Felix Hülpüsch, Communication Design, Graduated 2013, exhibited at Millerntor Gallery this year. We met him for an interview:
You studied Communication Design at the University of Applied Sciences Europe on Campus Berlin. There are many universities in Berlin with an arts-centered department. Why did you choose the University of Applied Sciences Europe?
After my education as a media designer I wanted to expand my horizon and learn new things. I liked the University of Applied Sciences Europe (then BTK – University of Art & Design) straightaway, because there were interesting modules and professors in my chosen program, Communication Design. The possibility to try different disciplines like Motion Design and Photography totally sold the place to me. The concept of small study groups and a practice-based approach were also very important to me. So in the end the decision was actually a simple one.
On Campus Berlin there is always something going on, for example, semesters abroad, internships, and clubs. What study-related experience has stuck in your mind?
The final semester was really the most intense of all, because we as a group organized and designed the entire opening of the graduate exhibition. It brought us graduates closer together. Above all, the development of my final project “Schöne Jugend”, an illustrated volume of poems by Gottfried Benn will always remain a highlight for me. The development and whole production planning were tough but this book is to this day a special memento from my degree and still makes me proud.
Our students chose a slogan “Create your story. Inspire the world.” What experiences from your studies enabled you to go down your own personal career path? What inspired you to take that path?
A tip from a professor to go down unusual routes to achieve your goals helped me a lot. This happens in my work but also constantly in my private life, because I can never plan what comes next. I find it enormously important that you have enjoy what you create, but also reflect on it and yourself as well. Only then can you get the most out of yourself.
Give us an example from your time as a student to now when it paid off to abandon the well-trodden path / push yourself beyond your limits. What allowed you to do it?
After a few bad experiences as an employee, I decided to take half a year off from my regular work as a graphic designer in 2016 and just paint. In hindsight, it was the best decision for me, replacing my office chair with an easel at home and simply painting large canvases and commissions. It was good for self-discovery and helped me establish my own style. It was really great that my family and friends encouraged me to take a break and pursue my passion.
Why did you adopt the pseudonym Hülpman?
Funnily enough it came from a friend, who was never able to pronounce my family name Hülpüsch correctly and came up with “Hey Hülpman, what’s up?” I did not want to create my art under the tag I used as a graffiti artist and was looking for an unusual name that’s memorable. Connecting my surname and “man” in one word sounded good because it’s possible for my friends who aren’t native German speakers to remember the name easily.
You have gone through many stages in your career and have become a very successful street artist. How did that come about?
I have worked at a number of agencies in Berlin and Hamburg and been a graffiti artist for 20 years. I’ve been drawing my whole life. After a short break during my studies ten years ago, I started to illustrate more regularly and to spray again. What started as a counterbalance to everyday office life developed into my biggest passion. I draw every day and experiment with the most diverse media I can find: shoes, caps, canvas, wall, wood … I regularly go painting with my friends privately because it helps put the mundane aside and to forget all about it. Due to my very high rate of output and the development of a very unique style, my pieces and contributions are reaching a wide audience, also thanks to social media, and that leads to requests to take part in festivals and to great commissions. The constant growth of this self-employed work and feedback has been enormous! But it doesn’t mean I’m resting on my laurels, instead it fuels me to go further and work harder.
Your are exhibiting at Millerntor Gallery in 2018. How did this cooperation happen?
Our team (Scribblaholics with Alain Welter and Mika Sitter, also graduates of the University of Applied Sciences Europe) was able to prove our skills in a number of live sketch battles, for instance at the Secret Wars Event. This was where I first met Anna Lafrenz, the curator of Millerntor Gallery. After an initial chat, I sent in my portfolio. The feedback was superb and I worked on my drafts. After a week and a half of constant action and my first participation, I got to know great people working there and Viva Con Agua, and I’m proud to be part of this unique event. Alongside my conceptual wall design, I was able to design a couple of containers, a robot, and another wall. At the opening evening I teamed up with the Secret Allstar team to battle against Samy Deluxe and his team. We were able to raise 1,600 Euros for Viva Con Agua with the auction of the resulting works. I hope I can be part of this great project again in the future. It was very intense, but really exhilarating too.
Your works are big but detailed. Could you describe how your creative process works?
With my pattern work, which I call “Abstracts”, I don’t follow a particular formula. I like to work freestyle and let myself be inspired by my surroundings and everyday life. I start in one corner and develop the motif from there. In this process I work primarily with characters but also with typographical elements. Depending on the surface, I use markers, spray cans, and acrylic paints. I always leave some room for spontaneous decisions in my drafts and commissions because I’m a big fan of improvisation. For large conceptual walls, I work on a sketch, mostly in black and white and then I almost always decide on the colors on a whim. Thematically I make use of what’s happening in the world at the moment, but also augment this with my surroundings in Hamburg and Berlin. The connection to my hood and home is very important to me.
What’s next? / What’s your dream? What would you like to achieve in the next 10 years?
After many years as a permanent employee, the next step is very clearly to be self-employed. At the moment everything is going well: I regularly exhibit, paint at festivals, and organize workshops. In the next few years I want to try to establish my art as a source of income, just because it’s so much more fun than normal graphics. But that is important for making a living, or to put it another way, it’s always important to have multiple sources of income. My dream is to see my own work in a big gallery or even a museum and to design a whole facade of a house in my hood. In addition, I want to travel through my art in the future. Hopefully I will be painting together with my family and children in 10 years =)
What is your tip for future Arts & Design students at the University of Applied Sciences Europe? What should they make use of at the university? What should they be aware of as they develop?
It’s important not to work only in your genre, but push yourself to your limits. Make use of the many offers and have the courage to try something new. And network. That’s still very important for me today, because commissions come from my old classmates or our together on projects. As I mentioned, always make sure you enjoy what you’re creating but can also cast a critical eye on your own work.
Finally, describe your degree in three words!
Diverse, intense, practical