Interview Lars Henkel

German artist, Lars Henkel has recently put together an amazing collector’s package of fine art in a soft cover book entitled, Portfolio. Portfolio is a collection of Lars Henkel drawings, digital paintings and personal ephemera that showcases his critical eye for detail. Recently, my mailbox was set abuzz with a collection of Lars Henkel’s printed Portfolio collection.

Lars Henkel was first featured in one of my first compendium books showcasing talent, Heaven and Hell. Lars, along with Ryan Wallace, were chosen as the student scholarship award winners and published in the book featuring 56 artists including: the Clayton Brothers, Gary Taxali, Kevin Christy, Cynthia Von Buehler and 54 others. Lars traveled to San Diego for the book release party at the Abbey Church featuring 40 of the featured artists, 120 character actors, fashion designers and live performers all in one night. Lars Henkel has also been featured in many of my curated exhibitions in San Diego, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and during Miami’s Art Basel.

To celebrate Lars Henkel’s new book, I thought it would be great to catch up:

mM :  Lars, how many years of your fine art and illustration are represented in this new collection and how did the project come about? How has the response been to the overall packaging and variety of printed examples?

LARS : The response has been very good so far! People appreciate the little extras such as the poster-envelope, the banderole, the special paper and the hand printed stamps.

This portfolio is the first issue of a new series that will be published by ZEIXS-publishing. Every issue presents the work of one artist and number two will be filled with Roman Klonek’s beautiful woodcuts. Marc Wnuck created the concept and the general design of the series but within this concept every artist has the option to design his own issue.

In my portfolio you find examples of the work from over the last 4 to 5 years. We tried to create a collection of different types of projects and illustrations. You can see personal and commercial work, sketchbook-drawings and experiments. For me it does not make sense to separate these different projects because they influence and inspire each other. In my daily work I alternate between commissioned and personal work, between drawing and collage or between narrative or experimental. So this mixture of technics and subjects feels very naturally because it represents my creative process.

mM : How would you describe your style? Do you often focus on themes in your work? Please explain:

LARS : Describing my own style is not so easy for me because it is always shifting. In general it is important to me to find an optimal way to visualize a story or an assignment. So sometimes I use ink-drawings or collages or whatever is needed. Besides this technical variations, I constantly approach each piece by creating a visual world with a “certain” type of atmosphere. An atmosphere that invites the viewer to interpret the image in their own way and to project their own emotions and experiences into the image. That's the reason why I enjoy mystifying instead of explaining and why I prefer poetic subjects more than scientific.

When I begin a project, I feel a deep sense of fascination for the subject or the final image and I can't explain this feeling to myself. I just follow my fascination and collect everything that is connected to the subject. It is interesting to see what happens between symbols when you combine them. Composed elements sometimes "click," connecting automatically, others times they seem to repel each other. This is my personal way to explore and discover subject matter, but it’s emotional not usually rational. I am not trying to find explination. I try to enjoy the mystery that lies behind/within it.

mM : What inspires you and where do you go to find it?

LARS : Inspiration can be found in many different places. Discovering art, movies, comics, reading books, talking with people, walking around the city. I often notice it’s important to be sensitive enough to realize your situation and surroundings. Being conscious of the moment often leads to the beginning of an idea. Unfortunately most of the time the brain is busy doing everyday work and other pointless things and its difficult to control inspiration against the clock.

mM : A lot of amazing artists are based in Germany. How would you describe the art scene and is there a particular art movement happening over there?

LARS : I have been observing the art scene in Germany for the last 15 years now and in this period of time the art scene has definitely increased. More young people want to study illustration, art fairs present non-traditional art mixed with traditional art. Magazines and their art-directors have rediscovered creative possibilities through a variety of drawing styles. In the last few years publishers began producing more graphic novels again after a National campaign changed the general image of comic books, making audiences more aware of mature content. And beside successful graphic novels from abroad many German authors are now part of the publishing programs.

mM : What are you currently working on and what is next for Lars Henkel?

LARS : After working for commercial clients for some time I am now in the period of personal experiments. I am researching interesting subjects, reading different books, collecting a lot of ideas and doodles in my sketchbooks. This early part of the creative process is very exiting because everything is possible. There are certain vague ideas but not sure if it they will turn out as a series of drawings or as a story or something else. . . So I continue to feed my head and play around until the new project becomes clear enough to get started.

Thank you Lars! Lars Henkel was born in Rome (1973) and grew up in Bonn, Germany. He studied illustration at the University of Applied Arts, Aachen and at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne where he now lives and works. In the last few years he has been teaching illustration in Kiel and Essen. Lars is often spotlighted in many creative magazines, as well as the recipient of awards from ADC Germany, Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Communication Arts and 3×3. He has worked for GEO Magazine, Universal Records, Ride Snowboards, Meret Becker, Büchergilde Gutenberg, Die Gestalten Verlag and many other world-based clientele.

Portfolio: Lars Henkel is published by ZEIXS and features illustration, digital painting, drawing and collage over 48 pages. Limited to 999 copies, beautifully designed and packaged is delivered extras: poster (60x40cm), hand stamping, custom envelope and ribbon marker. If you are lucky, you may randomly receive one of his books, 9 copies, with an original drawing inside. Order here.

interview by mark murphy

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