Sonja Wimmer Illustrator from Munich, Germany


Why did you become an illustrator? Did you want to become an illustrator as a child?

I think there is almost no child who does not like to paint or listen to stories. For example, I remember that when I was little, my parents used to take me everywhere when they went out in the evening. I would often sit at some table or even at a bar and draw. I also remember that my mother used to bring home stacks of books from the library to read.

This love of painting and stories is something I have kept. And to combine these two things as an illustrator is wonderful. I consider myself very lucky to be able to spend my time with an activity that inspires me.

What does your working day look like?

It varies. When I begin a project, I often go out into nature or to a café to draw and sketch. When I'm in the phase of painting with paint and brush or chalk, I usually spend the whole day at my desk. That is to say, that was before my little daughter was born. In the last few years, a large part of my working time has shifted to the evenings and nights.

Are there any illustrators who have influenced you? Do you have a personal favorite?

Oh yes, there are many illustrators whose art I admire very much: Adolfo Serra, Mariona Cabassa, Zuzanna Celej, Shaun Tan, Joe Sorren, Oliver Jeffers, Beatrice Alemagna ... to name but a few.

Illustration from "A Surprise for Mrs. Tortoise", published 2016 by NubeOcho

Illustration from "A Surprise for Mrs. Tortoise", published 2016 by NubeOcho

What inspires you? Where do your ideas come from?

It is hard to say where ideas come from. I think it is a process. Most of the time, I "make friends" with the story and the characters I will illustrate. That is, I read them a few times and then let them rest for a while in the back of my mind. Sometimes I already have my first ideas then, often when I am busy with something completely different. At other times it is arduous work to find a beginning. Usually, I go on a deliberate search, try out different compositions and techniques, research, and document the topic if necessary. In doing so, everything that surrounds me can actually inspire me.

When illustrating, do you listen to music or audiobooks, or do you prefer silence?

In the initial phase of a project, when figures and scenarios are created or when I think about color moods, I prefer to be quiet to concentrate better. Later, when the ideas have taken shape, either in my head or on paper, I enjoy listening to audiobooks and podcasts. I listened to the whole Inkheart trilogy while painting. It was already like that when I was a child. I often listened to cassettes with stories and drew while doing so.

Illustration from "Casi Un Millón De Cuentos", published 2013 by Edelvives

Illustration from "Casi Un Millón De Cuentos", published 2013 by Edelvives

Do you have a favorite place to illustrate?

When I make sketches or draw with a pencil, I prefer to sit somewhere in nature, by the water or in a café. For painting, I need a table with lots of light where I can spread out with paper and paint. Last year this was always somewhere else because we traveled a lot.

If you are not illustrating, what do you like to do?

When I'm not illustrating, I like to be out in nature, experience all kinds of adventures with my little daughter, spend time with family and friends. I also love oral narration. I love to listen to narrators, and I also like to tell stories myself.

Illustration from "La Ola De Estrellas", published 2019 by NubeOcho

Illustration from "La Ola De Estrellas", published 2019 by NubeOcho

What defines the profession of an illustrator for you?

As an illustrator, you have the opportunity to create entirely new worlds and tell stories with pictures. That is wonderful.

What do you think makes a good illustration?

A good illustration supports the emotions and statements of a text and guides the reader from page to page through the story. Not only does it reflect what is written, but it also complements the text, creating an additional level. And above all, a good illustration touches something inside the beholder: it invites them to dream, think or laugh.

Illustration from "Der Sturm", published 2019 by Kindermann

Illustration from "Der Sturm", published 2019 by Kindermann

Do you sometimes simply not feel like drawing/painting? Do you have to motivate yourself then? And if so, how do you do it? Is there something like writer's block in illustrators too? A creative blockade?

Sometimes, when I am under a lot of stress or time pressure and don't sleep much, illustrating doesn't come easily, and the ideas are rather slow to come. But it rarely happens that I really don't feel like painting because I only take on projects I like. But of course, I also have days when I feel as creative as a log. Then it helps to do something completely different: I go out into nature, to a museum, or I look at the work of other illustrators.