In Conversation with: Bea Muller
last updated 13 December 2022
We recently sat down with Bea Muller and spoke about her creative process, inspirations and advice. Read our conversation below.
Talk us through your creative process. How do you approach a brief?
Most of my clients have a pretty straight forward idea of what they want me to draw, they use some of my illustrations as reference and tell me to create something similar. Others give me complete freedom. No matter the brief I always do a lot of research before I start a commision, which differs from private work.
I will give you the example of my latest winter puzzle which I had full control of. I had done a number of winter landscapes already, so I knew that this time I wanted a winter sport scene in the mountains, maybe the alps. With a brief like this I use google and pinterest for references, not so much for illustrations, but more for photography. How do the villages in the alps look, what does a ski lift look like, what’s the body position of someone on ski’s and which clothes do they wear?
For private work I often sketch on paper, but for commissions I usually use my ipad straight as it can get quite messy. I often move things around a bit. Colours are quite a big part of my work, most clients tell me which colour palette they like from my previous work, but sometimes I like to tweak it a little.
A wintery scene in the alps is a very straightforward and direct example of an illustration commision, but other briefs are more abstract, for example when the topic is about hope, love or fear or about emotions. In those cases I research the words more carefully and look for synonyms, symbols. You also need to keep in mind that with abstract words or briefs the cultural context is more important.
How did you begin illustrating? What was the spark of inspiration?
As a lot of people, I started drawing in early 2020, just before the start of the pandemic. I hadn’t been happy in my career for a while, my daughter slept terribly as a toddler and I was constantly exhausted and anxious. Additionally I was constantly bored at work. I started in marketing, moved to account management and later on to business analysis and product management. Only now I know that I needed a creative job and had to work for myself. I used to draw a lot as a child, but replaced it with music as I got older. I studied art and culture but unfortunately didn’t end in the creative sector and I really missed being creative myself. In January 2020 I felt so low that I had to make a change and I started crafting again, and in February I picked up my husband’s iPad who is a designer himself. In March I opened my Instagram account and towards the end of the year I volunteered for redundancy. Everything went pretty quick, I guess the pandemic helped me in a way.
Who/what have been your key influences as an illustrator?
My first illustrations were about my daughter and later on I drew her with me as a Bear. My daughter’s first teddy-crush was a bear and my name pronounced in German does not sound like BEE but BE-A, so very similar to Bear… this is how Soley and the Bear was born.
I moved away from it and only draw Soley and the Bear occasionally nowadays. It was fun to start with but I don’t want her to be the centre of my work. What remains is the diversity though. We are a mixed family and diversity and colours are the centre of my work.
What’s your favourite part of the illustration process?
Oh I can’t even say. I like the researching and sketching phase, I like the colouring in phase when the illustration finally takes form and I like to finish and print a piece. I think it’s the complete circle. What I like about illustration generally though is the process of creation, making something and therefore being part of something. The feeling of fulfilment because you finished something and you can see it and hold it. That’s what I have always missed in an office. I’d probably be happier in construction than in an office.
To an up-and-coming artist, what’s one piece of advice you would give?
You need a lot of stamina, keep on going, don’t give up and don’t quit your job! I know I’m not the best example as I left my job only after 8 months, but I was in the fortunate position to receive a redundancy payout that helped me through the first couple of months. I know that part time work in the UK is difficult but if you can try to reduce your full time work to 4 or 3 days a week to work on your passion that would be the ideal scenario. Quitting your job too quickly can be dangerous as you have to make a living in a competitive market, quickly your passion for illustration will turn into frustration and the chances you give up are high. This was my plan before I saw the redundancy opportunity anyway.
What would be your dream brief?
That’s a difficult question, I do like briefs that push me without undermining me as an artist.
I definitely have a couple of career goals, to reach them would be an absolute dream come true and I don’t know if I ever will. High up on the list is to illustrate a Little People, Big Dreams book by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara. I also really want to make my own book one day. It would be nice to create a small line with a sustainable fashion brand, too, but honestly, if I can just continue what I am doing now I am more than happy.