Portrait and interview by Judith Carnaby


April 2014


The playful and almost chaotic nature of Mareike Engelke‘s illustration was reflected in the exhibition installation of her work. Hand-drawn lines with no straight edges. Scratchy scribbly shading. Broad brush-strokes and bold colours. Carefully painted cardboard cut-outs. Hanging objects. Letraset. Cross-stitch. Mareike creates works that play with space and texture, with almost complete disregard for the picture plane, and with wonderful grimy and gritty figures. She paints on objects, explores surfaces and expands her ideas by working by hand as well as digitally. Working in a studio that overlooks the Duisburg harbour, Mareike also runs small hands-on illustration workshops in collaboration with Fee Brandenburg at hafenkult, a creative space set amidst the creaking cranes and piles of shipping containers on the banks of the Rhine. As we sought out a quiet(ish) space to chat I thought the busy hubbub of the ILLU14 vernissage seemed to be a fitting accompaniment to her work.

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Illustration by Mareike Engelke

Judith Carnaby: Can you tell me a bit about your study in illustration and communication design? How did you become an illustrator?

Mareike Engelke: I studied communication design and I focused on illustration, during which time I did some editorial illustration just for myself. I started working at an ad agency and worked as a graphic designer for almost 5 years, which I’m still doing 20 hours a week. The other part I am working freelance, doing some design jobs, some illustration jobs, and some art as well.

In your exhibition space you are showing a variety of pieces that show the diverse ways that you create work. There are three-dimensional objects, fabric that you have stitched by hand, different examples of paintings as well as prints from your digital work. What are the techniques you use for creating your works? Do you use a lot of analogue processes and handmade techniques to create your textures?

I’m always starting with analogue techniques like drawing and painting, and assembling things, and finding objects that I can integrate. Afterwards I scan everything and work as a collage in Photoshop. And I am always thinking, where do I put all of these papers? There are piles and piles of papers all over my studio, but I can’t throw them away, I don’t know what to do with it all!


 Illustration by Mareike Engelke


You create a lot of handmade lettering, especially for book covers and magazines. Are you looking to develop that side of your work? For example could you imagine creating or designing a typeface with your lettering?

I do really like to write with my hands and develop certain letters, and it would really be a dream to make a font. But I don’t think I could do it myself because I don’t know how to do it technically. If someone else came to me and said they would help me develop a typeface, I wouldn’t say no!

I really enjoy the awkward angles or perspectives in your illustrations. Do you enjoy working with strange perspectives, and is it an aesthetic decision? Is it how it looks or is it to challenge your viewers perception of perspective and space?

I’m not sure. Sometimes it’s just that these maybe ‘wrong’ perspectives just come out like they are and I don’t correct them. I think it suits my work because it creates spaces that aren’t too usual. Sometimes I think it is just that I can’t do perspective totally properly…



Illustration by Mareike Engelke


What sort of work do you do in Duisburg, and how do you think it fits within the wider illustration scene in Nordrhein-Westfalen. Do you look to work internationally and collaborate with people, or are you quite locally focused?

I have a studio in Duisburg with 12 other designers, artists and art researchers, so I work there locally and connect with the people around me. I like to travel so in a way living in Nordrhein-Westfalen is no border for me, it is where I happen to live.

How did you get involved in this festival, and what does participating in the festival mean for you?

Because I live in Duisburg I wasn’t allowed to take part in the festival to start with, but I just kept asking. Duisburg is on the Rhine too, and a little bit later they widened the borders for applicants which opened the festival up a bit. So I had the chance to apply to participate and they chose my work! I am so happy to be part of the festival and the whole weekend. There are a lot of illustrations and artworks that I have already seen so meeting the people behind them is fantastic. I am so happy to get to know all of them, and there are lots of interesting talks that I am looking forward to.





Illustration by Mareike Engelke



Illustration by Mareike Engelke

Thanks Mareike! For more work see Mareike’s website.