charming and witty. I like my work to be colourful, relaxing and dreamy. I love drawing women and plants, quotes, and I also love handlettering. And, I have to confess I can’t stay with one style, because I love trying out new things so much.
5) Do you have a particular medium you prefer to work with?
Actually, I work with a lot of art material and during the lockdown I started to mix them all together. At the moment I love watercolour, some acrylic paint, gouache, pencils and ink. I also use markers. So, it’s quite multimedia-like, but when it comes to commissions, I use my iPad and Photoshop and combine the analog parts of my work with digital ones.
6) Where do you find inspiration?
I like magazines like Uppercase or Flow as a pool of inspiration. I follow lots of illustrators on Instagram. And Pinterest is kind of addictive. But I also like city traveling, visiting bookstores or sitting in a nice cafe. Inspiration can hit me everywhere when I’m open to it.
7) We noticed you keep an art journal. Can you tell us more about it and the benefits of keeping an art journal?
I just started the journey of keeping an art journal. I’m into journaling a lot meaning I write in the morning as part of my daily ritual and I have loads of sketchbooks, but art journaling is different for me. I try to put a kind of real artwork in it, not just sketches or thoughts. I also use it to try out new things – that’s why I don’t like every page, or I come back to them later and change them. It’s an interesting process. Art journaling is like an art journey for me, but without knowing the destination. I love to browse through it and to see what I have done so far. By the way, I don’t mind the pages getting curly or uneven because of wet paint.
8) You have participated in several 100-day projects. Which has been your favourite and why?
I did at least three 100-day projects but one of them I stopped pretty soon after starting. The first one, four years ago, was special because it was all new to me and so amazing to get in contact with so many other artists. And I liked the subject: women and things. It was also the year when I started daily drawing.
This year’s I also like very much because of its transition. When the lockdown came, I had to stay at home but instead of being afraid or going insane, I started to put my energy into painting and realized how it could also help others to read mantras and uplifting quotes. I then asked others about their mantras and the amount of answers was so immense that I decided to make this the subject of this year’s 100-day project.
9) How do you stay motivated to complete the 100-day projects?
I actually don’t have a clue. Sometimes I don’t stay motivated but this year it’s working.
10) What advice do you have for those who dream of having a gorgeous sketchbook full of great work, but fear starting?
I can give you some ideas which might help overcoming the fear of starting:
- Some people are afraid of using a beautiful sketchbook because they feel they could ruin it. So, in this case you can start with a simple, not-so-expensive journal and create a nice cover while you’re working in it.
- You could then take some of the pictures you like and print them out and put them into your journal on different pages, so that you feel pleased when you look into it. You can also use bits and pieces from magazines and such.
- You could start with some of your masking tapes or make some colour samples, try your art materials or paint.
- Make a list of what you would like to paint or draw in your art journal and try out handwriting.
- If you are afraid of the so-called white paper, then start making marks with some coloured pencils. Maybe close your eyes or use your left hand (or your right hand if you’re left-handed.)
I also am planning an online course about art journaling. I might start it in September.
You can see more of Constanze’s work here.