“I love to do shit that just looks cool" – Sebastian Schwamm on his new illustrative approach

In 2015, we wrote about Sebastian Schwamm’s impressive skill with intricate cartooning. With scenes so busy it would take a day with a telescope to discover each detail, this illustrator felt like he needed a change and took a leap towards a more technical side of drawing. His most recent work still offers up the varying creatures of an apocalyptic space age; shiny slug-like monsters are decorated in a colourful setting while others create shapes with their legs that go for days. What’s different is his recent ability to wring out a detailed scene with a more refined and digitalised method, while staying true to his imaginative signature style. We caught up with the Munich-based artist to discuss this transition and to find out where exactly he gets his crazy ideas from.

What have you been up to since we last featured you in 2015?

I’ve worked a lot, chilled a lot, met some beautiful girls, fell in love, fell out of love, fell in love again, took some drugs, broke my leg, could not really walk for two months, got fat and got ripped again. Okay, actually, I am still trying to get ripped again – the things that you do!

Concerning my work, it has shifted towards a bolder, less busy and more technical style. There were also a lot of nice jobs over the last two years; if I had to choose two favourites, I would choose my contribution to the Converse Chuck II Campaign which launched in the summer of 2015, and very recently I contributed to the Kulturweg at the Landesgartenschau 2017 in my hometown Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm. Also, last year’s favourite job was where I gave several drawing workshops for kids and they were awesome every time.

Run us through this shift to “bolder, less busy” illustration: what have you learnt from this? Why did you make the transition?

While I was studying and shortly after my bachelor degree in Communication Design, I was very into busy cartoon scenes and Wimmelbilder. After a while I needed a change. I am still into drawing cartoon characters but in a more abstract, geometric, clearly shaped and bolder way – maybe a more mature way, I don’t know. Although it doesn’t mean that I still love drawing stupid shit!

Has your creative process or technique changed in any way?

My creative work process has changed a lot, from analog marker drawing with digital colour to more or less complete vector-based work. Though the origin of an idea is still the same – it’s mostly a rough paper sketch, then the further process is much different. I really love it and I am wondering why it took me so long to reach the digital age! Building up supplies of characters, character parts, stuff to rearrange and experiment with is great and it enables new approaches to my work. That doesn’t mean that I don’t work with pen and paper anymore, but right now I enjoy how I can turn rough and fast sketches into clearly shaped computer generated forms.

Who are the characters in your illustrations? Are they influenced by anyone or anything in particular?

A lot of them are actually me, in a way. Sometimes they embody different versions of myself, or situations I’ve been in and the feelings that I’ve felt. For example, the character in Broken Leg Workout depicts literally what I did for several months this year. I’ve broken my leg twice in a stupid accident last winter (actually on New Year’s Eve), and this guy embodies a really strange body perception which, for me, wasn’t easy to get rid of for some time after the accident. Also, the character in Red Room is me after a break-up.

Of course I get inspired by friends and people I’ve met – by their stories, the stuff I read or see on the Internet. One of the weirdest characters I’ve drawn over the last few weeks – the weirdo Baseball Alien Monster Freak from Playtime – arises from a friend’s description of his holidays in L.A. But I love to do shit that just looks cool, and I really love to draw ‘Nackerte’ (Bavarian Slang for naked people).

Run us through a few illustrations: what are you trying to communicate within the imagery? Was there a brief, how did you approach it?

I’ve attached two commercial illustrations: the Kir Royal guy for Companion Magazine and the digital black and white girl for Wired Magazine. The first one was one of three illustrations for the latest edition of Companion Magazine (The Munich Issue) by FreundevonFreunden for 25 Hours Hotels. The illustration was for the DIY section of the magazine about the famous drink Kir Royal. I was really happy about the fact that they chose this particular drink because I was in love with the 80s TV series Kir Royal, and the fact that the briefing also payed a reference to it was great. So I decided to portray the waiter from the opening scene of this trashy iconic 80s TV series which also plays in Munich. The series and its setting in Munich’s Schickeria in the 80s seemed to fit perfectly to the topic – in particular the City of Munich in general and this super fancy drink.

The black and white one for Wired had a short, pragmatic brief – which I like a lot as well. Shout outs to the Art Director Axel Lauer on this point; the art direction suggested that we needed something that looks cool in black and white, maybe a pattern in the background, or one person in the foreground, preferably a woman, plus key words on digital lifestyle and connection. Bam, that’s it!