Sabine, tell us a bit about yourself and your creative background.
Looking back about 50 years, drawing and painting were a constant companion for me. My mother was endlessly creative, so we always had a lot to talk about. In the late 80’s to early 90’s I studied communication design with a focus on children’s book illustration. After that, I worked for a construction company as a graphic designer for some time. That was a bit dry, I had to draw chimney systems, for example, but everything was already digital. After my maternity leave, I designed books in a publishing house for many years; that was a very inspiring and beautiful time.
Did you always know you wanted to be an illustrator?
As a young woman, I definitely wanted to do something with art, and I looked at the different educational opportunities that existed at that time. My preference for illustration only became apparent during my studies.
You have quite a distinct style. How did you develop it, and what advice would you give to budding illustrators trying to develop theirs?
That’s not so easy to answer. I would say that my current style has evolved from my love of lines, and round, flowing shapes. In addition, working digitally has opened up completely new avenues for me. I used to have another style that was more graphic and abstract, also more colourful. At the moment, I am trying to bring these two styles closer together. It’s an ongoing process, and I never know exactly where I’ll end up. For me, the creative path is what is really exciting about art, and one should be careful not to think that one has found one’s style. It is an open-ended path.
“For me, the creative path is what is really exciting about art, and one should be careful not to think that one has found one’s style. It is an open-ended path.”
How do you come up with ideas for new illustrations?
I always look to see what topics are of particular interest to me at the moment. It could be anything: books, movies, dreams, conversations with my daughter. If I can’t think of anything, I look for topics on Instagram—a challenge, a DTIYS (Draw This In Your Style)—it’s a real treasure trove.
Women are a re-occurring theme in your work. What is it about the female form that inspires you?
The female form just has more creative potential for me. I can make the shapes more extravagant: in women’s hair, you can create whole worlds or have them spill out into ocean waves.
Would you say storytelling is an important element in your work?
Yeah, I think so. For me, texts and images are closely interwoven. Creating a series of images that tell a story is a very special challenge because you have to delve deeper into the characters. But even a single illustration can tell a story for me.
Talk us through your creative process; how do you develop your ideas into final illustrations?
Mostly I choose the format first: landscape, portrait or sometimes square, but mostly it is a portrait format. I make a first rough sketch with the digital pencil. After that, I still sketch a finer version with the pencil, but it’s important that it doesn’t look too perfect. When I am satisfied, I work out the lines and shapes. At the end, I colour it.
When did you start using Affinity Designer, and what are your thoughts on it? Do you have any favourite features?
I think I downloaded Affinity Designer right after the app was available for the iPad, and I was blown away from the start by all the possibilities it offered. I especially love the switching between vector and pixel persona—that’s unique. Recently, I discovered how to turn simple shapes such as clouds, stars and so on, already implemented in the program, into fantastic graphic patterns.
“I downloaded Affinity Designer right after the app was available for the iPad, and I was blown away from the start by all the possibilities it offered. I especially love the switching between vector and pixel persona—that’s unique.”
We noticed that you regularly take part in creative challenges. How do you feel this benefits your work, and how do you decide which ones to take part in?
This kind of competition is a way for me to move out of my comfort zone. Often there is a certain time pressure behind it, a bit like a deadline. This is a good way to get things done for me. I also find the contact with other participants very inspiring. With the challenges, I make sure that the topics appeal to me, such as environmental issues, fairy tales etc.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an artist?
The biggest challenge for me is actually to understand myself as an artist. For me, art is always associated with a lot of craftsmanship and the challenge is to develop that into art. This requires creativity and sometimes also the courage to create something that has its rough edges.
“For me, art is always associated with a lot of craftsmanship and the challenge is to develop that into art. This requires creativity and sometimes also the courage to create something that has its rough edges.”
Is there an illustration or project that you’re particularly proud of? Could you tell us about it?
I am still proud of my thesis, in which I created a book about dreams for children aged four and over. From the text to the illustrations, I made everything myself. Two copies were then bound in a bookbindery as a prototype, so to speak.
Are there any dream projects you would like to work on in the future?
Yes, I hope to be able to offer my illustrations as prints and postcards in the near future. I would also enjoy designing a colouring book for adults.
If you would like to see more of Sabine’s work, check out @designbykoenig on Instagram.