Giulia Hartz

“It is easy for young illustrators to get lost in the predominant trends of the moment as we all wish for people to like our work. Emulating these trends might seem like a shortcut, but it’s not. Focus on who you are and what you want to tell, then sketch it out.”

Hi, Giulia. First of all, thank you for agreeing to this interview and welcome to Māgoa. We are really honored to present you and your work to our online readers.

Can you begin with telling us a little bit about your art practice? What first got you interested in being an artist?

Since I was a kid I loved drawing. Growing up, I have continued exploring, trying out many techniques and materials – somehow in the attempt to channel the curiosity towards art that I had. I started studying design almost naturally and education deeply helped me to understand and shape creativity – and it is still an on-going process.

What was the inspiration for your career route?

As I said, choosing to be a designer came very instinctively. Honestly, I never thought of any other field. Thinking about it, I guess that the culture I grew up in gave me the chance to experience and learn about art and design to the fullest. The Italian cultural heritage was just surrounding me and softly accompanied me towards who I am now.

How did you develop your distinctive visual language which we see in your work today? Did you know it since the very beginning or was it more of a gradual process?

It was and still is a fully gradual process, thankfully. Imagine if we knew all the answers from the beginning – where would the fun be? Developing the visual language is for me the greatest challenge. Oftentimes, I wonder whether my work is consistent or not, whether what I do is being perceived as consistent or just as a constellation of disconnected dots. I believe these doubts are part of the process and push me to further evolve. I see many illustrators having a clear, defined style. Myself, I am experimenting a lot between detailed illustrations in color and black and white outlines. Ultimately I just embraced this wandering and digested my visual language as a visual storytelling. I will keep on experimenting tools, but always stay consistent to my personal stories.

Can you remember some of your earliest influences and what inspires you today?

My earliest influence comes for sure from my dad. He is a prosthodontic which might sound not really creative, but his job actually requires high manual skill. As a hobby, he loves modeling – airplanes, cars, houses and he engaged me a lot in these activities. I always had tons of materials to play with. Today, the main inspiration comes from the stories I live (and the ones from my past), from the conversations with my friends or from the dreams I have – where actually all of this is reflected. And yes, of course all the impressive work I find on social media.

What does your typical workday look like?

I wake up at 7.30 and I bike to work – I am a Communication and Strategic designer at Peak, an energetic creative leadership agency in Berlin. At the end of my workday, I go back home and after my dinner, until I go to bed, I work on my personal projects or freelance jobs which is also what I do on weekends. Design is profoundly my greatest passion and relief. But please, don’t imagine me always sitting at my desk. My job is very dynamic and in my leisure time I take the time to – yes, draw – but also look for inspiration outside.

You grew up in Italy and later moved to Berlin. What contributed to your move? How did these two different countries (cities) impact your work and ideas?

I travelled to Berlin the first time at the age of 18 and completely fell in love with the city, its creative vibe immediately felt overwhelming. From the very first moment, I dreamt of living here, but nevertheless I started my bachelor studies at the School of Design in Politecnico di Milano. At the end of my bachelor, I discovered my interest for Strategic Design and found out about a Master course in that field in Berlin. The city somehow called me back and all came together. From Milan, I carry with me the scientific background and the basics of design. Berlin taught me the method and embraced me in a lively environment made of ideas and full of courageous people.

Your work is beautifully detailed. Can you tell us more about your approach to color, motives and texture?

Thank you. My product design background has been crucial in terms of technique. Part of my works is inspired by realistic renders and in the other half I use the same method I would adopt for a technical drawing with black nibs pen. I merge the scientific technique with my imperfect human touch on the design and my own stories. This creates a tension between polar opposites which, for me, is key to a successful visual communication.

What tools or techniques can you share about your process? Is it all done by hand or do you use technology as well?

I love researching and testing. I work with pencils, markers, Indian ink, pens and paint, but I also enjoy digital drawing. I often mix both analog and digital, depending on the feeling Iwant to achieve.

Your work is so unique and definitely speaks to your sense of story. Can you tell us about your journey to finding this point in your work?

The current world is extremely challenging and I am sure that any creative person has felt scared by the number of talented people out there – which often are just better than you are. At least, I did. After some time, I started making illustrations and sharing them, then I asked myself: what is differentiating me from others? I doubted my talent and the fear pushed me down, but also took me to an epiphany. I had to start depicting my personal stories and intimate memories, firmly putting myself and whatever makes me a unique individual in the drawing. My illustrations talk about my teenage experiences, my flashbacks from childhood, my heartbreaks, my anxieties – ironically, as I would do in a conversation.

Which illustrators or artists working today do you admire the most?

I have many favorites and quite often from diverse fields. I especially look up to my best friend and incredibly talented tattoo artist Benjamin Au, to the pastel colored photography of Mandy Sham and Nguan, to the black and white illustrations of Christopher De Lorenzo and to the colorful artworks of Cecile Hoodie.

What are your thoughts on the pressure to fit into a certain style, to attract an agent or a certain type of client?

As I said, it is easy for young illustrators to get lost in the predominant trends of the moment as we all wish for people to like our work. Emulating these trends might seem like a shortcut, but it’s not. Focus on who you are and what you want to tell, then sketch it out.

What would you say is the most challenging aspect of your career?

First of all, defining what my career is: halfway between strategy and visual. Secondly, keep on going, constantly creating new material and questioning yourself in order to grow. Even if it was a long day.

How would you describe yourself in three words?

Passionate, talkative and way too emotional.

You are quite active on social media – using Instagram and other mediums to share your work. What is your approach to this? Do you think that your social media presence helps in gaining commissions?

My work tells stories, but these stories need to be delivered to a recipient, or even many. Social media allows me to do this and to create a discussion around it. I put a lot of effort in making the discourse playful, I engage my followers giving them stuff for free: wallpapers, calendars…, sharing images from my past that we might have in common – when that happens, it’s magic.

I started posting my designs during my studies and by the end I realized that I put together a public portfolio which shows my voice and my focus on making great. Commissions come from the passion you show. Nobody wants to hire a designer who does not give a meaning to her job.

What are some of your plans for the future? Are there any projects you would like to share with us?

I aim to keep on dreaming, gathering inspiration and putting it on paper no matter what. There are a couple of collaborations coming up – you will see soon 🙂

Visit Giulia’s Website and Instagram