While I also feel like we’re in some baroque, the royal Trump family and friends are ruling over the commoners from their incestuous gold palace nightmare castle conglomerate…

Ole Tillmann

ART  .  February 5th, 2020

Who are you Ole?

I’m a person with lots of internal life that I have been involuntarily fostering ever since I can remember and that I try to share with the people I like and love and those that are interested. 

What can we find in your head?

Currently the idea of archaeology has been on my mind a lot. From all kinds of angles. In the simplest sense I’m just interested in the cycles and layering of development that humans go through, the spiraling nature of history where every so often it feels like we’ve already been there but in some slightly different way. 

And how that’s getting tighter and tighter and right now for example I feel there’s an early 2000s and 70s/80s trend in terms of aesthetics while a counter culture/labor revolt thing seems to be happening politically, while I also feel like we’re in some baroque, the royal Trump family and friends are ruling over the commoners from their incestuous gold palace nightmare castle conglomerate… 

Illustration for The InQueery

All while we’re clearly in some version of every classic science fiction novel where software is starting to become self-reliant and overseeing our actions while the natural world is ending, melting, burning. 

At the same time I’ve been preoccupied with colonialist aspect. So similar to the mostly-too-late-to-return point in saving the natural environment how the western white idea of what the world means and how it works has killed off so many other ideas and knowledge. 

And all these things I just mentioned keep bubbling up in the form of some comicish idea of having a big sun hat and standing in some place in the world and digging up shards of stuff and musing about their origins.

How did you come up with this crowded illustration idea? Did you have specific inspirations in mind? [header image]

The sketch is from my home at the time, Cologne Kalk in Germany which is home to many different cultures and when you step out of the Subway or you go the mall that is what it feels like. Sometimes I have these moments where I try to concentrate and acknowledge that all those people are individuals with their own internal monologues and directions etc. And that’s what I tried to put down. I know it just ends up looking like I’m trying to hide Waldo… 

What’s the creative process behind it? From the first rough to the final illustration (+ what tools are you using?)

In that specific case it was a rough pencil sketch where I just put down the people like I was writing, from the upper left corner down, row by row and just roughly drawing the whole person so I could figure out where all the limbs go because I lost track pretty quickly. Then I put that on a light table and went over it with a pencil, again, just to get a clean sketch.

I then tried to color the sketch on a separate piece of paper, again on a light table, but failed in picking the right colors.. There just wasn’t enough contrast to not have lines. So I scanned it and went over it in Procreate, picking colors first and then going color by color just filling out shapes with a color-pencily brush. Still working as if I was using colored pencil so not paint bucketing just working like one would in a coloring book. I kept some of the texture from the original drawing.  

2 last illustrations for The InQueery

Give us some of your favorite good old german illustrators.

Adolph Menzel comes to mind first who I guess was officially a painter not an illustrator from what I remember but I guess he was known to be like an obsessive life-drawer with a special coat with pockets for art supplies and I relate to living life visually first. I don’t care much for his paintings but his sketchbooks and field drawings from war really stuck with me. 

Then Janosch I recently realized is still known to heaps of Germans but I have no clue if the world is aware. He’s been marketed as a children book guy but has done all kinds of things. Works in watercolored ink drawings of funny characters both as animals and humans most of the time and just has a very unique perspective and humor. 

And Aiga Rasch who is best known for illustrating a series of.. young adult audio dramas (?) haha now that I think about it I think that’s a pretty German thing in itself. People are into audio plays, especially as kids but by now it’s returning in podcast form, even internationally. But she did these psychedelic cassette covers for them that I like. I think its the first thing that pops up for her on search engines. 

But I will also admit that I never thought of Germany as an interesting or strong illustration place. Pretty much all of our neighbor countries are better at it. 

How did you end up living in Australia?

Because my partner and I wanted to take a break from Cologne and be in a place where creative endeavours are held in higher regard. Cologne is a fairly corporate/bland place and the art scene that used to be there kind of died out in my perception. I had met people from- and kept seeing online how Melbourne and Sydney seemed to have a positive culture towards small business, art lives. Plus, welcoming visa regulations at least towards countries like Germany (totally hateful immigration laws in other regards I should mention, sorry Australia!) 

It’s really interesting to see all the different style you explore in your work. From perspective to flat proportions, naive or more realistic, use of outline or not, textured surfaces or plain colors, extended or very limited palette. Can you tell us more about this?

Yeah, that’s kind of the story of my life. I don’t know it always feels kind of wrong. Like a foolish business move and I’ve been trying to really boil it down to one thing. But I have a really hard time with it. I originally tried to celebrate it and every assignment I got I just did what I felt was appropriate, including style changes, but that just left everyone sort of confused I think and its not very recognizable. I think there’s some sort of „handwriting“ underneath it all but I just dont know how to keep it consistent and clear.

What’s your top 3 of cheeses?

Cheddar, Peccorino, and something bland.. like cream cheese or mild gouda

What’s the name of the mouse we can see wandering around on your website? and what’s the mouse obsession all about/coming from?

It’s kind of everyone and me. Its MouseMouse! I just started drawing it a while ago and english speakers have a lot of trouble pronouncing and remembering my name so MouseMouse works better and a mouse to me is so neutral and ubiquitous and somehow  comforting.

We interviewed you some time ago as Art Director of this incredible video game Harold Halibut. What are the news about this project? Did you plan to work on more games in the future?

The news for that has been handed off to our publisher, Curve Digital, so I’m not allowed to talk about it. I will just say that it is coming out and that I can’t believe that all this team work came together so beautifully after working on it fairly chaotically for the past 7sih years.

Which is also the most encouraging about future games. The game was my first experience of how amazing collaboration can be, it always was to me in theory but seeing it through over years was definitely worth it. Plus the form of storytelling remains really intriguing. At the same time it was so intense and complex and long! And although relatively speaking making games has become so much more accessible it’s still too hard over all. I will need a longer break from it at least in the role of art director/co-founder. 
I’d be happy to do concepts and illustrations for other people’s games.

What’s next for you?

Going back to Germany to establish a space for artists and designers to gather, support each other and share their work. Bring back some our new found Australia knowledge.  Take care of the very final dealings of our game publishing. And continue to build my own picture-making/story telling practice.

What are you going to do after having answered to this final question?

Finish the kerning on the logo for a construction company that I was commissioned to do haha.

Ole Tillmann is a German illustrator currently based in Melbourne, Australia.
He’s also the co-founder of the game dev studio, Slow Bros.
You can find his work on his website or instagram.