An Interview with Daniel Stolle: Finland

Daniel Stolle was born in Germany and is living in Finland. His drawings are often concept driven and dark but not without humour. Since starting illustration in 2007 he has worked for many major publications, like The New York Times, The New Yorker, Washington Post, DIE ZEIT, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, The Times, Scientific American and many more. He has been also involved in contributing drawings for book covers, stamps and animated films.

Who are you?
My name is Daniel Stolle. I am an illustrator.

Where did you born? And where you live now?
I was born in Germany and I live now in a small place called Kyröskoski, in Finland.

Tell us about your artistic background? What made you want to start and, since when you really starting illustration?
I studied industrial design. During studies I realized, that drawing was really, what I was most interested in. After graduating I decided to only focus on that. So I decided to become an illustrator. That was in 2007. Besides that I also liked, that as an illustrator you can be really independent.

One of drawings for The New York Times Op-Ed-section, Letters-section and Sunday Review.

What do you mean that as an illustrator can be really independent?
I mean that I can usually work alone on a project. I am also largely independent of materials and other expenses. This is not possible in many other jobs. I am a studied product designer, and if I would want to work in that profession, I would need to rely on many other people to create something, like model makers, programmers, printers, etc. I would possibly need to set up a workshop and would have to buy materials to work from and get models made or printed. All of these things I can work without, just with my head and my hands.

"All of my drawings started out by having a specific function."

Cover illustration for Finnish Kanava Magazine. About how the weakest go to the wall in politics. 


Your illustrations very interesting. Please, talk about developing your work and the technical process of your wok?
Although I show my work rather out of context on my website, a very important aspect of it is of course the original context it was made for. All of my drawings started out by having a specific function. This is my main focus and headache while creating them. In the beginning I receive a text or a general briefing from an art director. In most cases it is my task to come up with ideas. Finding ideas for me is rather unpoetic. Usually there is no time for "inspiration": I simply have to sit down and sketch them out. Often I get ideas while drawing, it helps me sometimes to sketch out even the most obvious things, just to have it down, and being able to move on from there. Sometimes in sketching it is also possible to arrange, rearrange and assemble an idea - a process that works non-verbally. Another approach I have found is this: I read the briefing or text, and then I look at random images, that have nothing to do with the topic. With every image I see my head automatically tries to connect the images to the topic in the back of my head. When I am lucky I find something, that I would not have come up with by only thinking about it. I have a collection of images especially for that purpose. It also helps talking with somebody about the topic, simply explaining it can do the trick. In a perfect world an art director would be that person to have this conversation with.

I have sketchbooks but I often draw completely digital from sketch to final on most projects. I have used different software over the years, and I noticed that software becomes less and less important to me. It would not be very comfortable maybe, but I think I could do what I do with just any graphics program.

Why do political illustrations are the work of the most dominating? Is there a particular reason?
I think abstract subjects, like politics and economy, cannot be illustrated very well with photography, because photography always shows something concrete. Illustration can help to add a meaningful layer to abstract texts.

Have any of your political illustrations upset someone?
It was not for political reasons, but yes, I have made illustrations that have upset someone. Thinking about it, that started already in school.

What music do you mostly listen to when you work?
When I do not have to think, I like to listen to podcasts. But not listening to anything would probably be the best thing to do.

What does a typical workday for you look like?
I have regular working hours, like a normal office worker. Except when I am working with somebody in a different time-zone and the deadlines are tight.

Thank you, Stolle!

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