I just finished watching the first episode of a Netflix documentary called “Abstract: The Art of Design” which profiles the illustrator, Christoph Niemann. The way his mind work is scarily similar to how your or mine might work but the art he produces is spellbinding.

So what is the difference between him and us? What goes inside this creator’s mind?

1. Questions

Christoph talks about how we fall into the trap of working hard all the time and not questioning ourselves. He ponders upon this question often.

Is the thing that I’m trying to get good at the real thing?

Suppose you are a writer burning the midnight oil by writing fan fiction. Is that what you want your work to look like in the future?

He also tells us that he questions himself often and has created a double persona.

One which is a careless artist, one which is a ruthless editor.

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2. Reinvention is the key

Christoph is an artist who likes control in his life which seeps into his work. He is an artist who likes to be prepared whenever he makes art but he does not stay firm on his approach. He leaves the scope for the “spark” that ignites his brain, he realises that if he is getting comfortable at making an illustration it is highly likely it won’t be a great one.

He talks about how good art is hard to repeat but we forget that when you created that piece of art it just came to you. The secret is to be persistent on showing up every day and working hard until you achieve that greatness again. The only way to grow is to loosen up.

He has a series of Sunday Sketches which according to him pushes him out of his comfort zone by relinquishing control of his art which he rarely does in his professional work. The result is a surprisingly wonderful piece of art that he says “just happens by staring at something

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3. Invention isn’t necessary

Christoph gives us the example of pop songs to make his point that invention isn’t necessary. The way we should perceive is that “nobody has ever gotten it right”. He says that “the idea of pop music is not to invent a story but to tell the same story again in a new and interesting way”

The lesson to learn here is artists are repeating the same message, not because the dearth of new things to say but because people are still awed by the same message in different or a rather unique form.

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4. Great art is a reflection of you

“In the best moments what happens is that design celebrates the world”. A piece of art should reflect and represent our fears, anxieties and hopes. Art should be able to make you alive or make you aware a part of you that you didn’t know existed.

Like this episode did to me. It just instilled in me a desire to write an article about it that celebrates the ideas of Christoph Niemann. I want to think and put these thoughts into use practically in what I make and create.

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Thank you, Christoph.

P.S. I highly recommend you to watch this documentary. 🙂


Here is his latest illustration for The New Yorker

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