Instagram: @larissa__hoff

1. What’s your story? Where are you from?

Hey! I am Larissa, a freelance illustrator and graphic designer based in Berlin! I am working part-time as a graphic designer at an audiobook publisher and the other half of my week as a freelance illustrator for various magazines, newspapers, publishers and agencies while also trying to bring personal illustrative projects to life from time to time. Last year, I finished my MA Degree at the Berlin University of the Arts. For my graduation project, I wrote and illustrated a dystopian fairytale called <Das Refugium> which I am currently looking to get published. 

Like most illustrators, drawing and painting have always been a big part of my everyday life since my earliest childhood days. I moved to Berlin in 2009 after finishing school and feel quite at home in this big city here, but I grew up in a small town in southern Germany surrounded by more rural countryside. I played a lot outside in the woods, fields and streams and often drew fictional maps for secret treasure hunts. In addition to nature and wildlife, I also loved to stay at home, playing video games and reading comics –all of which I still love to do! 

2. Tell us about your aesthetic.

My aesthetic is largely built by the use of different contrasts. I like to mix very bright colors with darker and muted tones like greys, browns and black. Additionally, to the use of high contrasts in colors, I also combine clean and straight geometric lines and shapes with more organic and flowing elements. I try to stay away from an over boarding use of textures (even though I love creating them) and only use them if I specifically need them while working on the last finishing touches of an illustration, f. ex. if a drawing needs more visual depth or to simulate the feeling of a surface like the rough and gritty look of a tree bark. 

When drawing people, it is very important to me to show a diverse range of characters, be it in size, shape or color. If possible I also try to not visually gender-code any of my illustrated people. 

3. What is your favourite medium and why?

Most of my work is digitally hand-drawn on my iPad or with a drawing tablet on my PC in Photoshop and while I could also do the outlines of my illustrations on paper, I just love the convenience of being able to modify every line, stroke, color and shape within seconds on the fly. I also tend to experiment and optimize a lot with the actual structure and layout of the final picture which is far more time consuming when doing it on paper. On the other hand, I love to experiment with analogue painted textures and dynamically combine the roughness of them with the cleanness of my digital work. 

4. What is your artistic process like?

For every illustration I am working on, I usually make a lot of stamp-sized sketches on paper inside of my sketchbook. Although these are really rough and probably not very readable for others than my- self, these sketches are very important in my artistic process as they often tell me right away if an idea works or not. After sorting these out I take some of them and draw them a bit cleaner inside Photoshop or Procreate. For the final illustration, I like to draw the outlines on my iPad and add colors, textures and everything else afterwards in Photoshop. I also love to mix digital drawings with analogue textures or vice versa. Generally speaking, I always try to add a lot of contrast between all the different elements and layers in my drawings. 

5. Who and/or what inspires your work? 

I find it very hard to exactly pinpoint the things that inspire me. Of course, I do get inspiration from other artists and creative work being it by literature, music or video games but I feel most of my inspiration comes subconsciously through small bits and pieces that surround me in my everyday life or that I happen to stumble upon randomly. 

6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?

I guess not one day goes by where I don’t interact with art in one form or another –so it is definitely playing a significant role in my life. 

7. Where did you study?

I studied Visual Communication at Weißensee Academy of Art Berlin (made my BA there) and went afterwards to Berlin University of the Arts where I got my MA in Illustration last year. 

8. Where do you see yourself in five years?

I graduated from University last year and have been working full time since then. I am still trying to figure out a healthy work-life balance so I hope to have mastered my organization of that a lot better in five years. I absolutely do love my job(s) as an illustrator and graphic designer but I am also a person that needs regular time off to refresh my powers and my creative thinking -as a freelancer, I find this a bit hard to do because there is always a fear of missing out on some cool opportunities or losing contact because of declining a job offer. I would also love to have released a book with a publisher by then! 

9. What about in ten?

Impossible for me to say, but my dream would be to have more time for personal projects like making books, comics or even animation projects. Generally speaking, I would love to have more time where I choose to work rather than have to work. 

10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?

At the moment, I primarily work in editorial illustration, where it is very important to me to not only visualize the journalists or authors text work but also to add a new (personal or contextual) layer to the topic. Kind of like opening a new window within a room and maybe even surprising the readers with a new perspective. 

In addition, I think as creators of visual content that gets published in magazines, newspapers, online or everywhere elsewhere a lot of people get to see our material, illustrators have an equal social and political responsibility as journalists. I think illustrators are obligated to stand behind the messages of an article and the visuals created for it in terms of content and not, for example, accept assignments from media outlets that spread hate messages or fake news. 

11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?

Oh, so many great things to choose from! I have the luck (or doom ;)) that my girlfriend is an actually trained gourmet chef… so even at home I rarely eat anything that doesn’t taste phenomenal. But I must say that I am a big fan of the basics: Pepperoni-Pizza, a fresh Salmon-Sandwich or classic stuffed bell peppers! 

12. Favourite book?

It’s impossible for me to only choose one! My 3 favorite books are <Frankenstein> by Mary Shelley, <The Grapes of Wrath> by John Steinbeck and T.C. Boyle’s <World’s End>.

13. Favourite genre of music? 

I am listening to a lot of different stuff… always depending on the mood I am in. Although it happens to be mostly music from the past – music-wise I was truly born at the wrong time. I like to listen to early American Blues and Folk, all-time classics like Johnny Cash. Velvet Underground from the 70s over to 80s feminist post-punk bands like The Raincoats or Pylon and finally 90s Alternative artists like PJ Harvey or The Breeders and early Techno and other electronic music from that era. 

14. What are your hobbies? 

In my spare time, I love to spend a lot of time in nature and go hiking, but also stay inside playing video games (right now I am especially into retro games from the early 90s) or reading books and comics, but even more, listening to audiobooks and podcasts. I also like to work on tech stuff like my PC or disassembling, fixing and putting back together old electronics. 

15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

Puh, that is hard to say! I can only barely imagine a life without doing some sort of the other creative thing for a living as this profession is so tightly woven with my personality. Maybe I would be a savvy bomb disposal expert or… perhaps rather a shepherd on some remote piece of land.