I’m sitting in the office of Amadeus Waltenspühl in his home in Lucerne. It’s a hot Saturday afternoon and Amadeus appears to have been working on a comic before I arrived. In the interview, Amadeus describes his approach to work, tells about his experiences as a graphic designer in an era of new technologies, and I learn that his creations always start with an idea.
Q: Amadeus, you’re a versatile artist – you have a lot of different ways of expressing your ideas. You call yourself a graphic designer, illustrator, animator and VJ. Is there anything in the visual field that you’ve never tried? Anything you would never do?
Amadeus Waltenspühl:There are areas that interest me, but that I haven’t invested much time in. Photography, for example. I have a camera and I use it a lot when I’m working. One way I use it is as a visual aid to help me illustrate poses more accurately. I don’t often do photography for photography’s sake. But I’d love to do more with it – if I had the time (laughs). I’d also like to explore 3-D animation and modelling more deeply. But I don’t have the time for that, either…
Q: Is your goal to be able to live entirely from your own projects or are you just as happy doing commissions?
AW: I’m just as happy doing commissions as I am my own work. I enjoy the amount of freedom I have when I work on my own projects, but on the other hand it’s also really interesting coming up with solutions for translating the “external” ideas of my clients into a finished work.
I usually just don’t have enough time to complete my own projects. Of course, I’d like to be able to invest a lot more time and energy into my own projects because I set pretty high standards for myself.
I’d definitely like to be in a position not to have to take on commissions for a while and to focus completely on my own projects, do some studies, learn new things, and so on. But the important thing for me is finding the right balance between lucrative commissions and my own work. Even though I don’t have time for any major projects of my own right now, I draw every day, just for myself. You can’t ignore the fun factor (laughs). With commissions, you’re always in a bit of a rush because of deadlines. But I can spend as long as I want fine-tuning my own projects.
Q: In a previous interview, you said that the obstacles of time and space could be overcome using the internet and that you use the web to keep up with the latest international design trends. What are the biggest advantages and disadvantages of this development for you as an artist?
AW: Of course, everything has a downside, and technology is no different. It's very exciting for me to be inspired by new art. You have access to a massive amount of content and any number of artists online. There are forums for exchanging ideas with other artists. There are artists who I’m in extremely regular contact with, artists I would consider colleagues, even though we’ve never met in real life.
The internet also gives us new ways to collect information. For example, my father spent a year in Milan studying local trends in design. Today, we can find out about new trends from anywhere on earth. One downside of the internet is the sheer amount of information. You have to know what you're looking for and you have to make the right choices. Otherwise, it can be pretty intimidating. Sometimes there’s this bizarre mix of total inspiration and absolute defeat.
Of course, the internet also helps you get commissions. I can make a poster for someone in Australia or work with other artists from home.
” I think it’s a shame not to share art. If my work makes people happy, I'm happy. ”
Q: The internet can be a platform for any artist, but it’s become much more difficult to be heard these days. What advice would you give to young artists to ensure that their voice gets heard?
AW: The most important thing is to have fun with what you’re doing!
Perseverance and ambition are also vital. I always try to produce solid work – work I can stand behind. This means that I have to turn down a commission now and then. For example, I get a lot of requests for tattoo designs. But I turn them all down, because I wouldn't want to create something permanent like that because I just have too little experience in that area.
Another tip: your personal output is very important. These days, you’ve got to work on as many different types of projects as possible – you have to be versatile. The technical means are there and you should take advantage of them. You make new contacts when you diversify, which can lead to new projects.
In short: have fun, stand behind your work, never stop learning. That’s how you make sure you produce good work in the long run. And sooner or later good work will attract attention.
Q: As you mentioned, you also work as an animator and in the area of motion graphics. What criteria do you use to decide if an idea works better with moving images or static images?
AW: In my master’s thesis, I looked at the question of whether it’s possible to generate added value for comics if you animate various parts of them. The interesting thing about comics is that the actual movement between two panels is suggested in the mind of the observer. The question is what happens if you animate exactly this movement, this moment, ahead of the viewer?
In my master’s thesis, I looked at different comic genres to see when it made sense to animate and when it didn’t. Animation gives you the chance to structure the drama more effectively, for instance, by using background acoustics and shock moments in the horror genre.
So animation can have its advantages. But the actual question is pretty simple: do I want a film or a comic? A film is generally more resource-intensive than a comic – in terms of financing, time and technology. As a result, the client/project manager always decides what form the contents will take.
Q: Do you always need an idea first, or do you also just sit down and draw sometimes?
AW: If I just sit down and start drawing, then THAT was probably the idea. (laughter).
Q: So, in any case, the idea comes first?
AW: Yes, I think so.
Q: Why are you with sssquare and what do you think of it?
AW: I think the idea behind sssquare – making art accessible to the average consumer – is a very good one. My focus has always been on creating accessible art. I love seeing one of my posters hanging in someone’s apartment. It makes me feel like my work is appreciated.
So I think it would be great if my work ended up in people’s kitchens and living rooms. I think it’s a shame not to share art. If my work makes people happy, I'm happy.
Amadeus, thank you very much for your time and best of luck in the future.
Amadeus was born in Lucerne 27 years ago into a family that is deeply involved in art and design: his parents own a graphic design agency and his brother works in the family business as a printer and graphic designer.
But art isn’t Amadeus’ only interest – he also has a passion for music. He played drums in various jazz bands, enjoyed success touring as a beatboxer and studied for a year at the Jazz School in Lucerne. However, as he states in the interview, shortly after finishing high school he decided to commit to design rather than music. It was a rational decision: he thought design offered a more secure career path.
Worth a visit:
A creative collective of which Amadeus is part of. Specialised in perfect visual adaption of music for events (www.suffix.tv)