In an interview: christiane herrmann von – family of small animals

Christiane Herrmann from “Family of Small Animals” illustrates modern family portraits

Family portraits can not only be photographed but also drawn. Most of them now think of all the street artists who make allegedly funny cartoons of the pedestrians in the pedestrian zone. Or dusty oil paintings on the walls of grandparents. The enchanting illustrations by Christiane Herrmann have nothing to do with all this. On the basis of family photos, Christiane creates personal portrait drawings in a modern, clean style under the label “Family of Small Animals”. We think it’s great, which conjures up Christiane from family photos and therefore they wanted to question them about their illustrations.

Dear Christiane! As a start, please tell a little something about yourself and tell us how you became a graphic designer with your own little online shop.

Hi! As with so many women, my life with starting a family has changed quite a bit and I’ve been looking for ways to work more from home. In addition to my work for advertising agencies, I started designing illustrations for children and then opened my first online shop with my brand “Family of Small Animals”. That was already in 2005.

How did you come up with the idea of ​​making portraits based on family and couple photos??

Two years ago I had drawn a portrait of my family and made a Christmas card for friends and family. Then I offered the illustration in my DaWanda shop as an example of a family portrait – just to test how it happens. The following winter I had more orders for portraits than I could assume, because a lot of people wanted to give away something for Christmas. Is just a great men gift.

How do you create your detailed illustrations? Can you please tell us something more about your workflow??

As a basis, I use photos that people send me. They are in very different quality. Sometimes there is already a photo on which everyone is on it and nice looking, but mostly I put together my template from several photos. I trace the photos with the help of a light table and scan this pencil sketch. In doing so, I often invent a new arrangement or, for example, fill out the legs that were not on the photo or let family members “look into the camera” who previously looked to the side. The black and white sketch I agree with the customer and correct on request until the similarity is correct. Then I put the colors in different layers in the Photoshop and print out at the end of a large A3 portrait.

And how many hours do you need for a finished portrait? Let’s say a family of four?

If it works well 6 hours, but often it is 10 hours.

Do you always stand in coordination with the customer or can the customer be surprised by the final result??

The customer can correct the first sketch in a maximum of three steps, after which he first sees the finished colored illustration. Colors can be adjusted here, if necessary.

As a photographer you often get to know the family very well during a shoot. How is it with you? You spend a lot of hours studying the faces of families without meeting them in person. Nevertheless, sometimes you feel like you are very close to the families?

That’s a nice question, because it hits the point that fascinates me so much about this work. During the process the contact via email is very personal and nice. I would recognize the faces I have drawn everywhere, I say – at least I always have the feeling that I know these people after portraiture.

Do you still remember the first family you drew??

The first assignment was a family of six and right now I’m working on my biggest family so far: seven people and one dog.

You have already seen many family photos during your work. What makes a good family portrait for you? Is it perhaps the arrangement of the people or rather the color-coordinated clothes? What is the key to the successful family photo?

The mood is important to me – when families look happy together I find that touching. But in terms of design, of course, the arrangement is important to me and especially the colors.

Do your customers order the portraits more for their own living room wall or as a gift for friends and family? On which occasions do your customers give away the portraits??

Most of my clients are women who order portraits for their men’s birthday, anniversary or Christmas.

You sell your portraits via DaWanda. What other products do you have for families??

I have many posters for the nursery on offer; for example my posters with funny animals in combination with children‘s songs for reading and singing.

Thank you, Christiane!

And finally we come to the realization that the oil paintings of our grandparents have their justification. Because just like the modern portrait drawings by Christiane, it’s not just personalized decorative pieces, but also lasting memories.

If the self-illustrated family portraits inspire you just as much as we do, you can contact her via Christiane Herrmann’s DaWanda Shop “Family of Small Animals”. And you can find out more about her latest work for clients from all over the world through her facebook account.

Christiane Herrmann, family of small animals, January 2017
Interview: Carolin Bartel
photo & Illustrations: Christiane Herrmann

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