Artist Spotlight: Anja Uhren

Anja is an illustrator and comic artist based at Trafalgar Warehouse in the city centre. Since her arrival in Sheffield three years ago, she had made a mark on the local art scene with a distinct style and clear talent.

What is your creative process like?
My personal projects usually start with a story that I want to tell. Inspiration can come from anywhere and I always have a notebook handy. Jotting them down quickly is the first step. Once I have the concept in my head I translate it into a scribbled mix of pictures and words and see which medium most suits the narrative. It could turn into a standalone illustration, a comic, an illustrated book or a collage – they all have different qualities and different ways of drawing the viewer in, which I like to take my time to consider. Once I’ve figured out the form I create the storyboard and then the final images. I use a variety of techniques, digital and analogue, all depending on the atmosphere I want to convey.

What influences your work?
My work is based on life to a large extent. Anything that happens or things I see, anyone I meet, any little conversation had or overheard can spark of an idea for a narrative. I used to make things up a lot more when I was still working primarily in the fantasy/fairytale genre and often ran out of ideas. Since I use actual life as a source I’ve never had a shortage of inspiration; life itself seems a lot more colourful when you’re always on the lookout for material.

How do you find being a creative in Sheffield?
I came to Sheffield about three years ago for a one-month artist residency. It was the most creative first impression of a new place I had ever had, which has certainly made my perception of Sheffield biased. That first month just running around soaking up everything and translating it into drawings was truly inspirational. I quickly got to know many people, most of them creatives and/or entrepreneurs, and I moved here permanently just a few weeks after that initial residency. To this day, most of the people I know and interact with all have their own business and are doing their own thing, which is the most inspiring influence anyone could ask for. It pushes me beyond my limits and out of my comfort zone all the time. Sheffield has that unique DIY spirit that I quickly fell in love with – the city of makers really is a very suitable nickname.




How have you found self-publishing?
A great way to start putting my work out there. Back in university, I started printing comics and zines for assignments – there was always something about having an actual book at the end rather than just digital files. I tried selling them at local art fairs first and then branched out into UK-wide illustration fairs and comic-cons where I found my audience. Going to these events and selling my products in person has been essential for networking, both in terms of client acquisition and also for getting to know creatives working in the same industry.

What projects do you have lined up?
I have just recently finished an updated version of my ‘A Portrait of Sheffield’ concertina book. It’s a ten foot long collage of the city and was the initial outcome of the residency I spoke about earlier. This new version still includes my first impressions on one side and on the other an updated view of how I see the city now, three years later. It’ll be for sale as part of the Handmade for Christmas show in the Millennium Gallery as well as other local art and bookshops across town. I’m also working on my first full-length graphic novel and I’d really like to get that off the ground in 2020.




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