Q&A with Berlin-based hand lettering artist and illustrator, Carmi Grau

Carmi Grau is a hand lettering artist and illustrator from Germany. Read our interview to find out more about Carmi’s work and get her top tips for developing artists

Güten Tag Carmi,

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us about your work. We’re excited to feature your work in Ascenders Volume.1, Leaders in Contemporary Lettering. Let’s jump in and learn about your creative practice and inspirations!

© Carmi Grau

© Carmi Grau

You trained as an industrial designer, what was the catalyst for you to move into graphic design and illustration?

Luckily, I always knew that I should be in some sort of art. Me becoming a hand letterer was a happy accident. After graduating from college I was working as an interface designer. Over time I felt the desire to draw more. This was the time when Neongold Records from New York asked me to do some album artworks. The first one was a 7” sleeve for Passion Pit’s - ‘Sleepyhead’. I realized that drawing letters is an exciting form of communication and expression. It ended up in starting ‘Super Nice Letters’ and focusing on Lettering and Illustration.

Your series ‘Super Nice Advice’ offers your readers an empowering and positive message as part of your work.

How do you decide what subjects to discuss in your pieces? Is it a response to conversations in the news or popular culture, or general observations?

Super Nice Advice’ was born to spread some positivity in the world. We all struggle sometimes. Life can be challenging.

I went through some tough times. ‘Super Nice Advice’ is definitely inspired by my very own experiences.

And I think it is important to support and encourage others. We are all in this together.

© Carmi Grau

© Carmi Grau

You live and work in Berlin, Germany. Berlin is synonymous with good food, fashion, design and of course -  a good party!

What are your top 3 places for a visitor to get a taste of the real Berlin?

There are many hidden gems in Berlin. The city transforms dramatically with each season. For summer I would definitely recommend a nice stroll by the canal ‘Maybachufer’. It’s lovely to wander close to the water, and especially in summer, people sit by the canal and enjoy the sun with a blanket, a beer, snacks and maybe some music.

Another nice spot to visit is Markthalle 9 in Kreuzberg. It’s a great food market. Especially the Street Food appointment on Thursdays is a must.

Klunkerkranich is an obscure rooftop bar with a great view located on the top of a parking garage. It’s the perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon drinking beers and watching the sunset.

© Carmi Grau

© Carmi Grau

If a beginner is looking to get into hand lettering, what would you say is the best way of starting? Do you have any advice you could share for any aspiring artists?

First of all, stop comparing your style and skills to others. You will never win that game. Focus on yourself.

Be passionate about what you do and practice every day. It's like playing the piano; you have to train before you can begin inventing something. Create your own little projects and stick to them. And don’t forget to have fun.

Good, well designed typography really takes graphic design to the next level of craftsmanship. We’ve got a question on behalf of the illustrators out there who want to develop their type skills.

As somebody who has authority and experience both as a typographer and illustrator, can you share any names of resources (such as books and websites) that you have used to develop your skills to the high standard they are today?

There are so many resources out there to look at, like Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr.  I am a very observant person. My art teacher encouraged me to look at things, so I’ve started to cataloging things in my head. I always do that, no matter where I am. This is my biggest resource. But I would definitely recommend the book ‘'The Golden Secrets of Lettering’ by Martina Flor.

© Carmi Grau

© Carmi Grau

We’ve seen a preview of your creative process on Instagram - could you tell us about the steps you take from conceptualising an idea through to the finished artwork?

It always starts with rough pencil sketches on paper where I define a basic structure and letter shapes that I’m going to use.

After that, I start to work digitally. I mainly use Procreate to refine my illustrations. I like to go fast, listening to some music and stay focused. To me it is also important to take a couple of breaks in between – having a coffee, going for a walk and come back to it with fresh eyes.

How do you go about choosing the quote or phrases that you bring to life in your work? Do you look to literature, current affairs or elsewhere for inspiration?

Music is a big inspiration for my art, it is always playing in the background as I work. I also have a notebook where I collect phrases or words I hear in my everyday life.

We really love the colour palettes that you utilise in your work, are there any artists or resources that you look to when selecting the colour palettes you use?

To be honest, I don’t use any resources for my colour palettes.

My colour choices are very intuitive. It’s kinda emotional. Colours have a mood.

© Carmi Grau

© Carmi Grau

For certain projects you use the Procreate application to produce a range of script lettering. Are there any particular brushes that are favourites of yours to work with that we could share with our audience?

I do have a few custom made brushes that I use. But the Dry Ink and Monoline Brush that comes with Procreate are just great.

What are your top three typefaces for 2018?

1.    Noe Display

2.    Larsseit

3.    Futura

© Carmi Grau

© Carmi Grau

What does the rest of the year look like for you? Can you share any details of what you’re working on at the moment?

2018 has been great so far and there is more to come. Unfortunately, I can’t talk specifically more about the projects that are going on. But I won’t stop working on new passion projects.

Thanks you for your time today Carmi! We are excited to hear about your new works!

Follow Carmi on Instagram to stay up to date with her latest news

© Carmi Grau

© Carmi Grau