A fine outline associated to a deliciously feminine style, you have certainly already noticed the elegant drawings of Kera Till. At 35 years old, this multi-faceted German is one of the most coveted illustrators of the moment. After Hermès, Ladurée and Vogue, now it’s the turn of Faber-Castell, manufacturer of art and office supplies, to call upon the talented illustrator for a collaboration around its premium Graf von Faber-Castell line. An occasion to discuss careers with this compatriot of Karl Lagerfeld, who also speaks in perfect French— a language she learned with her French grand-mother before attending French school.
You were a political science major, how did you switch to fashion illustration?
I have always liked to draw, but I did not see myself launching into training as a graphist, nor in art. After my baccalaureate, I preferred to follow political science courses in Munich. The real trigger took place during my internship at net-à-porter in London. I showed a couple of my drawings to an artistic director. She is the one who assigned me my first editorial to illustrate. Afterwards, I motivated myself: I put together a portfolio that I sent everywhere, I went to see lots of people. I was very enterprising at the time, now I could not do it any more! At the time, which was 10 years ago, there were not as many illustrators. Everything took off very quickly.
Your parents work in the art world, did they help you to succeed?
My father was a museum director and my mother was an agent for artists, so I grew up in this universe but I was not very motivated. My daddy told me that if I wanted to produce art, I had to stop drawing “these little girls and all this fashion stuff”! But for my part, I did not feel like creating contemporary art, abstract painting nor being an artist in his sense. Actually, I don’t consider myself as an artist.
According to you, what is the difference between an artist and an illustrator?
My inspiration stems mainly from the briefs of my clients. Of course, I also have ideas. But I like it when the client tells me what he is looking for. Contrarily to certain artists, I don’t find this at all unpleasant. On the contrary, I adore to be given a framework. That way, it’s less work and I know the client is satisfied. Some of my Japanese clients even give me pencil sketches to tell me what they want—I find this very clever!
Did you have a career booster?
My first illustration in German Vogue allowed me to be noticed because Vogue magazine remains “the” reference. And Ladurée of course, who is my client since more than 8 years, and has given me tremendous visibility. Everyone knows Ladurée !
Lots of creative persons work from home. Is this your case?
I work at home, but I also have an office in town. Sometimes, I need to be alone to concentrate, in which case I stay at home. At the office, I have an assistant who handles my accounting and secretarial duties, as well as a graphist who handles all the digital aspects. He’s much better than I am on Photoshop which helps a lot. It’s great to have help.
24h in the life of Kera Till. Tell us about yourself...
It’s not very glamourous. I prefer getting up early, but I also need a social life in the evening… and it’s not always easy combining both. Ideally, I get up at 6am.
I start sending my first mails from my bed with my coffee. Then, I draw all morning. Around noon, I shower, get dressed and meet clients for lunch. In the afternoon, I am at the office. There I take care of all my paper work. In the evening, I participate in events or go out for dinner to the restaurant, and sometimes go swimming in the small pool of the Bayerpost Hotel. Sometimes I just prefer staying at home. I go back and forth a lot between Munich and Hamburg, where my journalist friend lives. Sometimes I stay there several weeks.
In this digital era, what is your relationship with paper?
I combine both. I start by drawing with my Faber Castell pencils on paper. I use their aquarellable a great deal, these are pencils that can be mixed with water for a watercolour effect. I use digital methods for retouching or to colour. Once scanned, I can rework my drawings on Photoshop. I also sometimes take photos with the iPhone, I draw on top. And for my Instagram account (@keratill), I enjoy making drawings on paper, I stick on pencil shavings and take photos.
Your moodboard: a cork board or Pinterest?
I use lots of sketchbooks, but I also work with Pinterest, and use Instagram. I consult art and architecture accounts; I am obsessed with photos of facades. In fact, I launched another IG account secretly, on which I post only facades and Parisian store fronts (@parisstoresfront) !
It must be fabulous for an illustrator to collaborate with a brand such as Faber-Castell!
It’s a dream brand for me. One immediately sees the difference with classic pencils, it’s not the same pigments, the colour is much more intense. I have been supplying them with illustrations for their social networks since 3 years. Last year, they contacted me to change certain elements of their points of sale. The marching order? Colour in fact. I did some colourful drawings on the circus theme: a juggler, a dancer, an acrobat… that one also finds in notebooks.
Where can one run into you around Paris?
To eat healthy, go to bars, clubs—it’s all a thousand times better in Germany!
So when I come to Paris, I don’t go to the “trendy” stuff. I prefer to wager on classics: nibbling on macaroons at Ladurée for example. I adore sitting at the café Varenne to watch people going by. In fact the other day, I saw your prime minister having lunch there!
Follow Kera Till on her blog, on her Instagram account @keratill and also check out her collaborations on the site of Graf Von Faber-Castell.
Also check out our interview of the Australian illustrator Megan Hess.