Peter Stemmler, 41, and Nana Rausch, 39, are Quickhoney, a duo who share a studio, a bedroom and a child. Together, Stemmler and Rausch create digital masterpieces for clients that include, but are not limited to, The New Yorker, Popular Science and MTV.
Rausch, a native of Heidelberg, Germany, studied in Berlin at University of the Arts, while Stemmler, a native of Berlin, studied at Kunsthochschule. Quickhoneyâ€™s characteristics make their chemistry infectious. â€œIâ€™m a very curious person. I would like to look into everyoneâ€™s apartment. I love looking into windows,â€ says Rausch with Stemmler adding, â€œSheâ€™s very voyeuristic.â€
Currently, Quickhoney live in New York, a city that, for Stemmler, â€œmakes you a little younger than being in Milwaukee.â€
“I got the text and I had to do a portrait of her dying in the car. It was a challenge.”
Format: Many illustrators are typecast by clients. How do you adjust to client needs when your clients are so diverse?
Nana: Itâ€™s mostly magazines. For me, I do lots of technology topics, basically, everything that is Internet-related they like me to illustrate it. Itâ€™s not totally diverse.
Peter: It looks really diverse, because we have two main styles: pixel and vector.
Nana: Peter does a lot of portraits and they can be used anywhere. He does a lot of icon work, too.
Peter: We do both, but Nana does the pixels, I do the vector stuff. Sometimes, we work together pretty steady. I think the amount of jobs that weâ€™ve done in the last year has made it look so sophisticated. At the end of the day you get a job and you do it or you donâ€™t do it.
Format: Currently, pixel art is on the rise. What are some characteristics of pixel art that make it desirable for todayâ€™s current pop culture?
Nana: I think lots of people associate pixel with technology and thatâ€™s the reason Iâ€™m getting all these technology topics to illustrate. Anything that is connected to computer, Internet or technology they feel that itâ€™s good.
Peter: Itâ€™s easy to imagine it. They want something digitally illustrated and they go for pixel style, it doesnâ€™t matter what the illustration is as long as itâ€™s closely related to technology.
Format: What are the challenges of two people producing one body of work?
Nana: We have two bodies of work, because we have two styles. Peter does vector and I do pixels, and we exchange ideas, but I pretty much do my projects and he does his.
Peter: I think there are only positive points to it. For example, Nana is busy and canâ€™t do a job, the next person sheâ€™s recommending is me. Also, you can work conceptually on both sides together. And, if you have a relationship with the two then itâ€™s nicer!
Format: What current news item would you like to illustrate if you could?
Peter: I like to do portraits of the candidates and Iâ€™m going to do them in the next couple months. The nice thing about our job is the total surprise of what you get.
Format: Peter, you do a lot of portraits of celebrities. How do you select which portraits youâ€™re going to do?
Peter: The client calls me and tells me what he wants, usually, he shows me a portrait that is already done and asks for the same style. I do portraits for people that I like â€“ personal portraits and celebrities in the style I like and I put it on the website. Thatâ€™s how I do everything, basically, doing what I want to do and we let the client pick.
Format: Peter, you did a portrait of Princess Diana. Please explain how that portrait materialized.
Peter: Thatâ€™s a nice story. Basically, it came from a German magazine and there were photos of the dying princess in the car wreck, but nobody could get the photos. There was a French journalist that gave a description of the situation, because he saw her dying in the car. I got the text and I had to do a portrait of her dying in the car. It was a challenge.
Format: Peter, you do a lot of nudes and sexually explicit portraits. How did you get into these illustrations?
Peter: If youâ€™re from Europe itâ€™s not so shocking. It was pretty easy, the first year I came to New York was in `96 and the first few years I was doing designing. I was bored and started to do portraits and thatâ€™s when I started to be successful, but I was still bored at work. I started tracing naked women and it was really exciting!
Nana: Peter was so bored that he was browsing naked women during his work days and then he started tracing them.
Peter: I got a couple of naked women together â€“ during these years I had a Dutch agent in Amsterdam. There was a sex book to illustrate in England called Sex Handbook. It was really bad pay, but it gave me the option to go three days to London and take porn actors and tell them what to do! I had a gay couple, a hetero couple and a lesbian couple. They did all the stuff and the editors told them what to do, but I took some pictures. It was really cool. I slowly became a sex illustrator.
Format: Do you notice a lot of creative differences between Europe and America?
Peter: To be different is a benefit in the creative field. A classic example from our American clients is that they want something literal reflecting stuff from the copy. Itâ€™s kind of boring, you can make it nice looking, but itâ€™s not a challenge.
Nana: But itâ€™s funny, the major newspapers are like that. The New York Times and Newsweek, theyâ€™re afraid to get a wrong interpretation so they stick to copy. Iâ€™m always happy when The New York Times calls, though. I think American art is a little decorative, at least illustrations are. When you study in German you train to be a little more conceptual.
Peter: We like all our clients, but as creative people, weâ€™re looking for new challenges, always.
Format: Is there a specific client that Quickhoney would not take on?
Peter: Actually, I gave a job away that came through my agent form Marlboro Philip Morris since Iâ€™m not smoking and Iâ€™m against it. The cigarette companies are pretty clever, they ask before they even give you a job. Iâ€™m pretty sure they get dumped a lot by artists. I wouldnâ€™t do anything connected to war, Nana wouldnâ€™t do that, too.
Format: Does Quickhoney feel a moral responsibility for the images that it creates?
Peter: I can stand for everything that I do, even the naked stuff.
Nana: Yeah, me too.
Format: Nana, you do a lot of work that looks like Sim City. Did you play it?
Nana: No, well, I had a phase a long time ago when I played Sim City for a little while, but I sit at the computer long enough so I donâ€™t need to do that.
Format: Nana, by creating highly detailed illustrations it looks like youâ€™re looking into peopleâ€™s lives from a birdâ€™s eye view. How do you place the people in these illustrations?
Nana: They do what I want them to do. Itâ€™s fun. Iâ€™m a very curious person. I would like to look into everyoneâ€™s apartment. I love looking into windows.
Peter: Sheâ€™s very voyeuristic.
Nana: I like building apartments or houses. Itâ€™s like a little girl putting a puppet house.
P: Like a Barbie mansion.
Nana: Donâ€™t say that! Itâ€™s not Barbie.
Format: What were some challenges when you first came to New York in `96?
Peter: I came in `96, Nana came a little bit later.
Nana: The challenge was living in a tiny apartment and getting a job.
Peter: Yeah, the same thing with anyone coming to New York: getting a place, getting a job; getting a better place, getting a better job.
Format: Was there a culture shock?
Peter: Yes, but you have the great promise of going from dishwasher to millionaire.
Format: Peter, you make T-shirts. On what scale do you produce them?
Peter: I really like to do T-shirts. Normally, I get them really cheap and I print them with a foil press machine and I give them away as promotional material. Theyâ€™re really cheap T-shirts, theyâ€™re like $3 or $4 per tee. I like to try out stuff and itâ€™s branded with Quickhoney. I give them to people I like, or sometimes, I tape them to walls and people are able to take them down if they want them.
Format: Nana, you create a lot of parts that people use in everyday life. How determine what parts to make?
Nana: It depends, but itâ€™s often assigned, but I have a library with all the stuff and if I get a new job I look at my files to see what I can use or modify for the new job. Itâ€™s pretty much like Lego.
Format: How do you manage family life with your profession?
Peter: You need a good daycare, thatâ€™s the secret!
Nana: Yeah, but we donâ€™t give our son away from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., we pick him up earlier and it works out.
Peter: Happy parents, happy children.
Format: Quickhoneyâ€™s work is extremely youthful. How does Quickhoney stay in touch with its youthful market?
Peter: Going to parties with 20-year-olds.
Nana: No! I think itâ€™s just modern. Maybe, in 20 years it wonâ€™t be modern, but you have to stay young inside, too.
Peter: Being in New York makes you a little younger than being in Milwaukee â€“ youâ€™re closer to the heart of everything. Weâ€™re pretty skilled in staying young as long as no one asks our real age!
Format: Are you fashion conscious?
Peter: Nana is more into it. I have sneakers, Levis and T-shirts. Nana is more like Urban Outfitters! Sorry! I was just kicked!
Nana: Thatâ€™s not true.
Format: Nana, who are some other artists that are doing pixel work that you appreciate?
Nana: Well, we know eBoy, but I think besides eBoy, I donâ€™t know anyone doing pixel.
P: There are a lot of pixel artists around, but a lot of them are not really great. Cheap vector art, too, everyone can try it, but if you give up after a couple days itâ€™s no good.
Format: Please describe your working environment.
Nana: I work from home and we have a studio in Manhattan, but Iâ€™m mostly in our home studio.
P: Iâ€™m mostly in Manhattan, but in the evenings I work at home. Itâ€™s pretty flexible.
Format: What are the downfalls of using computers to create instead of manual ways, like brushes and pencils?
Nana: Itâ€™s much easier, you can just e-mail stuff and they patch it into their layout and send it to the printers.
P: Itâ€™s much more natural to the publishing process. What we do is a natural extension of the desktop publishing thing. I know vector art is out and then itâ€™s in again, but it doesnâ€™t matter. To me, itâ€™s the perfect tool. I did a five year art school program that involved sketch books and itâ€™s great, but for professional work I do not want to go away from the digital process.
Format: Does Quickhoney do art shows, too?
P: Once in a while, there are some shows. I did something, but Iâ€™m not doing art shows anymore, itâ€™s kind of like masturbation.
Nana: I would do art shows if someone asked me. I think it would be fun. I think there is a line between art and illustration. Illustration is not art. I went to an illustration exhibition and all the pictures were hanging on the wall, presented as art, but I think there is a difference.
P: I think, as an artist, youâ€™re supposed to do what you really want to do without any compromises, and illustration is a huge bag of compromises.
Nana: Itâ€™s not too huge, but there is an editor behind it and a graphic designer and the editor always has the last words.
More Info: http://www.quickhoney.com
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