For Cologne-based illustrator and communications designer Peter Pichler, life is a mix of all areas of the visual arts. His projects reflect this diversity: he works as a designer, artist, and lecturer – and as an illustrator, where his visual style has become defining for a range of publications. In his free time, he plays electric guitar in a band and travels Europe in a VW Camper Van. He has also done some illustration work for Freifrau, so we decided to interview Peter.
Freifrau: Peter, you have illustrated the second time for us now. We love your uplifting style. Tell us how you became an illustrator in the first place.
Peter Pichler: It was clear from a young age that I had a talent for drawing. That didn’t stop me from discovering all sorts of other forms of artistic expression, though, and I didn’t specialise for a long time. I studied communications design in Wuppertal, near Düsseldorf, and started working at design agencies while I was a student. I also did a lot of painting at a studio – big canvasses, a very free style. Through all those years, though, I ever stopped drawing. I started to get commissions, too, which kept me going through my degree: I was asked to do pictures of insects – and those drawings are still in use today.
How would you describe your style of illustration?
Now that I’ve been doing it for a long time, I can look back and say that illustration, just like fashion, goes through trend cycles as different styles become popular at different times. On the whole, though, I would say that my style has something expressionistic about it – there’s always something a wild element in there. At the same time, it never gets out of control: I like my work to be cleanly executed, to offer a strong, accessible visual. Really successful work is never too hard to grasp and doesn’t get weighed down by tricks and details.
In your view, what has had the greatest effect on your style and on you as an illustrator?
As well as the classic modern expressionists, Andy Warhol’s paintings; I’ve always loved the lines of his ink-blot work, for instance. Later, I was enthused by the New Image’ painters – Bad Painting, the Wild Style – and the sense of freedom they embodied. Then there are illustrators and designers who I still think a lot of today: Saul Bass, Milton Glaser, and Saul Steinberg – Larry Rivers, too. All of them are, and will always remain, absolute heroes to me.
You teach at an academy for sustainable design. What is your definition of “sustainable design” – and what do you try to impart to your students?
In my view, the work of an illustrator is an excellent starting point for sustainability. Look at other ways of making images: photography and film demand a lot of resources and manpower – whole production teams travelling to and from shoots, often flown in; before them the location scouts, then the hotels, the catering, etc. Italian Vogue actually spent an issue looking at this problem and decided to try and leave out everything that wasn’t sustainable – i.e. no photoshoots. The result was that the whole issue was illustrated with artwork instead. Wonderful!
Your daily live doesn´t look monotous at all. But: what do you do when you really want to relax? And what to you do to really get yourself going?
If I need to relax, I take my two greyhounds out for a walk; I rescued them both from an animal shelter. And when it’s time to get going again, I rock out with the band!
And finally: how would you start a perfect monday morning?
With a nice cup of peruvian coffee.
Thank you for this inspirational conversation, dear Peter!