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Chopping Block: Thomas Fuchs

There are few things that pass up Oktoberfest in my list of things the US is entirely grateful to Germany for. The work of Thomas Fuchs is one of them. With illustrations appearing in most US publications such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time, Rolling Stone and many, MANY more, the illustrator and graphic designer has weathered the constant storm of trends and changes in the illustration industry. For his work, Fuchs has received numerous awards like The Society of Illustrators (Gold Medal), American Illustration, and the SPD award (to name a few) Currently residing in Berlin, Thomas Fuchs continues to create an array pieces that are both eye-catching and mentally stimulating.

POW: How did you get your start in illustration?

FUCHS: Right after art school, I moved to New York and started shopping my portfolio around, mostly to magazines and newspapers. It’s fairly easy to get appointments with art directors there, as everybody is keen on discovering new artists. I guess I got lucky and scored a few assignments, which in turn got my work noticed and resulted in more assignments. It is of course a great motivator to move to the most expensive city on the planet with nothing but your work in your pocket…

Civil Liberties by Thomas Fuchs for Boston Magazine

POW:  You’ve done a lot of work for notable companies. What would you say your favorite type of commercial project is?

FUCHS: My favorite type would probably be the really fast turnaround newspaper ones – where there’s just not enough time to do any kind of elaborate tryptich-type painting, so it’s mostly about coming up with a really tight concept, and then choose the style that best transports it.


Heart Failure Through Emotional Stress by Thomas Fuchs for Time Magazine


Heart Failure Through Emotional Stress by Thomas Fuchs for Time Magazine

POW:  Were there any specific motives behind your delving into the 365 a day project?

FUCHS: Not really, other than feeling a bit stuck in the daily routine of illustrating for clients.  While that is fun, it doesn’t really give you any room to evolve or improve, as under deadlines you rarely have time to venture out of the tried and true.  So projects like this give me you the opportunity to try new things and avoid standing still. And I’ve found the best stuff usually happens if the whole thing revolves around one topic.  It seems limiting at first, but invariably produces the best, weirdest or most unexpected results if you really dig your teeth into it.

Autobiography by Thomas Fuchs
Autobiography by Thomas Fuchs

POW: If you could provide three golden rules for the aspiring artist to live by, what would they be?

1. Work.
2. Work.
3. Work.
Persistence is a much bigger talent than talent itself. The more work you produce, the more good things will happen – to the work itself and therefore to your career.

Think Rat by Thomas Fuchs
Think Rat by Thomas Fuchs

POW: One might call you the world-renowned one-man band of illustration for your many focal areas such as paintings, portraits, digital works and logos. Is there one area you favor most?

FUCHS: That is probably the thing I enjoy the most, and that I’ve worked rather hard on – not having to limit myself to one area. I find that utterly boring.
There are so many artists out there who do the same image over and over again in red, or green, or sometimes blue, and call it a “style”. Most teachers will tell you of the importance of having a “look” and to never ever venture from it, as that will confuse people. While that has some truth to it, I’d like to think that style and recognizability can be just as much based on a way of thinking, a conceptual approach or the way an image is put together. And it's much more fun on a daily basis.

Musical Healing  by Thomas Fuchs for the New York Times

POW: What are you currently working on that you might be able to give us a bit of info on?

FUCHS: Apart from the regular, quick turnaround editorial gigs, one of the longer term projects I’ve been working on is a book project for Leica, the German camera manufacturer. It’s a compilation of sixty-four “rules" for their employees, representing the history, philosophy and future outlook of the company. Every one of these is illustrated, a little conceptual drawing incorporating Leica specific symbolism. I can’t say more than that, but it’s another one of those “one symbol, a thousand variations” kind of things. Right up my alley.


For more information on Thomas Fuchs please visit: http://www.thomasfuchs.com/