Mr.Woodland is an artist and graphic designer that lives and works in Munich. At an early age he developed an interest in painting, and in 1993 hit the streets as a budding graffiti writer. A decade later, he decided to experiment with new techniques that challenged and stimulated his imagination. Fascinated by the Jugendstil movement that emerged in Germany during mid-1890, he began drawing illustrative and striking characters in this art nouveau style. A wise choice that put him on a path to success.
Now, nearly twenty years later, he’s renowned for his ability to create detailed figures and animal characters that are remarkably colorful and unique. Although he still enjoys working with spray paint, he often explores other mediums to translate his vision onto canvas. His artwork examines the relationships between people, animals and plants infused with an extraordinarily style influenced by comics, photorealism and classical painting elements.
I contacted the artist via email and sent him a few questions and below are his answers:
I’m an artist from Germany that operates under the moniker Mr.Woodland. I started as a graffiti writer in the early 90’s and looked at it as more of a hobby. A decade passed and I began to feel stagnant. I wanted to take a more serious approach to become a professional artist. In 2009, I switched up my style and created illustrative work instead of abstract. I drew characters, figures and animals that were blended with graphic details.
Do you recall any first memories of your interests in art?
As a child, I remember being more interested in painting instead of things/activities kids do; like football, sports or computer games. I always knew that I wanted to paint. The first time I saw graffiti, I was captivated. It immediately grabbed my attention. It made me realize I wanted to paint for the rest of my life.
Is Mr. Woodland your nickname? If so, is there any meaning behind it?
When I was in Berlin a few years ago, I used to train hard at the gym. I was strong and in exceptional shape. My friends called me the “German Oak-” like Arnold Schwarzenegger, the “Austrian Oak.” At the time, I was painting under the handle “Mono” until one afternoon I finished a wall that had this “Woodland” vibe to it. Somewhat of a joke, I thought it’d be clever to change my name to “Woodland,” after the wall. Then, I added the “Mr.” because it sounded more fluid and personable.
As a graphic designer I’ve become fond of Adobe Illustrator, especially for making vector illustrations.
How much does your art affect or influence your everyday life?Is there anyone or anything that inspires you? I.e. other artists, role models….
Family is the most important thing in my life. I have a wife and two incredible kids. Besides my family, I’m fortunate enough that I can focus all my efforts into art. Whether it’s a mural, painting or graphic design project, it’s a 24/7 job that keeps me busy, provides stability to support my family and is still incredibly gratifying.
I’m inspired by everything; life, my kids, nature, the internet, other artists… I believe that everyone’s somewhat of a sponge soaking up the world around them. And, eventually something meaningful will start to drip out.
Do you feel creatively satisfied?
No, unfortunately I don’t. I often think about my ideas and skill-set thinking about how I can enhance them. Although, I don’t see this as negative. It’s a hunger that keeps things interesting and can be quite rewarding as you continue to grow.
Many of your pieces are set in the woods and depict animals in an imaginary way. Does this, in any way reflect your personal life?
Yes, it does! I live close to the woods and feel deeply connected to nature. The forest can be a peaceful place. The silence is a wonderful escape from the rush of the city and all the traffic and noise within it.
Many street artists began as graffiti writers, developed their styles and progressed into muralists. How was it for you in the interim and what took you to the streets?
Similar to many others I had a positive experience when I started as a graffiti writer. I have a deep rooted connection to it and respect everyone that keeps at it. Go figure, I often compare it to food, hahaha- Spaghetti Bolognese is a tasty dish, but after eating it every day for ten, or even 20 years it can be monotonous. There’s also rigatoni, penne…. or even linguine! 🙂
Overall, what I’m trying to say is that for myself, for my own personal growth and goals, being a mural artist felt like the right next steps. Everyone aspires differently and in different directions. Whether you’re passionate about street-art, graffiti, mural art, whatever it is, the one thing we all have in common is a desire to paint.
Some artists claim that street-art and graffiti fall under an umbrella of illegal work. Even if mural projects are done with pre-discussed terms. They still might think it’s illegal. Do you agree or disagree with their distinctions and why?
I think everyone should follow their dreams. If your goal is to become professional muralist, why not get paid for it? We all have bills, we all need money to pay for gas, clothing, food… Because of this, why wouldn’t you want to earn money doing something you love rather than sitting in an office unhappy at your job?
For me, when I’m hired to work on a project that’s for a commercial business, I usually integrate my own style into the design.
Do you have any regrets?
Painting. Painting more before 2009 when I felt lazy and my head was in a different place. During that time, I focused my energy on materials things; I cared too much about lavish cars, and nice clothes, among other worthless things. I thought they were important to me, and they aren’t. It was a complete waste of time….
The internet innately separates the creator from the audience. What are your thoughts on social media? Has it helped or hurt artists?
Social media is huge part of modern communications. The internet is a hub where one can find information in seconds with just a few clicks of the mouse. I remember before it all existed; when I’d wait six months for a graff magazine to arrive to my home thrilled to study every photograph for hours on end. I also used to frequent train stations, and different neighborhoods to take photos of walls and train lines. Today, if you want to see art or graffiti, all you have to do is go on Facebook or Instagram and start scrolling. It’s just not the same as encountering it in person.
For as fast someone can acquire fame and large sums of “likes” through social media platforms, it’s equally as sudden that you can be forgotten and irrelevant.
Have you painted in the USA? If so, what was your experience like?
No, I’ve actually never been to the U.S. However, I did have an offer to paint there but unfortunately at the time I had to decline.
Outside of your work and creative realm, what activities occupy your time? Is it difficult to find a balance between “work” and “play”?
As someone that sincerely enjoys what they do and understands it comes with having a busy work schedule, I do love to spend time in nature, out in the woods. I also like to hit the gym, especially on days where I really need to clear my head.
As an artist that creates imaginative characters and animals, people are often surprised to learn that I’ve never tried magic mushrooms.
What can we look forward to seeing from you next? What collaborations, shows or projects do you have planned?
At the moment I’m working on new canvases and trying to travel as much as possible. For 2018, I hope to organize a big mural art festival that will include the transformation of some incredibly massive walls.
Any words of advice for aspiring new artists?
Never give up. Do what you love regardless of what others might say. People’s negativity often stems from envy or their own self-dissatisfaction. Work hard for what you want. Hard work and dedication often surpasses talent.
That is all! Thank you for your time and wish you the best of luck!
Interview: Sami Wakim
Text: Rachel Margolin