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Meet Adrian Bauer: A Freelance Illustrator

By Iva Mikles •  Last Updated: Dec 13, 2021 •  Interviews • Written Interviews

Adrian Bauer is a German freelance illustrator from Berlin. His work focuses on editorial illustrations and infographics, using geometric forms, detailed structures, and colorful shades.

“… whilst I had a very good education in creative direction and concept development, my knowledge of how to work economically and how to earn money with my expertise to finance my living was very limited.

Artwork by Adrian Bauer

Can you please tell us a bit about your background?

I am a Berlin-based art director and illustrator with a preference for geometric forms, detailed structures and colorful shades. As a designer, I work for clients in advertising and business, but also for agencies and publishing houses. The main focuses of my commissioned work are therefore on corporate- and editorial illustrations and infographics.

Originally, I come from a rural wine-growing region in southwest Germany and grew up in an artistic family environment. My parents were both art teachers and have a studio and a workshop in their house — pens, paints, and paper were practically always lying around and were freely available at any time. My sister, my brother, and I had our own sketchbooks and there was something painted or handcrafted everywhere. When I was younger, I didn’t notice how special that was. But it was also clear that if I wanted to do something artistic and not viniculture, I would have to leave my village. In 2006 I moved to Berlin for my illustration studies.

Random fact about me? Sure, well I love salted licorice, I played pretty unsuccessfully in a soccer team for over two years, and I have never been stung by a wasp or bee. Even though I come from the countryside 🙂

What inspired you to make art?

I find inspiration and ideas in my everyday life. This can even happen randomly at the supermarket checkout.

I collect these fragmentary snippets of ideas, color harmonies, unusual fonts, and patterns in a sort of archive and write initial conceptions on lists that get longer and longer over the years. After a while I take out these fragments and, if I think they are still relevant and worth elaborating on, I transform them into a new artwork. 

Visiting art museums, no matter what kind of art, is always inspiring for me. I think that’s because in the process of walking you look at something and somehow internalize it in your brain far better than if you just slide through an Instagram feed. Curiously enough, I always find things most inspiring when they are out of my own stylistic comfort zone.

Did you study at art school(s) or are you self-taught? What did you study? What were the “aha” moments? What did you find the most beneficial?

I studied »Visual Communication« with a focus on illustration at the University of the Arts, Berlin (UdK) and additionally spent one year abroad in the UK to study illustration at the University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE)

After graduation, my big “aha“ moment was when I realized that, whilst I had a very good education in creative direction and concept development, my knowledge of how to work economically and how to earn money with my expertise to finance my living was very limited.

Artwork by Adrian Bauer

How did you develop your own art style? Where do you go for inspiration? How do you keep your creativity flowing?

Developing your own art style is certainly a lifelong, ongoing, and never really finished process.

That’s why I personally always find it difficult to say: yes, that’s exactly what it is now, and I will do that until the end of my life. Personally, as an illustrator, I could never and also never really want to break away from the areas of graphics or infographics because I have always been interested in the visual conveyance of content as well as in clear structures and geometric forms.

I am passionate about really applied design or illustrations that have a reference and bring added value such as information content. For this reason, I also have an interest in non-narrative illustration. Stylistic influences certainly also come from Pop Art, Cubism, and Minimal Realism.

In order to maintain inspiration and motivation, it’s important to take a break from your own work. This can be a hike in the forest or a visit to a museum, but it can also be a glass of red wine with friends.

How did you start making a living as an artist? What was your first paid art job?

I already had my first little jobs and gained my first business experience as a student. For example, in 2010, I co-founded the creative collective “Free Radicals”, which was a loose union of interdisciplinary working designers.

We weren’t really successful with earning money, but we had a lot of fun! Shortly after graduation I had one of my first bigger “real paid” jobs. It was an illustrative poster series of 10 artworks about living in Berlin / Brandenburg for the Berliner Volksbank.

What do you live from as an artist now? What are your main income streams and what is the approximate % split of each?

I work full-time as an illustrator; my income is generated exclusively from commercial commissions with perhaps around 15% from royalties and pay-outs.

I really appreciate this privileged situation where I have an almost constant booking frequency and usually I am fully booked out 2 -3 months in advance and very often I even have to refuse orders. But that wasn’t always the case in the past – I can still keenly remember tougher times during my foundation phase.

What are you currently working on?

In the last three years, I have worked a lot on commissioned projects for bigger companies and I would now like to go back to my own artworks and work more experimentally.

For example, I’m currently working on an illustrated alphabet and plan to bring my own online shop to life to sell exclusive prints in limited editions.

What do you think are the most important characteristics of an artist?

In my opinion, serious working artists need lots of intrinsic motivation to stay consistently on the form.

The creative process is a long ambivalent journey and things don’t always go smoothly: To be enthusiastic about things, to grow beyond limits, and also to be ready to do more than others – to sit at your desk late in the evening when others are going to party.

I think a healthy dose of self-confidence and a tendency towards masochism can certainly also be found among many successful artists.

Artwork by Adrian Bauer

What are the art tools and other products and services you can’t live without?

Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, textures by Kyle T. Webster and RetroSupply, pen and paper. Music — without music, I wouldn’t survive the many hours at the drawing table!

What are your favorite art and other books (fiction, non-fiction)?

To be honest, I don’t read a lot of fiction at the moment.

When I do read, it is mostly non-fiction, biographies about artists and illustrators, newspaper articles about politics, nature, and art & illustration.

I think I almost have more specialist books and illustrated books than novels on my bookshelf: Works about Charley Harper, Swiss typography and graphic design, and illustrated books by Tomi Ungerer. However, there are a few books that I first read as a child or teenager and still find fascinating. One of them is from Michael Ende’s “Momo – The Gray Gentleman”, “1984” by George Orwell, and “The Dark Side Of The Moon” by Martin Suter.

What advice would you give yourself as a beginner artist? Or alternatively please include your favorite quote and the author.

Don’t sell yourself short, don’t take criticism of your work too personally, and don’t work with assholes.

Get in touch with Adrian

Thank you, Adrian, for joining us today!

All artworks by Adrian Bauer, used with permission.

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Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on illustration, storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help either wake up or develop your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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