In conversation with analogue collage artist Markus Wuelbern from Germany.
Can you talk about your journey into or interest the arts?
I’ve always been interested in creative stuff since I was super shy as a little boy and had almost no friends. I drew a lot and later on in my teens I started to try other stuff. I photographed, did little videos, painted and made my own shirts with funky prints. After university I published my bachelors work which was a 244 page book about immensely stupid bear jokes I made up. The whole book was illustrated by hand and it also had my first few collages in it (you can see some pages of it on www.dasbaerenbuch.de). On the university exhibition of all the bachelors there were so many people asking to buy the book that I started taking pre-orders and started a crowdfunding to print 1,000 copies (I still have like 300 of them somebody buy them I beg you). It didn’t pay and after a whole years work I lost money so naturally I assumed I must be really talented, so that’s why now I am an artist.
Do you use a sketchbook? I’m interested in what a sketchbook means to you and your work?, or how people develop their ideas.
I used to have sketchbooks but for actual sketching. With collages the ideas just come in the process. I just do random collages and after some time I make one of which i want more. So, that’s how a new series is born.
Your work often mixes animal and human forms, what are you exploring through this?
I’ll be honest. Some friends opened an eco-friendly clothing store and asked me to make some art for them. I don’t care about the fashion world very much so I had to think about something different which still involved a link to clothes. And animals in peoples clothes are really really funny. So that’s how that started. Also, if you think about it, humans are just high IQ animals with clothes on.
What’s way more important to me and what one can see flowing though all of my collages, is that I love to explore colour combinations and unique shapes that surround every character. That is also the challenging part for me and the interesting one. In the animal collages its mostly the background that takes like 90% of the time needed to finish the work.
You describe yourself as an analogue artist, can you talk about this, and how that differs in principle or process to more digital based work?
In most of my collages I use stuff I find in magazines and books. In the animal or plant series I don’t print stuff. So I need to find elements which fit together really well. Also, I don’t use toned paper a lot because many others do and the colours are always the same. I like the colours I find in old magazines more.
I am a graphic designer so I know how to use Photoshop really well. That’s why digital collages are way less interesting to me and I don’t see a lot of digital collages which I would define as art. For me they are design because one can adjust everything exactly as they wish. You can change colors, shapes and sizes with one click which kills all the randomness i admire and try to embrace so much in art.
Can you talk about your process of working. How do you work, how often, is there a particular pattern?
I work almost every day as it is my job and i kinda don’t know what else to do most of the time. Since art started being my full time job, I have a more systematic approach. For example in the animal series I search for animal photos I like and photos of cool outfits. After that I cut them all out and after that i start the matching and throwing away the ones that don’t match. Then after I got a few new characters I start searching for backgrounds and matching colours. Each of these steps can take several days in a row.
The most time consuming and difficult one is the last step. The background is pretty important to me and I often spend hours or a whole day finishing a single collage. There is a lot of luck involved in how fast I find the perfect colours. Its pretty frustrating at times.
Do you find the process of creating work relaxing or therapeutic? I’ve become increasingly interested in the relationship of the sketchbook and the work to the artist.
Not at all. It is very rewarding at times but also very frustrating at others. There’s so much randomness and luck involved in collages. You cant really control the outcome but you have to work with what you find. So if the collage turns out well it is very rewarding because it’s like a little miracle that happened right in front of you and you even helped a little. But if not, it feels like hours or days wasted. It’s kinda like failing over and over again until it finally turns out well. And it’s mostly failing which is not at all relaxing. If anything it makes me angry and question my life choices a lot. But when a collage is finally finished and it makes my heart open and filling my body with love for my new creation I remember why I don’t want to do anything else.