Adam Lewin is an artist and illustrator hailing from New York City. His most recent piece is the key visual artwork for Berlin Fashion Week. Entitled Showroom Days, the collection focuses on over 150 designers and artists, both national and international. More than 50 locations across Berlin have been used to showcase the collections, installations, retrospectives and photography of these individuals. After studying at Pratt Institute and The Gerrit Rietveld Academie in the Netherlands, Lewin worked as an illustrator and art director since 1992.
Beginning his career as a fine artist in 2005, Lewin is now based in Berlin where he teaches design at Berlin Institute of Design.
Photo Credit Alpenkunst.com
Showroom Days has been displayed across pivotal parts of Berlin during fashion week as well as taking center-stage on the cover of the official Berlin Live- Showroom Days magazine.
Here we talk to Lewin and find out more about the artist himself as well as this exciting new project…
Q1 What techniques did you employ to work on the pieces?
In my last series of works on paper and in the key visual for Berlin Fashion Week – Showroom days, I employed a variety of various media and techniques in conjunction with one another. The process in which I work can be quite rewarding for me yet very time consuming, requiring a lot of patience and conviction. At first I started off by making abstract shapes and patterns with colored ink pens going from very light and gradually getting darker and more colorful. I do quite a bit of layering with high quality Japanese markers.
The next phase is to go over the ink with a bit of watercolor and then even some colored pencils. Finally I will hit the drawings with some very finely applied highlights in acrylic paint. At that point I may import the drawings into Photoshop for further manipulation but the originals are displayed as is. I generally prefer the slight textural imperfections of art created by hand to computer generated art, but occasionally they compliment and counter balance each other in beautiful ways if done with skill and great attention to detail.
Q2 How do the Berlin art scene and creative industries influence your work?
In general, I would say that living and working in Berlin has made me much more independent and free to realize my personal creative goals and vision for my work. I get the sense that my work is being pushed forward as opposed to being dumbed- down. That is one of my highest priorities as an artist and designer. There are a vast amount of extremely talented people in Berlin. Somewhere I heard that over 30,000 artists live in this city. As far as designers and other creative professionals, I shudder to think about how much competition is out there. In all seriousness though, I find that having all of these inspired people around makes for a fantastic cultural environment. It is very enjoyable for me to be surrounded by so many like minded individuals.
The economic situation in Berlin seems to have a profound impact on the the creative scene in both positive and negative ways. Berlin is a very inexpensive city compared to most big cities. As one might imagine, there are countless ways in which that has made the creative community thrive. When just making ends meet is not such a struggle people are not so money driven which then leads to more sincere and daring creative undertakings. One down side to that which I have noticed is a certain lack of professionalism, clarity, hustle and presentation that one might find in a city like New York for example. While Berlin is an ideal place for doing independent projects and working in an international capacity, the opportunities to make money from clients, collectors and customers within the city are very limited compared with some other cities.
With so many other creatives around the competition can be overwhelming at times. Seasoned professionals get undersold and undercut by masses of cheap creative labor now made even worse by the Euro-zone crises. In general though, for me at least, the positives far outweigh the negatives and I truly love being based in Berlin. This is the place where I would most want to be right now.
Q3 How have your studies influenced your work and career?
I finished my studies 20 years ago so it’s challenging for me to look back that far and analyze how they affected my current practices. While I did the vast majority of my developing after college, in the field and on the job, I do feel that my studies were essential in the process. They gave me a solid foundation and jumping off point. I wouldn’t be the designer I am today if it weren’t for my training. They pointed me in the right direction and set me on a path of learning. I did a bachelors degree at Pratt Institute in communication design. There I learned all of the basic principles of design. I started the program back in 1988 when computers had first been introduced into the field and our teachers used to discourage us from using them because they were so limited at that time.
We were using press type and hand drawn lettering. I think that learning these techniques really gave me an internalized feeling for typography. Though the thing that really guided my thinking about art and design more than anything were the lecture classes I took in art and design history. Learning about all of the important movements over the centuries made me contemplate the fundamental nature of my own process. Following Pratt I did a year of post-grad in Holland at the Rietveld Academy. This was where I started to find my own voice and got into experimenting with bigger ideas.
During my studies at Pratt I learned the rules, at Rietveld I learned how to start thinking about my own set of stylistic guidelines which pay great respect to the classic modernist principles but for me those principles were a starting point from which to begin experimentation. I learned to look at things differently. It gave me the time, space and nurturing environment to think deeply about what design means to me and why it matters. The other thing about the Rietveld which was so great were the people I was meeting. Truly inspired fascinating people who didn’t just make stuff, they lived it. They were true artists to the core.
Q4 Has your work evolved, and if so, how?
Absolutely. My work is constantly evolving with every project that I work on. I am very passionate about what I do so I always strive to keep growing and learning. With each design or illustration that I make I become more informed about my influences on a gut level, I learn new ways of working, better solutions come faster and my voice becomes more clear and more defined. This holds true especially in the independent artworks that I create. I may have some vague idea about what direction I want to bring my work in but as I realize it I start to see what is working and not working and get a more realistic sense of how things will play out when brought to life.
Q5 How do you think technology is affecting the illustration industry?
In my experience technology seems to be affecting the industry in positive ways. For example, there are more and more venues to publicly display your work and it is easier to network internationally to find new opportunities. One of the main reasons I am able to live and work in Berlin is because I am not dependent on clients in this city. I can look for clients anywhere in the world. I do find that many people are still stuck in the old 20th century ways of doing things and feeling more comfortable working with people locally but my prediction is that these things will change with time and eventually we will work in a truly global system.
Sure, there will then be increased competition but I am all for the best man winning the job. I think that raises the bar in a way. Another way that I see technology affecting the industry is that if one decides they want to branch into other mediums such as video for example, it is now far more accessible to make a better quality product without having a huge budget and requiring a ton of technical skills. Of course the downside to all of this is that we are becoming flooded with work from amateurs and the truly great stuff gets lost in the shuffle to a certain extent. It just means we have to be smarter about how we promote our work.
Q6 Do you feel that your academic teaching practice inform and compliment your industry work?
Yes, I do. I truly enjoy teaching. I find that when I’m teaching my creative processes become heightened and I am sometimes better able to work out my own ideas by critiquing the work of my students. Teaching also makes me a better collaborator and communicator. For instance, if someone presents me with an idea that I feel isn’t working, I no longer just shoot it down because doing that would be stifling, uninspiring and it breaks down communication. Rather I try to pick out potential kernels of good ideas and guide and nurture them into hopefully something more rich and interesting. Teaching also forces me to stay current and on top of my game because I would lose my students interest if I only taught them about outdated material. It is a learning process for me as much as it is for the students and I hope to keep doing it for years to come.
Q7 Which designers and illustrators have inspired you with their work?
When making paintings or illustrations I don’t look so much at other contemporaries in the field for fear of becoming derivative. Therefore, it would be hard for me to pinpoint specific designers or illustrators. I do go to a lot of exhibitions and look at the annuals always absorbing everything which may influence my work in ways I don’t even realize. The designers that do influence me the most are the ones who make bold yet graceful moves forward demonstrating that originality pays if you stick to your guns, keep a very open mind and have the patience and dedication to make something new. One such collective which comes to mind is a Berlin based group called eboy. I have admired their courage and keen sense of style for a long time.
Often times I try to tie opposing influences together in new and hopefully unexpected ways. I have a vast amount of diverse influences which spread far and wide. They range from low-tech third world street signage to the medieval etchings of Albrecht Durer to contemporary art and architecture and everything in between. I can look at something totally uninspiring to most people and extract some kind of an interesting visual thought from it. I like to challenge myself that way. Eventually these things all come to together filtered through my minds eye.
One of the most influential illustrators for me is a nineteenth century biologist and artist named Ernst Haeckel. He made these intense natural science drawings of different species of flora and fauna. I try to make abstract versions of that, almost creating new kinds of surrealist lifeforms. Also, since I was a little kid I have always liked the illustrations of fantasy artists like Roger Dean and even some graffiti art as well. I think that comes through in my illustrations in unconscious ways.
Looking at the inspiration and creative influence behind Lewin’s work the exciting and distinctive style of Showroom Days shines through. Using natural science, urban life and hyper-fantastic imagery the illustration reflects a chaotic beauty that fits well within the Berlin art scene. More of Lewin’s work can be seen at www.alpenkunst.com.