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Regina Mayr studied Illustration at campus Hamburg. We met her for an interview:
I came to Hamburg from Ireland with my husband in February 2015 after leaving my job there and a place I called home for almost seven years with many international friends, and I had the feeling that with the move, a fresh environment, and the savings, it might be the right time for me to pursue my passion in art. There are many places in Hamburg in this discipline. I’m one of those people whose parents meant well and advised me to get a ‘proper’ job. I could draw in my free time. However we weren’t aware at the beginning how little time was left for leisure and personal development after work, sleep, friends, eating, etc. And that realization hits you at some point, if your job is no longer fulfilling, if you just sit and do nothing in the evening and weekends, and you brood over the changes in your life. In any case and having arrived here in Hamburg, I saw many offers and the University of Applied Sciences Europe was among them.
There was an information evening that I attended. Ilona Klück was still the course leader then and had time to answer my questions about my doubt whether I would have sufficient time for studying. I stood there and didn’t know whether I really, really should dare to do it. But if not now, then when? The university came across as pleasantly relaxed and I liked that. I found reassuring that there were going to be small course groups, because that way there would be a few more minutes to put questions to the course leader. Also the location spoke for itself. At other colleges and universities I was worried that I would not be able to hold my nerves until the beginning of the course because I would have looked for a job until then. Leaving the comfort zone of security and salary yet again, who knows if I would have managed it. UE courses start in April and that was extremely convenient for me. While I was unpacking the boxes, my portfolio grew with pieces. The application and portfolio interviews followed in quick succession. I and my portfolio convinced the interviewers and I was asked whether I could start studying in a few weeks. Wow, I made it, and did they really want an old hand like me? They saw something in my portfolio and me that they liked? “I’m here for that!” was the gist of my answer. And then the adventure started on April 1.
The bachelor’s of course! It was an absolute emergency situation but at the same time exactly what I had applied, practiced, and learned for the whole time. Only more intensive and more focused. My learning group contributed a lot, as we developed together as a group, helped each other, laughed and cheered up each other, and above all pushed ourselves forward all the time. The environment at the university offered the right amount of freedom but also consultations with the supervisors when questions arose. Even those professors and instructors who were not directly involved with our bachelor’s projects offered to help us. With hindsight, the semester was over too quickly. It was a great experience and a wonderful, summery graduation!
There are two keywords in that that get to the heart of things and which I want to express in my art. I simply like to tell stories through the medium of pictures, that causes people to reflect, brings joy, fascinates, and inspires. Many techniques that I’ve learned here such as monotype, collage, and mixed media were trailblazing and gave me the right tools to work with. Courses gave me the opportunity to work on a topic intensively such as in comics and editorial illustration, animation, and texts and they helped me to work through a task from A to Z. Only when you come to the end do you know your own problem areas, the big challenges and pitfalls that you would and could avoid in your bachelor’s work. In any case I have noticed during my studies what my strengths and weaknesses were and how I could make progresses in them to achieve a good result.
Telling stories is something we do since our childhood. I have always liked listening to people, absorbed stories, and kept my eyes open for small things. My goal has been and is to transform them through art.
The final project for the course in comics gave me headaches. In previous courses I mostly worked with digital. It was faster for me as I had all the familiar tools. But I needed something haptic which the story demanded from me and needed to be effective. My digital knowledge was not sufficient for me or my story. I sat for a long time and sketched, developed ideas, and worked from one page to another. I had a writer’s block – the worry that I cannot work as well in analog as I do in digital – which had be overcome first. You can get rid of everything, start again, work at different levels, exchange textures, and, and, and … Working in analog, you cannot drip tea, allow the cat to walk over it (though both could well be funny), fold the paper, where there must be a line and if not it must still look good. In the end you must be happy with the page or start afresh again. And then I took the analog pen in my hand. The piece became an important guide for my bachelor’s piece and one of my favorite works that I’ve created during my studies. I had only to dare and trust myself, then it worked.
Occupational therapy was then a compromise for me between art and “training for a job that people always need and find useful”. My husband however found a job in Ireland after his studies. I had problems with having my vocational college qualification recognized there, as occupational therapy requires a degree. However there were many offers for German/English speakers that sounded good. We had initially the idea to stay there for a year and then see. One year then turned into almost seven, almost overnight. At the company I worked, I came into contact with a few awesome and friendly artists. As shy as I was, I had to ask people to give their opinion on my work. They found my pieces – and truthfully so – really great, as was my whole environment there. Incredible. I was often asked whether I wanted to take up art seriously. Little strokes fell great oaks and so the determination grew on me to do more in this area, encouraged by the artists’ feedback. So I started to save money. Coincidentally my husband received an offer from Hamburg and the big questions were whether we wanted to go on this adventure, what would I then want to do, and whether we could manage it all. The answers to these questions were all (cautiously) positive to a certain extent, that we decided to leave Ireland and start a new life in Hamburg.
Life inspires me, things that I have lived through myself or heard from others, things that touch me and I can connect emotionally. If something resonates with me, then that automatically transforms into pictures, as my fingers twitch and itch and look for pen and paper. However it can sometimes take a long time before I can really complete a story. There wasn’t much time during studying and working part-time. Now after graduation, it’s going to change for sure. But my head and sketchbooks are full of ideas.
In most cases they are images whirling in my head that need to be sketched out to be a story. I like to test different versions, and feel which compositions work best. Then it’s time to work on it or go back to sketching for more and then again for further ideas. In most cases a finished section generates ideas for the next sketches or the subsequent sketches are so much better that the previous work has to be discarded and remade. This happens because you notice in the process that it develops and makes you develop. You must allow and want that to happen. For this reason, I don’t start on page one, but in the middle, so that I can evolve in all directions, and in the literal sense of the expression!
I like to work with textures alot, and I collect them, both in digital and analog. I also like to check out prints, use my roller on surfaces, make rubbings, come across “accidents” that are actually great as you have discovered something awesome that can be used. And I like to work digitally, with collages of course, so that I can use my textures but also analogwith scissors and glue stick, with black crayons and chalk. Rich colors with sharp and soft transitions.
As for motives it is often calm images that do not scream at people but instead invite them to engage with the piece, take in the fine details, and find stories for themselves, if that’s what they want. It is with calm pictures that the more I express, the more able I am to express. That is my particular way, from the beginning to the finished picture.
The first thing is to join my husband, who is waiting for me in London. My dream is to find new stories there, but also have the time to finally develop, let out, and put my own stories into paper. At the same time, I would like to get commissions through a loose artists’ collective that has formed at this college and share stories with others who are on the same wavelength as I am. Through such I would like to feel the joy and sense of fulfillment that everyone has after finding their place in life. The artists and illustrator Oliver Jeffers for example has inspired me a lot and gave me the courage that such is possible.
So, if I could travel back in time and stand in front of my younger self, then I would give encouragement and a kick. I’d give encouragement to follow my heart because it knows what it wants. I’d give a kick to get me out of my comfort zone and work hard. My tip is to listen to your deep self. Three and half years may sound long, but it goes far quicker than you think. Whether you can come up with commitment and feel deeply in your absolute desire to be make it artistically, this is only a question of your willingness to work hard. Hard work is an important virtue. It doesn’t mean anything, if you have great ideas but cannot successfully bring them to fruition.
You should make use of every opportunity at the university for things that inspire and interest you, but also be open to discover new things, and think outside the box.
Dear future students, immerse yourself in a creative environment! If something fascinated you but not fulfilled you, then research further, ask instructors and professors for tips on feedback. Let everything be and allow it to grow on you. Try things in university courses and at home that interest you. You are not likely to have so much time again as you do when studying. And that could mean that feedback from the view of someone else might be right but that isn’t really you, then you keep on going on your path until the end and then you look back and see whether that was right. It’s not going to do you any good to veer off from who you are. Being reflective and open-minded in your work is not just important for artists. But always be aware that the university is only the basis, a platform for you, a field where you can sow and must look after. You are not complete but only starting, then it’s going to get really exciting.
Everything. Will. Work. Out.