Birgit Palma Will Open Your Eyes
to Impossible Imagery
MIKE O'DONNELL / EDITOR
WNW Member Birgit Palma relishes the opportunity to paint herself out of corners. The Austria-born, Barcelona-based illustrator, designer, and lettering lover feels most comfortable creating works of paradoxical wonder. She's already done it for the likes of Adobe, Nike, 55Diesel, and Red Bull, and a trip through her portfolio gives you the sense she's just getting started. In our interview below, Birgit reflects on her style, her mission, her proudest moments so far, and the pressure that she and most freelancers put upon themselves. Luckily, that's just one more challenge that Birgit's more than equipped to playfully navigate.
Tell us a bit about your creative background. Who is Birgit Palma and how did she get here?
Hi! I’m a passionate multidisciplinary illustrator & lettering addict from a small town in Austria. After finishing my Master studies, I decided to do an internship abroad. I worked at Vault49, a small illustration studio in New York for a couple of months and then headed to Barcelona, where I worked 7 years as Art Director in a Spanish illustration studio called Vasava. I’m still living in Barcelona, but for the past 3 years I’ve been freelancing and I’m very happy with this decision.
How would you describe your creative style? Do you recognize a signature style that links your projects?
I’d describe my style as a very playful and imaginative one. I love crafting at the sweet spot between avant-garde design, illustration, and lettering. I also fall for surrealist, op-art, and abstract geometry; it's a recurring theme which appears in most of my work. I like illustration because I feel it opens your eyes on a different level. You can express what can’t be pictured in everyday life and the impossible is always just a doorstep away.
What do you see as the turning point in your creative development and career so far?
There’s no turning point, just lots of trials, fails, ways to get forward. What brings you forward is the experience you gather on the way.
What’s your creative mission at this stage? Is there something you feel is missing that you want to take up and deliver?
I don’t feel that there is anything missing, I’m kind of overwhelmed on a daily basis with what already exists - I just want to contribute and give an insight into how I see the world.
Which of your projects are you proudest of and why?
Last year, I was doing a ‘modular lettering workshop’ with Daniel Triendl for Adobe Germany on several festivals in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Goal was to create a real-time collaboration and create different sets of alphabets of the different cities where we were holding the workshop. It was an awesome experience; I loved the outcomes and the possibility to work together with a lot of different people.
At the beginning of this year, I was commissioned by Yorokobu Magazine to illustrate the cover of this January's issue. At the moment, I was very inspired by Memphis Group, an Italian architect and design group from the 80s. Their furniture is a mix between Fisher Price and Bauhaus and resembles in many ways how designers feel when they get a blank sheet of paper and the possibility to create in a playful way.
I also really liked the outcome of ‘The Fluid Self’ for Adobe Stock. The concept was to create an artwork around Adobe's Blog Topic ‘Fluid Self.' My artwork turned out very three dimensional and is a good way to show how I use textures and pictures to generate 3D Illustrations. There’s a more detailed explication including videos here.
What would be your dream project or job, or is it already on your resume?
I’d like to work with VR. Let’s see if this works out one day :)
What are your biggest creative influences?
They come from everywhere, but I am also a huge fan of old school masters of art like Dali, Vasarely, and Escher. Just by observing their artwork intensely you learn a lot about shape, composition, and their view of the world. But I also get quite a lot of inspiration from literature. Maybe because it’s written words without pictures, so I can fill the void with my imagination. Also, I have to admit - I often stumble over my inspiration in the everyday world.
What scares you most about making creativity your career?
I feel there’s always a kind of pressure on the shoulders of freelancers that makes me uneasy sometimes. Needless to say, it’s me who put most of the pressure on there so I know there’s a way out of it.
What's something you just watched, read, or listened to that really excited you?
I just saw Big Fish & Begonia yesterday. Apart from the fact that it’s beautifully executed, it also has a very touching story. Totally recommendable.
What do you do when Not Working?
Something else :) I don’t think the human is built to sit 8 hours straight in front of the computer, I have to to waste my additional energy somewhere else. And believe me, I have lots of it!
What’s something you’ve learned on your creative journey that other creatives should hear?
Often teamwork makes the outcome much better than fighting through it alone.
Who are some other WNW members whose work you admire and why?
Whooo, that’s a hard one. I admire the works of Jordan Metcalf, Jessica Hische, and Karan Singh. I’d also recommend visiting Daniel Triendl's profile; he’s a buddy of mine and has an extremely awesome style!
What’s next for you? What are you working on now?
There are some nice projects in the pipeline, but can’t say too much about them now.