Interview with Stephanie Hofmann
Stephanie Hofmann is a German-born illustrator and animator based in the UK. She creates wonderfully tactile and textural motion illustrations that often feature fashionable figures, plants, and animals. She describes her work as surreal and gothic. Her work has been used for books, textiles, stationery, and more for clients including Valancourt Books, Nuvo Magazine, AARP, AK Dubai, and Real Oil.
If you'd like to read more about Stephanie, she's done a lovely interview with BALLPITMAG at this link.
You describe yourself as an illustrator and animator and were educated as a graphic designer. I have a similar background and sometimes can feel like my artist self has multiple personalities that don’t get along very well. Can you talk about your identity as a maker and how this may (or may not) influence your work?
Hofmann: For me it feels like different layers of the same identity, whilst I don’t work as a graphic designer anymore and never felt it was my true artistic expression when I did, the design education has given me a solid base, which helped feeling confident about layout, colour choices, etc. when starting doing illustration. The animation is an added layer to the illustration work bringing the illustration to life.
How did you get started with animation? What tools do you use to create your animated work?
Hofmann: One of my illustration clients asked if I could do gif animations, so I looked into it and did a couple of simple animations for myself, before taking on that job. Once I got started I got hooked. I do my illustrations in Illustrator and Photoshop with a Wacom Cintiq and hand paint textures which I scan in and layer on top, I assemble everything in layers in Photoshop and move each element bit by bit, and save each movement before loading all the images into a stack and then I use the timeline in photoshop to animate it. It’s so much fun making an illustration move and I always can’t wait to press play for the first time when I have assembled an animation.
Your work features lush, painterly textures that pair very well with the choppy animation. The effect feels like stop-motion animation created with cut-paper. Can you talk about how you developed your style and what you think about when you are working on a moving illustration?
Hofmann: The style has evolved naturally from the illustration style I had before doing animations. When I started doing animations using Photoshop seemed like the obvious choice, as I already knew the program, and this is responsible for the stop motion feel, but I would like to try for example After Effects to make the animation smoother and more sophisticated. I am self taught in regards to animation, and as I am getting a lot of animation work now, I would quite like to learn more programs/techniques to give me a broader repertoire and not feel limited by my technical abilities. I love the way you can tell a story when you make an image move and give it an unexpected turn. That’s what I am hoping to achieve when I am working on an animation, I would like to surprise people and amuse them.
Do you see more clients asking for motion-based illustration projects? If so when did you start to see this happening?
Hofmann: Ever since I had that first client I have definitely seen an increase in motion-based projects and since last year it makes up around 30% of my work. Instagram has been brilliant for me, a lot of my clients find me on there.
Can you talk about your process working with a client on an animated project? (i.e. do you show them storyboards or do anything extra than if you are working on a 2D piece?)
Hofmann: Usually I think of a couple of ideas/storylines which I send to the client in storyboard form, once we have settled on an idea I do a still image to make sure everyone is happy with the style and the details before animating it.
Are there any illustrators working with motion that you admire or are influenced by? What makes their work exciting to you?
Hofmann: I love Thoka Maer’s work, I think it’s very clever and funny, she uses motion so well. Alexandra Dvornikova's work is beautiful and poetic, I like the mood she creates and I love Nancy Liang’s work, it is very atmospheric and sophisticated.
Do you think motion is important to the future of illustration?
Hofmann: I definitely think motion will become more important and I have noticed more and more illustrators using motion in their work. I am wondering where the future of publishing will be with e-books being on the rise, maybe there will be more opportunities for animation in that area, like books with a combination of text and animated illustrations, I am sure it exists, but maybe it will get more common. Personally I am going back in time at the moment, I am trying to bring my animations onto paper, I am experimenting with lenticular printing and it’s not quite there yet, but I am having fun with it.