This week’s dose of inspiration is truly a feast for the eyes! Berlin-based Ollanski is a creator whose work will keep you scrolling and scrolling and then wishing for more.
He gave us some of the most complete and compelling answers to our 5 Creator Questions so far, so we’ll let him tell you his story himself, but please – make sure you check out the site. It’s truly a work of art, featuring many more works of art.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Oliver, a.k.a. Ollanski – an award-winning paper artist, art director, director and illustrator based in Berlin. I create paper craft objects to be either photographed or stop-motion animated as illustrations for magazines, advertising and the internet or videos for social media and TV. So in terms of “industry” I would say I work in the intersection of the creative industries, the arts and media.
How did you get started?
My formal education is actually in Biomedicine and after I graduated from Karolinska Institute in Stockholm I started to work on my PhD at one of the Max-Planck Institutes in Berlin. From day one I was SO unhappy with the work situation there that in November 2008 I quit. I realized quickly that I needed to do something right away to make money but I also wanted to do something I actually liked doing. I was always good at drawing so I put together a portfolio on a blog, sent it out to hundreds of magazines, got just a few answers but among them were FHM France and VICE magazine and that’s how I got started to work in illustration.
The story behind me doing paper craft is similar. I quickly had two regular magazines I was working with each month doing my drawings and one day the art director of one of them asked me if I could do a two page illustration for an article about summer festivals in two days and I said “yes” and THEN I found out it was two big pages in newspaper size and I realized: I can’t draw this in two days. I have ALWAYS been crafting ever since I was a kid so I thought: this is the moment for crafting. I made an island with a festival stage, a camping area, porta-potties and everything, all out of paper, photographed it and – tada! – there was my two page illustration. From then on, I drew less and less and paper crafted more and more.
What sets you apart?
I think what makes my work stand out are a few things:
a) Purely technically, I don’t follow the polygonal or simplified geometric look that many other paper crafters do which makes my objects look more organic and real and also unique.
b) Another technical aspect and peculiarity of mine is that I do not like primary colors so I always try to go for secondary or lots of tertiary colors which creates a certain color palette that is very “me” – I think.
c) I make all my cutting patterns myself by hand.
d) I try not to look at what other paper crafting illustrators do so that I keep my ideas fresh and unique.
e) I really, really, really love crafting. Making things is the best!
f) I’m in it to win it
What obstacles did you have to overcome?
I find the most difficult thing is not the work itself but the “media industry” and by that I mean the whole machinery of agents, advertising agencies, production companies, collaboration partners and colleagues, publishing houses etc. I met a lot of cool, loyal, and great people that helped me elevate my work to the next level, believed in me and really are stars. But then I also met a fair share of people that wanted to use me and my energy and my drive and my work and then push me down or be outright mean and manipulative. Since I love my work, I can’t help but be personally affected by that sometimes, but I learned that I mustn’t take it personally and I also learned to be more mindful, more assertive and that in the end that I am responsible for my own happiness and so I have to put myself first sometimes.
Do you have any tips for other creators?
A lot of people want to work with something that they are passionate about and that they love doing. I think that is actually a great starting point, but you also have to be prepared to do things you might not like at all. You have to work long hours and weekends sometimes. You have to network (hard for introverts). You have to realize that you are part of a strict hierarchy as freelancer, even though outwardly it might seem you are not. You have to be business savvy. You have to learn to find the balance of when to say “yes” at times when you really want to say “no” and vice versa. You have to start embracing criticism and feedback and use it to make your work better and better.
You have to adjust continuously: the media world is changing all the time and even though some people claim they have it figured out, I feel like nobody actually has. Everyone (even the big agencies and companies) seems to operate under the motto “fake it till you make it.” In my nine years working in this business I saw three major paradigm shifts happen and I’m sure I will see more in the coming years so all you can do is be flexible and not panic! =)
Some of the harshest, but truest advice we’ve gotten so far – thanks for that Oliver! It’s not always easy to hear the hard truth, but those that listen will be better off for having received your words of wisdom.
Definitely make sure you check out the full portfolio on his site. We have literally been scrolling up and down over and over and with every new look we still seem to find new details that we missed before.
Ollanski’s adventure into making his art into his job all started with an online portfolio. If you dare to dream, why not start your own passion project today?