Franceska Welp is a Berlin-based illustrator that believes in the deeper meaning that can be found in abstraction.
Franceska Welp is an abstract illustrator and conceptual artist with imagery ideas that resonate with our daily life. Combining minimal pen strokes scribbles, sketchy handwritings, cut-out like abstract geometry and some travelling photos, the simplicity that emerges through her visual storytelling gives us a certain warmth and a smile on our face. We’re privileged to have her tell about her work in our interview. Read on for more!
Hi Franceska! Would you mind telling us a bit about yourself?
I’m a Berlin-based illustrator and conceptual artist with an Italian name (chosen by my German father and Greek mother). I grew up in Thessaloniki (Greece) where I graduated from a German School. I feel a strong sense of connection to the (Mediterranean)sea and the smell of dry grass.
Besides commercial and daily life illustrations, my artwork deal mainly with the reciprocity of time and space – the search for the origin and the essence of identity. I love paradox stories and believe in abstraction.
What originally made you want to become an illustrator or artist?
It wasn’t so much a resolute decision but an urge to do stuff, and in the end, it was the understanding of what I´m doing. Even though I couldn’t name it from the start, art (and all of my experiments, trials and errors with an outcome that hardly could be called art but neither anything else) is a medium, an instrument which I have found for myself to decipher and grasp the world we live in. Art for me is an exploration and communication tool that I need, so that I can understand things and communicate with others.
I do things to understand them during the working process and to get into a dialogue with others, myself, the society, nature, the world, the universe (I hope that makes sense).
A while ago, I designed and illustrated a workbook for children about nutrition. In this project, I collaborated with a really good friend of mine, who is a cook: initially, it was a flood of knowledge about food, plants, rotting and so forth, that I had to understand for myself so that I could translate it into illustrations and conceptualize it into a book; I comprehended a lot of the information and their connections while working on their visualization. I think this project reflects my own need and approach to art and illustration, quite well.
Nevertheless, it took me a long time to label myself as an artist and more so challenging to articulate the art that I do. I studied a couple of semesters architecture, before completing a degree in communications design. Both courses were quite formative and are reflected in my work.
Looking through your work, one can instantly notice the simplicity and naivety within it. Combining minimal pen strokes scribbles, sketchy handwritings, cut-out like abstract geometry and some travelling photos, how would you describe your visual style, and what was the process like, finding your own voice as an illustrator/artist?
I really like how you describe my work. I was, and still am struggling a little when I have to do it. When I decided to take things more seriously with the ambition of becoming professional and attempting to make a living from art, I felt some pressure knowing that I had to define a clear line in my work. In retrospect, I tried various techniques and a bunch of different materials; besides Illustration l even worked in different fields: photography, book and music cover layout, workshop design and conceptual art.
Somewhere along the line, I decided to no longer keep the search for ‘my style’ in secrecy but to share it. This was really helpful. Talking about your work with other artists, and all kinds of different people, finding out how they perceive what you are doing and get feedback was somehow a milestone for me.
Though I was worried about not having a ‘clear line’ throughout my different projects that makes my work recognizable, without knowing I had developed a visual style –and even if I wanted, I couldn’t completely escape from it. My conclusion till now is that the visual style comes naturally and for me, I think it evolves from my approach and workflow that I’ve honed over time. For me, my work is interconnected with exploration, inquisitiveness and research. I try to understand things through translating them into “art”, with the urge to share it that way – always addressed to our inner child – this is probably why there is a certain naivety within my work, and I like the pureness that comes with it.
Would you say that keeping things simple is your strongest skill?
Yes, this is probably something I’m good at finding the origin of the topics I’m working on drives me. I would say that I’m searching for the simplicity in the things themselves. I truly believe that in abstraction one can find deeper meaning and that simple shapes can hold sentimental values. By keeping things simple I point to the basics, but at the same time, I’d like to invite the recipient to discuss and engage without becoming too rigid, and prescribing how the interaction should take place. I do believe that in simplicity one can find a variety of possible interpretation. So, I often have the feeling of telling more with less and at the same time being more inviting by just giving simple frames so that others can imagine and create their own stories.
Your subjects are so wonderfully varied that tell certain stories, where do you source most of your imagery? From life? And to you, what is the importance of storytelling?
I believe that telling stories constitutes who we are, our identity – which I imagine as a narrative structure. Sharing our own story probably has always been a human need, I like referring to cave paintings and ancient art. By telling one’s life story, one’s biography is brought to life and, not least, constructed. We are all telling stories all of the time to ourselves and others, in spoken and written words, but also by symbolic means. We are all authors and at the same time protagonists of our own story. It’s because of this belief that I started sharing pictures of my travels, along with handwritten notes next to my illustrations.
Like my visual style, my story is an inescapable part of my artwork. Some of my drawings and illustrations arise through everyday observations and occurrences and then I have some bigger art projects that I´m working on for longer (like 1 or 2 years) that deal mainly with environmental/social issues.
Most of my works evolve through a “dialogical process” and due to collaborations. Finding a way to capture music, and bring the rhythm – the lyrics into one image is something that I like to do. It’s like taking somebody’s story narrated in sound and retelling it differently in a way that can be sensed visually; or can even be touched and held (when I think of the texture of a printed Cover); or a Book where a written story, gets a kind of feeling by the way how typography is used; how fonts and images are put together in a layout: its where stories melt into one.
Thank you so much, Franceska for agreeing to be interviewed!!! It’s really my utmost honor to do this!! Thank you again!
Dear Francesca, thank you so so so much for the invitation to partake in this interview, and the inspiring questions. – It was a new and amazing experience for me, good for thought and the opportunity to reflect on new perspectives.
Check out Franceska Welp works here!