Bene Rohlmann is a Berlin based illustrator. His work has appeared in exhibitions throughout Europe and the United States, and his clients feature The New York Times, Converse, and Mercedes Benz amongst others.
Hi Bene! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us about your work. Could you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
Hi, my name is Bene Rohlmann and I’m an illustrator and artists based in Berlin. Since receiving my diploma in illustration in 2012, I’ve been working full time as an illustrator. I’m focusing mainly on editorial illustration, but I’ve also made t-shirt designs, record covers and whatever sounds like a fun project. Since last year I’m also trying harder to get into more gallery shows, because I love creating personal work and showing it in a place other than the internet. The fact, that I can also earn extra money with it, makes it even better.
Tell us about your creative process, from the initial idea to the finished piece.
Ideas for illustrations, especially for personal works, usually just pop into my head. When that happens, I make a quick thumbnail sketch or just write it down in my sketchbook. Then I usually sketch it out in Photoshop till it looks right to me, print it out and create the actual pencil drawing by using a light pad. I also make entirely digital drawings, but I do that mostly for illustration jobs.
What particularly appeals to you about working in graphite?
I really like that I don’t have to think about colors and I can focus on the actual image, but I can still give it depth and kind of a ‘greyscale coloring’. A line drawn with pencil is also so alive and can have a lot of character/personality.
But what I appreciate most about a pencil is, that it does what I want it to do. I can control it. There’s no accidental spilling for example, like it happens with ink or watercolors sometimes.
Do you have a favourite pencil? Wood? Mechanical?
Definitely mechanical. It ensures a steady stroke width.
What other materials do you enjoy using?
I enjoy collage a lot!
What size do you tend to work at? Do you have a preferred scale?
I prefer working in smaller scales. My drawings are usually not bigger than 20×30 cm.
What is your favourite subject-matter? What’s the particular attraction?
I especially love drawing skulls, moths & butterflies, plants of any kind and toys and I can’t really explain why. Maybe because for all of those things there are endless possibilities and variations. You can create skulls out of so many different structures and materials, moths can have a million different patterns, plants can go totally crazy and toys can be whatever I like them to be.
What kind of things do you think have influenced and inspired your vision the most?
A lot of my inspiration comes from the cartoons I used to watch and the comics I used to read as a kid, but also the toys I played with during my childhood. I was so much into all of these things and I have so many good memories of these times, where I would totally dive into these cartoon worlds or the ones that I created on my own, while playing with my Lego, action figures etc. What also keeps inspiring me are all these vintage things like tattoo designs, advertising, typography, fashion, hairstyles, matchbox labels and old encyclopedia illustrations.
Can you tell us about a favourite piece of yours, or a favourite creative experience?
One of my favorite pieces and at the same time favorite illustration jobs so far has been a cover for a mixtape by Mercedes Benz. The great thing about it was, that I could work in one of my favorite techniques (a mix of pencil drawing and cut out pieces of old comics and encyclopedias), they gave me almost total artistic freedom (except for the theme of the sampler, that I kind of had to stick to) and then it was also paid well. I would easily call this one a dream job.
What are you early memories of drawing like?
The first time I remember myself illustrating something must have been as a child, somewhat between 5 and 6 years old. My grandfather often read fairy tales to me and my sisters and – inspired by those stories – we’ve spent hours and hours at my grandparents kitchen table, drawing scenes and characters from those fairy tales. Those were good and happy times!
Do you keep a sketchbook?
Yes, I do. But I don’t use it often enough anymore. I would like to get back to taking it everywhere and drawing in it every day. I’m trying to achieve that at the moment and I’m slowly getting back there.
What directions are you interested in taking your work in the future?
I just want to get better in my work, experiment a lot, get my work into more publications and exhibitions and do lots of other exciting projects.
Right or left-handed?
Coffee, nicotine, or booze?
Lots of coffee, zero nicotine and booze from time to time.
Last film you saw in the cinema?
Montage of Heck
What books are on your bedside table?
Charles Bukowski – Ham On Rye
Favourite city in the world?
Favourite city to draw/sketch/illustrate/create in?
Berlin and Seoul
What can we look forward to seeing from you next?
I’m currently working on a piece for a group show, a t-shirt illustration, a record cover and several digital collages for a newspaper. This is exactly where I want to keep going: in lots of different directions to keep my work as exciting and diversified as possible.
Thanks Bene! Keep up with Bene and see more of his work here:
Bene Rohlmann features in Issue 4 of Tiny Pencil: The Death & Resurrection Issue! Available to buy here.
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