Meet the Maker: Karolin Schnoor

This month we meet illustrator Karolin Schnoor, creator of two beautiful prints designed exclusively for 91 Magazine (lucky us!)

First of all, can you tell us what was the inspiration behind the 91 Magazine prints?

We wanted to make something light and bright for spring and I really liked the idea of a simple line drawing as I normally rely so much on block colour. It's hard to really see in the photos but the paper has a beautiful flecked texture and the ink has been mixed with metallic powder so the images are designed to work as just one element in a combination of effects. I'm really pleased with how they came out!

What was your path to becoming an illustrator? 

I never really planned to become an illustrator! To be honest, my main motivation in applying to art school was a determination to meet interesting people! I studied at the London College of Printing and actually started freelancing while at uni. My very first job after I graduated was copying vintage t-shirt designs for a clothing label but luckily I could soon just freelance full time and haven't looked back since. I prefer being my own boss.


What’s your workspace like? Do you work from home or studio?

I've tried both and I prefer working from home - I'm a definite homebody. It requires a lot of self discipline but I find it useful that when I get stuck with work, I can do something unrelated like washing the dishes! This can really help get me unstuck and I'm doing something useful at the same time. I really love the freedom that home working brings.

Talk us through your creative process - what do you need to help you work productively?

My process is the same for each project, a pencil sketch followed by a colour sketch on my tablet and once approved I do a line drawing by hand and then colour that in Photoshop. Deadlines can help productivity! Some editorial commissions need to be turned around within 24 hours. Other work, like the Seasonal Series, develop over a series of weeks. I enjoy having a bit more time, and being able to revisit things until I get them just right. It's great to be able to come back to something after not having looked at it all day, it helps to adjust things with a fresh eye.

Podcasts are pretty essential. I always work with one on as I need something to keep me entertained and music makes me space out. Sometimes when I look at an illustration I'll suddenly have a strong memory of the podcast I was listening to when I drew it! 

You have a lovely bold aesthetic – how did you find your style?

My work used to be much more timid; I rarely used colour in uni until a tutor at college specifically asked me to. I thought he was wrong of course (because when you are 18 you think you know everything!) but I am grateful he started me down that path because colour is now my favourite tool.

Your work often has a strong female presence at its centre - is celebrating womanhood important to you?

That's so nice to hear! I absolutely consider myself a feminist and am very much interested in depicting women in a celebratory fashion. There is no shortage of men being depicted or images of women created for the male gaze so I'm hoping that drawing women for women is a small attempt at creating balance.

Who or what influences and inspires you? 

When I was studying I tried really hard to avoid looking at other people's work - I found it quite intimidating and, at times, a bit paralysing. The amount of work which is now accessible online feels overwhelming to me, so I much prefer to look back in time at things that really remain in my memory. I grew up on German children's books and folklore illustrations for instance, and both have influenced me. I'm also a fan of bold Scandinavian brands such as Marimekko.

I often find that switching styles helps inspire me. For example, if I'm doing a lot of big bold colour work I like to do a 'palette cleanser' and do a simple line drawing or a black and white piece. Since most of my work is commercial, I'm often restricted to a brief and I almost prefer the limits of a specific job to having too much freedom.

Do you ever get ‘block’ and if so, do you have any techniques for getting over it?

Of course I do! It initially stopped me cold but when you have a deadline you have to push through it and that taught me that a block isn't real. I have days where work is easy and days where work is hard but you can get it done either way and that's been a helpful realisation.

Sometimes just telling yourself that this job doesn't have to be the best thing ever can help. If it's really bad I just set a timer and tell myself I can stop after half an hour. Usually that helps to get things going and it doesn't seem so bad after the initial effort. It's that first bit that's scary - and you just need to get through it.

You undertake a wide range of work from design to illustration to screen printing – do you have a preference of one over the other?

Not really, I think I thrive on being able to do them all and I wouldn't want to just choose one. I do love screen printing as it allows for some time away from the computer and there's just something about real paper and ink that's very lovely.

Do you have any particular favourite projects?

All my collaborations with The Future Kept have been such a pleasure to work on and Jeska who runs the shop styles the prints so beautifully. They are printed by a great studio here in London and overall it's a very satisfying work process.

On a practical level, how do you get most of your work, and how do you balance your time between commissions and your own work?

At this point in time I'm lucky in that I don't have to do much outreach, I get a fairly steady amount of requests. But it took a solid 5 or 6 years of emailing art directors, running my Etsy shop, doing blog interviews, giveaways and collaborations to get to this point and I imagine I will keep having to do rounds of this as I go along. I run my Etsy shop as a way to stay personally creative outside of commissions and now that I (finally) have an Instagram account I've found that a nice place to put up small bits and pieces that aren't commercial. Commissions do however always take precedent and I don't mind that. Gotta keep that money rolling in!


What are the best bits and challenges of working for yourself?

I love the independence but that can sometimes be a double edged sword. I like being my own boss but, obviously, I'm also responsible for everything. It's hard to clock out at the end of a day but I am slowly getting better at that... 

Any advice for an aspiring illustrator?

Oh boy! I never know what to say to this question! Just work a lot and don't expect things to take off straight away. Everything takes time, but the more you work then the faster you'll get there.

Quickfire Questions...

Describe your work in three words: 

Colourful, flat & bold

What are your making rituals?

Listening to podcasts!

 Tea or Coffee? 

Tea and never with milk (sorry English people, that's just gross)

 Mountains or Sea? 

Sea please

Night Owl or Early Bird? 

Early Bird all the way!

 I wish someone had told me… 

That stressing out about work is the worst way to get anything done!