With a love for the creative arts and a rich knowledge of design honed through her years in graphic design, illustrator Anje Jager has developed her own unique style. From watercolour portraits to graphic nature illustrations, her work captures the essence of her subjects, outlining the character and details through her delicate application of colour and texture. She keeps her art fresh, interesting and modern by mixing things up with her fashion illustrations, which are both expressive and rich in colour.
We visited Anje in her bright and airy Kreuzberg studio to find out more about the women behind the drawings. We talked about everything from what it takes to be an illustrator to her biggest inspirations, projects and her sustainability values.
How did you come to be an Illustrator?
I studied graphic design, but I was always drawing. I moved to Berlin to intern at a graphic design studio called Double Standards and ended up staying for two years, but still I was always drawing. The studio’s founder, Chris Rehberger liked my drawings and I guess I was lucky from the start as I was working with really good Art Directors, which makes such a difference. I started working as an Art Director for an advertising agency and did my illustration work in the evenings, which was tiring, but I knew it was something I wanted to do. After two years I quit my job and by this point I had enough work to make a website, and it all developed from there.
What type of projects do you usually work on?
Portraits. I do a lot of portraits. This is what gives me steady work because it’s always needed. If graphic designers receive imagery that doesn’t seem right for the piece, an illustration is the thing they look to next. I think a lot of the time, illustrations are used as space fillers. They hardly ever get used like a photo would – photographs sometimes get a double page spread, but it’s rare for an illustration to get that. The New Yorker always have an illustration on the cover and I love that.
Is there anyone that you take inspiration from or that you particularly admire?
I have quite a lot. I really like looking at other people’s work, but not so much illustrators. An artist I admire though is David Hockney, he is the most inspiring person. His most recent exhibition at The Tate was amazing. He doesn’t stay in his comfort zone; he is always open to everything. What 80-year-old guy would, after a life of painting, just take an iPad and start painting on that? His work is very inspiring, the way he looks at things is so unique. He doesn’t think ‘I’m a painter, I can only paint’, he does photography and digital drawing too.
I also find Leanne Shapton really inspiring. She previously worked as a graphic designer and illustrator but is an artist now. She’s very free and autonomous in her drawings, I love her work and way of thinking.
What skills and techniques have you had to develop to get to where you are now?
Watercolour techniques and painting. I had to be more daring and not afraid of something looking wrong. When you’re too precise and allow yourself to work in this way, it all starts to look the same. That’s the danger, you become this kind of drawing machine, meaning you don’t develop new skills. With fashion drawings, I’ve started a rule where I don’t allow myself to draw lines for the clothes, encouraging myself to be bolder and faster; I can get to drawings I like better this way. I push myself by giving myself rules, otherwise I tend to be very precise and I don’t like that at all.
What are your sustainability values?
I always bike, we never use the car in the city. I really hate cars in the city; I’m quite militant about it. I cycle even when it rains. I also don’t take the plane so much anymore, we made a rule that if we don’t have to fly, we just don’t. We take the train to the Netherlands for nine hours and the kids are already used to it now, it’s our new normal.
We of course separate all of our recycling and I’m a vegetarian, not just for environmental purposes. Germany is very environmentally aware, everyone seems to shop in eco-stores and women buy from natural cosmetic brands. I buy a lot of second hand clothing both for me and the kids, and don’t allow myself to go to the big cheap clothing stores as I know once I’m there it’s hard to control myself. Instead, I buy nice pieces from designer friends who only produce a minimum amount of clothing and I know exactly where it comes from, whilst supporting their business at the same time. The yellow blouse I’m wearing for example is by my friend Vladimir Karaleev.
What’s your favourite Evermore scent?
I really like Light. I really love citrus scents and this makes me feel happy, it reminds me of hot summer days.
Which scent do you like to burn in your studio?
Definitely Moon – it’s a deeper, richer smell that I find helps me concentrate. I find citrus scents a little distracting in the studio as it makes me think of all the fun summer activities I could be doing instead!