Posted by: Kathy Temean | June 15, 2013

Illustrator Saturday – Andrea Offermann

andreaoffermann1Andrea Offermann was born in Cologne, Germany, and grew up in the countryside close to the city, in an old horse stable converted to a house, surrounded by a wild garden. During a visit to the US she fell in love with Art Center College of Design and eventually moved to California to study at the school. She graduated in 2005 with a BFA in Illustration, and stayed for another year to work as an illustrator and fine artist.

At Art Center, she had the chance to take several print making classes and fell in love with the different techniques, especially the intaglio technique of drawing with needles and then etching the line into the surface. Later she took further intaglio classes at a printmaking school in Italy, and the love of line work has influenced my style very much since.

In spring 2006 Andrea moved back to Germany and is now living in Hamburg and exploring different areas of illustration such as children’s books, graphic novels and editorial work, while maintaining a close connection to fine art. Her work has appeared in numerous publications such as Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, 3×3, Illustration Now!. Her illustrations were chosen for the Bologna children’s book fair exhibition and in spring of 2013 my portfolio received the Grand Prize at the showcase of the SCBWI winter conference in New York.

Andrea’s work space. Here is Andrea and her process:



In this case the inspiration for the art was more literal than usual. I had seen a beautiful exhibition with art work by Dürer and fell in love with his wedding portraits. I wanted to do wedding portraits of a frog and a hare.



My thumbnails are always tiny and really just convey the idea of what I would like to do, with very very rough direction and composition.



I then scan the thumbnail in and print it out enlarged, then take it to my light box to trace the rough composition and then build the more refined sketch on top of it.



I scan the final sketch in and print it out, then use charcoal paper to transfer the drawing onto stretched watercolor paper. The charcoal line from the transfer paper is usually very dark, so I erase most of it away until I have a faint line left. Then, using copic multiliner pens or pen and ink, I draw the final image.


When the drawing is finished I paint with watercolors on top of it. I paint in thin layers and build the color up slowly, adding texture and details bit by bit.


Final Image

How long have you been illustrating?

For about 8 years.


Did you go to school for art?

Yes, I went to Art Center College of Design.


What types of classes did you take?

I went through the regular illustration curriculum, focusing on editorial and book illustration. I was also particularly drawn to classes in printmaking techniques and took classes in intaglio both at Art Center and at Il Bisonte printmaking school in Italy.


Do you think the classes you took in college influenced your style?

Yes, I think especially the printmaking classes influenced my style, also several classes where we experimented with techniques such as glazing and rendering with different media.


Have you seen your style change since when you first started?

Yes definitely. My work was pretty much all over the place when I started, I was trying different things to see what would work best for a given assignment. Now I think a style has evolved, and I hope it will keep evolving, I keep trying new things and am hoping to be able to continue experimenting.


What is your favorite medium to use?

I love to work with pen and ink and then color with different media. Lately I have also started using paper silhouette.


Did any of the contacts you made in college help you get your first job or any contract?

Yes fellow illustrators at school brought me in contact with editors they had met with and eventually I got my first book contract in the US through one of those contacts. Also I was introduced to the gallery where I first showed my art at through illustrator friends.

The school itself had also set up some meetings with publishers and companies before graduation, and one of my first jobs also came through those meetings.



What was the first piece of art that you sold?

It was a series of intaglio prints titled “Magellan”.


Has your artwork won any awards?

Yes, most recently my portfolio won the showcase at the SCBWI winter conference in New York. My artwork was also chosen for the Bologna childrens book fair exhibit, has appeared in the books of Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, 3×3, Illustration Now!, won 1st place of the AltPick awards, and was on the shortlist of the competition to illustrate “Life of Pi”.


What book was your first? When was that?

The first book I illustrated was a picture book for German publisher “Carlsen” entitled “Keine Angst vor Schafen”, written by Will Gmehling. The book was published in 2008.


How did the contract come about?

I had met with an editor of Carlsen publishing at the Frankfrut book fair in 2006. Many European publishers make appointments with illustrators at the Frankfurt book fair, there are even open portfolio reviews where you can stand in line and show your work. After the fair the editor contacted me to ask if I would be interested in illustrating a picture book for Carlsen.


How did you get chosen to do the cover  for the middle grade novel, The Boneshaker?

A designer I had met with had kept my postcard of “Pink Elephants” from an earlier meeting and when Clarion was looking for an artist to illustrate the cover of “The Boneshaker” she gave the card to the editor of the book.


Did you do any interior art for the book?

Yes, I did 13 black and white interior illustrations for the book.


Do you think you will branch out to doing illustrations for picture books?

Yes, definitely, I love illustrating books for all ages and actually just finished illustrating a picture book for an Austrian publisher (Nilpferd in Residenz), “Der Eisdrache (The Frost Flyer)” written by Troon Harrison, which I already mentioned earlier. This story was a great pleasure to illustrate, after illustrating several books for older children it was fun to work for this kind of book again, I hope I will always be able to maintain a balance between working on different books for different age ranges.


Do you think you will ever write and illustrate your own book?

I have been writing for a little while now and am hoping that I will be able to present my own story ideas sometime in the future.


How did you get the contract to illustrate The Midnight Zoo with Candlewick?

I was contacted by the art buying department who had seen “The Boneshaker” and my illustrations for the competition to illustrate “Life of Pi”. They thought that the sensibility of the illustrations would work well for Sonya Hartnett’s story.


How did Little, Brown, & Company find you for Ghost Knight?

I met with an art director at Little, Brown who saw my portfolio and immediately mentioned that they were looking for an illustrator for Ghost Knight. The author Cornelia Funke had specifically asked for an illustrator that could depict architecture, so I did a sample piece first to show how I would illustrate the cathedral, and both Little, Brown and the author liked the piece.


The same question for The Poisons of Caux: The Shepherd of Weeds with Knopf?

Similar story: I had met with the art director ad showed my portfolio. A year later she contacted me to inquire if I would be available to illustrate the book.


I have heard illustrators complain about how fussy publishers are with the covers of their books. Did you find doing a book cover more challenging?

Publishers definitely take great care when it comes to putting together the cover, since it’s the first thing that the audience will see, and it will be surrounded by other book covers geared towards the same audience, it needs to stand out but work for the audience at the same time. Also, many different departments have a say in what the cover should look like, so the decision making process can take longer then with interior art. It has happened to me that a cover was completely finished and then rejected by the sales department because they decided to go a completely different route, target a slightly older audience, not use illustration at all etc.


Is it harder to get published in the US when you live in Europe?

I think it’s more difficult to introduce your work to the publishers, but once the connection is established I don’t think there are great difficulties, the communication takes place mostly via email, artwork can be sent digitally or via FedEx.

andrea24hrs_page_5 500

What is the children’s book market like where you live?

The German speaking market is much smaller, publishers are maybe a bit more hesitant, they plan with much smaller print runs, so the advances are smaller too.


Have many languages do you speak?

German and English and tiny bits of French and Italian.


Have you ever visited the USA?

Yes, I studied in California and try to travel to the US about once a year to meet with publishers, go to conferences or show openings.


Have you published any of your illustrations in magazines?

Yes I do editorial illustration every once in a while.


Do you use Photoshop with your illustrations?

I use Photoshop for retouching or making small changes. Also, for magazine illustration and for the two “graphic novel” stories I wrote and illustrated I decided to use mostly digital coloring.


Do you own a graphic tablet?

YES! I love my graphic tablet.


Did you set up a studio in your house?

Up until now I was working from a studio in my apartment, but I will be moving into a shared work space in July.


Do you try to stick to a schedule to get your illustrations done?

Yes definitely. Especially when projects overlap I find it necessary to have a schedule I am working with. It happens often that deadlines are moved around, so it is very important for me to know how much time I will need for certain projects to be able to confirm new dates.


How many books have you published?

10 so far, in September the 11th book, “Der Eisdrache” written by Troon Harrison, will be published.


Have you gone to any of the big conferences for Children’s Illustrators and Writers?

Yes I have attended the summer conference in LA twice and the winter conference in New York twice as well.


What are your career goals?

I would like to keep illustrating stories that are meaningful and that reach audiences all over the world and of all age levels. It would be wonderful to one day be able to write and illustrate my own books. Most of all I want to keep learning and experimenting and growing, and make art and stories that touch audiences.


What are you working on now?

As I said I just finished a picture book for an Austrian publisher. Right now I am finishing up a book cover for a YA novel for a US publisher that I am very excited about, we tried a few interesting things with this cover, I am very much looking forward to seeing it in print. Next I will be illustrating a graphic novel, I am very happy about this new challenge.


Are there any painting tips (materials,paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?

Hmmm… unfortunately my technique is not very unique, as far as materials go I love using lanaquarelle hot pressed paper and copic multiliners for the line work, for watercolor I use mostly Windsor Newton.


Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?

Stay motivated and patient, keep educating yourself, stay in touch with colleagues and share information. When I started out I had a great critique group of illustrator friends, and it helped me so much to be in touch with them and get critique and motivation, help and ideas through these meetings and talks. Now I feel very lucky to be part of the SCBWI mentorship program and have the opportunity to meet and be in touch with all these fantastic illustrators. Unfortunately travelling to the US is far for me, so I can’t see everybody as much as I would like to. I can only encourage you to look for a crtique group around you and if there is one join it, its such a gift to be able to share your thoughts on your work and learn from each other.



Thank you Andrea for sharing your artwork, journey, and process. I have a lot of people write me to let me know how much they love Illustrator Saturday, exactly because of talented illustrators like you. Please let us know when you have an another book or another success story to share. I will be happy to show if off to let everyone know.

If you would like to visit Andrea, here is her website: If you like Illustrator Saturday and Andreas work, please take a moment to leave Andrea a comment about her post. It is really appreciated.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. This is one of my favorite posts this year. Andrea’s illustrations are so dramatic and inspiring. I feel drawn into her world whether I’ve read the stories or not.


  2. Hi,
    I am an American expat writer living in Hessen and want to say hello. It is nice seeing someone from Germany featured by Kathy. I love your illustrations and agree with your advice to other illustrators because it applies to writers like myself also that happen to be living outside of the loop.
    All the best.


  3. Great interview, Kathy!


  4. Andrea’s work is beautiful – thanks for sharing!


  5. Love, LOVE Andrea’s work! Thanks, Kathy, for another inspiring interview!


  6. Stunning and dramatic art. I love her style!


  7. Oh, my. These illustrations are awesome. Thanks for posting them and for the wonderful review. I just love Illustrator Saturday.


  8. Kathy, what an inspiring interview! Andrea, you are so talented! The composition in your illustrations is beautiful. You definitely tell a story with each line you do. Your work is strong and delightful.


  9. Andrea, congratulations for all of your achievements. Lovely designs. 🙂


  10. Thank you so much Kathy for the invitation to do this interview with you! And thank you all for your comments, I am so grateful for your support!



  11. Der Eisdrache is magnificient, Andrea! I learned some wonderful things I didn’t know about you and your work and am even a bigger fan now! I’d be fascinated to learn how you choose your color palettes (because I love them all) and I notic over and over your wonderful use of light & dark that increases the dramatic-edge in so many of your illustrations. I own quite a few Copic multiliners…would take a class from you on how to get them to perform like you can :). Looking forward to seeing your new stuff!


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