Interview | 11. Apr, 2017 - 6 min read

Katrin Wiehle

“To see someone else enjoying my work is the best reward”

There’s a renowned children’s book author and illustrator among us! Her name is Katrin, and she describes herself as a list writer, pencil holder and organizer. Katrin’s style oozes personality, is inspired by folk art, and symmetrical. Her journey started in a small village in Germany with her eventually settling down in the USA. Not that long ago she became a mother to a beautiful baby boy - Oskar Thomas.

Katrin, you are a renowned children’s book author and illustrator whose work gets translated into many languages. How does it feel knowing you bring joy to households across the globe?

It’s exciting. I love seeing pictures on social media of kids pouring over my books. I feel fortunate and very thankful that this is what I get to do for a living. To see someone else enjoying my work is the best reward.

And just like your books you’ve also gone a bit around the world. You grew up in Germany, and have later moved to Atlanta. How is life in the US different compared to the one you had in Europe?

I grew up in the countryside, in a tiny village in the north of Germany, surrounded by trees, horses, cows and sheep. I then lived in Kiel and Hamburg before moving to the US about 5 years ago. Even though Atlanta did seem alien to me in the beginning, I have grown to love it and am very thankful for all the creative people that I have met and became friends with. I still travel back to Germany as much as I can, so I can spend time with my family and friends and get my fill of the German breakfast and riding the train around Europe.

Your drawings have so much personality to them, one can easily imagine an animated cartoon bringing them to life!

No animation plans as of yet, but never say never. I would love to see my illustrations come to life that way.

Has drawing been an essential part of you since forever?

Absolutely. I have always been drawing and “creating” things and never really wanted to do anything else. I think I would be completely terrible at an office job.

It shines through your artwork that you are a big fan of nature and animals. And also that symmetry is something you highly value. :)

I guess my work reflects where I came from. I love drawing trees, animals and folk art inspired stuff. And drawing something symmetrical is a lot of fun for me. It’s probably because I like things to be sorted and in order.

So far, you’ve published 9 children’s books. One of them “My small forest” got the Most beautiful book award by the Stiftung Buchkunst in 2013. Congratulations! Does an award like that help an artist in terms of recognition, clients reaching out etc?

The best side effect of the award was that it made me feel like I am doing the right thing and I realized that people like what I do. It lifted a few doubts and made me a bit more confident in my work.

Is drawing still something you do when you try to relax?

I have a sketchbook in my bag that I take everywhere I go. I draw on flights, while sitting around at craft shows or at coffee shops. It relaxes my brain and reminds me why I like to draw. Drawing for jobs can get stressful, but drawing just for myself never does.

How do you deal with “illustrator’s block”?

I open my sketchbook and look at past ideas and things I drew when I wasn’t on a tight deadline and my brain had more time to just roam around. If that does not help, I like going for a walk, preferably in the dark. I guess it’s the fresh air that helps.

“I love working surrounded by other people and chitchatting in between. But if I am on a tight deadline and need to focus, you might not see me for days.”

You run an art studio along with a couple of other artists. How did it all start for you, professionally?

I studied Graphic Design and realized relatively fast that that was not my calling, so I turned my focus towards illustration. A Fulbright scholarship brought me to the US where I had the chance to get an MA in illustration. My thesis project was a children’s book (Professor Pfeffers tierisches Abenteuer), which was later released by the German publisher Beltz&Gelberg. That’s how it all started and things grew from there. In 2014, along with my husband Mike Lowery and a few of our illustrator friends, I founded the Paper Ghost Studio, because we all felt like we needed some social interaction outside of our home studios. The studio has now grown into a gallery space where we host bimonthly art shows.

Do you get most of your work done in the studio or in the coziness of your own nest?

It really depends on the project. I love working surrounded by other people and chitchatting in between. But if I am on a tight deadline and need to focus, you might not see me for days. I will be in my studio at home trying to figure things out and only talking to the cats.

How much of your work does lately come from within you and how much is done by client’s request?

I would say it’s about 50/50. I write and illustrate my own books but also do work for magazines, ad agencies and illustrate other people’s books.

How has Instagram affected your business?

It’s a weird little thing. It has made the creative world seem kind of small. It’s definitely a good tool to get your work in front of a big audience including art directors and publishers. But I think it is also dangerous to get sucked up by it too much. You will end up comparing yourself and your work too much with others or feeling not as prolific, creative, successful etc.

Well, thanks for having me. I liked the concept and I liked the apps you guys had done before. I love how it turned out and enjoy seeing the work of the other illustrators. I guess sometimes you have to go with your gut feeling.

Who is Lake for?

Everyone, I guess. It’s the perfect little portable coloring book. Use it if you are on the train, bored in the office or trying to entertain your child in a restaurant. It seems like a good way to spend your time and color away.

Any final thoughts for your fans and our readers?

You should try Lake. It’s fun.

Intrigued to know more about Katrin? We got you covered.