Anne Albert: ‘finding my style was a lot about asking myself questions’

Anne is an editorial illustrator who thrives on creating dynamic imagery from complex ideas in her studio in Germany. She talks us through her approach to design, shares her thoughts on Affinity Designer and much more in this interview.
How and when did you discover you that wanted to be an illustrator?

Since I was a child, I knew I wanted to express myself through art. I was interested in photography, drawing and writing too. I sang and wrote lyrics for a band I played in and wrote for our school band as well. At the time, I wasn’t quite sure which medium fit me the most.

But after graduating, I studied art and media science and quickly realised that I wanted to make art myself. So, I started studying Visual Communication at the Bauhaus University Weimar. The education was very practice-oriented. In my second semester, I took part in an illustration project where we had to illustrate several book covers. My book cover got published, and it was then that I realised that I have a certain talent in translating stories into simple, but striking illustrations. This success encouraged me to go further, and I still enjoy working as an illustrator to this day.

What led you into editorial illustration?

On the one hand, it is my style that led me there. I am not into character illustration—I love illustration as a way to express an idea and overall mood rather than creating charming characters. On the other hand, I really love working on editorial illustrations. Often there is a great confidence on the part of the editors meaning I can develop my own ideas. Although it is very challenging, I have a lot of fun creating quick ideas in short timescales.

You have quite a distinct style. How did you develop it, and what are your key influences?

My style is always in a process, and I worked hard to get to the point where I am now. But I don’t think I will ever be complete with finding my own voice because I am continuously learning and constantly developing as a person and as an illustrator. Finding my style was a lot about asking myself questions like Where do I come from? What makes me unique? What do I like? Apart from that, I have always been influenced by everything imaginable: music, nature, art, other illustrations, graphic design, etc. I can’t really tell if there is one key influence. It’s more a mixture of experiences, my personality and my interests that led me there.

“My style is always in a process, and I worked hard to get to the point where I am now. But I don’t think I will ever be complete with finding my own voice because I am continuously learning and constantly developing as a person and as an illustrator.”

How do you play around with dimensions and size so well?

Thanks a lot! This is also a constant development. Often, I look at older illustrations of mine and realise that I don’t like the proportions and think about how I’d now do it differently. It’s an ongoing process of learning and observing which dimensions make the most sense for my graphic language. I always look for a strong expressiveness and smart reductions.

Talk us through your workflow; how do your illustrations tend to develop?

When requested by an editorial client, I first read the briefing and the text and start sketching. This is the most important part and takes the most time. After I’ve got my visual idea, I create small thumbnail sketches to develop a strong composition. I do this with pen and paper rather than digitally. After that, I go to Affinity Designer and create a vector illustration based on my sketch. I send it to the client to get some feedback. I add colours and then change into Pixel persona to add some structures and shades.

Does your approach differ between creating editorial and commercial work?

Not really. As long as it is a commissioned work, the workflow is more or less the same. But there is a huge difference between creating commissioned and personal work. As I work on personal projects, I tend to question myself much more because there is nobody giving me a subject to work on, and nobody waiting for it to be finished. Creating personal work is always about finding the topic you want to deal with and, on my part, is always connected with much more self-doubt. But I love it though as it is a way to find out what my style is about and what stories I want to tell.

When did you start creating in Affinity Designer, and what are your thoughts on it?

In 2019 I was looking for the perfect workflow and started creating in Affinity Designer. I noticed that for me it was very helpful to have both personas, pixel and vector, combined in one application. It makes everything so much easier to handle.

“In 2019 I was looking for the perfect workflow and started creating in Affinity Designer. I noticed that for me it was very helpful to have both personas, pixel and vector, combined in one application. It makes everything so much easier to handle.”

If you could illustrate for any publication, which would it be and why?

This is a tough question. Of course, there are these milestones that almost every illustrator has, like working for the New York Times or making an illustration for the Google start page. I would like to make a picture book once I have the time because I am a huge book enthusiast.

Who are your creative heroes?

There are a great number of creatives that I am inspired by. I would not say heroes but huge inspirations. I was very much inspired by American graphic designers such as Saul Bass, Bauhaus artists such as Gunda Stözl and Alma Siedhoff-Buscher, artists like Picasso and Matisse, illustrators from the former GDR such as Elizabeth Shaw and Manfred Bofinger. I also love drawings by Ernst Haeckel. And there are several contemporary artists that I admire because of their talent for creating simple and striking artworks, and working on a wide range of fields like Olimpia Zagnoli, Zack Rosebrugh, Geoff McFedrigde and Hvass & Hannibal.

What piece of work are you most proud of and why?

I’m the one who is always critical about her own work. I love my most recent work, a new riso print that is also my belated new year card. There is a certain dreamy mood that it conveys, and I like the super bright colours. Currently, I’ve become braver in using pink in my work. I was always a bit reserved when choosing colours, but I’m increasingly getting more and more confident.

Are there any dream projects you would like to work on in the future?

I would like to see my illustrations on walls, public spaces or products like rugs or dishes. Painting a mural is something on my list and, as I mentioned, I would really like to make a book.

What advice would you give to aspiring freelance illustrators?

Think about what makes you unique rather than comparing yourself too much. It’s a tough thing, but it helps to find your own personal language. And keep on making art—believe in yourself but also be critical.

“Think about what makes you unique rather than comparing yourself too much. It’s a tough thing, but it helps to find your own personal language. And keep on making art—believe in yourself but also be critical.”


To view more of Anne’s work you can visit her website, shop or Instagram.