MEET FRANZISKA & HANNA BARCZYK, THE ILLUSTRATING
We're always interested in learning how creatives are inspired by those around them. That's why we started interviewing Creative Couples last year. Now, we're excited to talk to two WNW Members who have known each other their entire lives: Franziska Barczyk and Hanna Barczyk. In our interview below, the Toronto and New York-based sisters tell us about their creative evolutions as illustrators, how they inspire one another, and where their styles bridge and divide: "The approach to subject matter is similar as we both have a strong focus on women, movement and the figurative but the approach differs as Franziska’s work is narrative and Hanna’s conceptual." While they have their own practices, they'll be joining forces for their first show together in Toronto on December 8 at Coldstream Fine Arts Gallery.
Tell us about your creative backgrounds. Who are Hanna & Franziska and how did they get here? How did you both end up becoming illustrators?
Franziska: Growing up I’ve always had an interest in drawing as well as the arts in general, such as performance and dance. I went to the University of Toronto for two years where I took art history and visual culture. I also had the chance to take painting and printmaking classes. My sister at this time was enrolled in the illustration program at OCAD U. This is when I saw that art/image making can be applied. I switched over to OCAD U and then graduated two years after my sister. I have since been going back and forth between graphic design and illustration. And even though I’ve worked in the agency environment and also as an in-house graphic designer, I kept drawing in my free time and was involved in gallery shows. Finally, I decided to focus on illustration full time. I’ve also worked as a studio assistant for Edel Rodriguez (2010) and Christoph Niemann (2014-2015), both who I look up to as mentors. It’s the continued interest to want to create stories through drawing that make me continue to do illustration.
Hanna: I’ve always known I wanted to be an artist. When we first moved to Canada from Germany in 1996, we walked past the Ontario College of Art and Design (now OCAD U) as part of getting to know Toronto. I knew that I wanted to study there in the future, and I ended up getting accepted into OCAD's drawing and painting department. In my first year walking through the halls, I noticed illustrations exhibited on the wall and reached out to my teacher. I then switched my major to Illustration. I graduated in 2006 and have since been involved in many creative industries from mural painting, film, graphic design and dance. Since 2013 I solely work as a freelance illustrator in between NYC and Toronto for major publications.
What do your parents do?
Our mother is a social worker and our father is a historian.
How would you describe each of your creative styles? What similarities and differences do you see in your work?
Hanna’s style is more rooted in the hand-drawn traditional medias with a minimal colour palette. Franziska’s work is mainly digital with a wider colour palette, using gifs and incorporating collage. The approach to subject matter is similar as we both have a strong focus on women, movement and the figurative but the approach differs as Franziska’s work is narrative and Hanna’s conceptual.
What are your three favorite pieces in your sister’s portfolio and why?
Franziska: My favourite pieces by Hanna are: ‘Blue couple’, ‘The Iraqi Friends We Abandoned’ for The New York Times and ‘Perfectly Imperfect’ for The Los Angeles Times. To me they are strong, smart and sensual visual solutions.
Hanna: My favourite pieces by Franziska are: ‘Shape Woman’, it’s visually fun, confident, and has a a great mood. ‘Portrait of Jon Stewart’, captured his personality well, and ‘Skype Kiss’ which I feel captures a full story in a short gif animation.
In what ways do you inspire each other? Do you ever get competitive?
We inspire each other by sending each other links to other artists, magazines, fashion, and interesting blogs. When we are in the same city we spend more time talking and inspiring each other through stories and ideas. We might have a sense of an unspoken competitiveness.
What are you each working on now?
We will be having our first duo show together in Toronto on December 8 at Coldstream Fine Arts Gallery so we are working on paintings for that as well as numerous editorial projects.
What cultural and creative venues do you frequent (arthouse theaters, galleries, museums, bookstores, record stores etc)?
Do you thrive off of being part of a creative community or are you more in your element as a lone wolf?
We both prefer working independently. It’s important to find out for yourself when you are most happy with your work. It’s important to get feedback when you are first starting out, not necessarily from a community but from a mentor. Once the work is finished it’s great to showcase it to the creative community.
Who are some of your biggest creative idols and influences?
Picasso, Matisse, Frida Kahlo and Hockney
If you weren’t an illustrator, what do you think you’d be doing instead?
A film director or dancer
What do you do when Not Working?
What are some things you would tell your high school or early twenties self?
Not to wait for approval but make choices independently.
Any album, film, television or book recommendations for your fellow WNW members?
Book: Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities
Albums: Erik Satie, FKA twigs, Astor Piazzolla, Frederico Aubele, Orchestra Baobab, Ismael Rivera, Willie Colon, Hector Lavoe.
Who are some other WNW members whose work you admire, and why?
Emiliano Ponzi: amazing sense of depth, perspective and sensibility towards subject matter and mood.
Jordy van den Nieuwendijk: treatment of colour, the simple compositions, fun
Olimpia Zagnoli: the way shapes are used to create compositions, simple, confident
Lynnie Zulu: stylistic, simple, emotional, sense of confidence and openness