Hartwig Braun is one of our talented artists who is best known for his unique and quirky illustrations of Great Britain, like Best of British. Another of his jigsaws, Our Great Planet was one of our best-selling puzzles this summer, so we felt it was high time we got to know him a little better!
Hartwig’s speciality is in design-led illustrative works and he uses his architectural background to create expansive, detailed, and engaging cityscapes utilising a mixture of organic materials and digital methods.
His portfolio is expansive, and he has created bespoke work for huge brands including Hamley’s, The New York Times, The British Museum and British Airways.
Hi Hartwig, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with us. We know a lot about your professional work but let’s go back a little further. How long have you been an artist and what inspired you to pursue this career?
Oh, that will be a long answer to a short question.
I’ve always enjoyed drawing and sketching. Already as a kid I loved doodling, drawing, illustrating and creating my own maps. It’s what I loved doing in my spare time after school.
Later as an architect drawing wasn’t something completely unheard of but most work is of course done on the computer.
One day, whilst I was living and working in Amsterdam in 2000, I decided to do my own Christmas card design for friends and family featuring a little sketchy birds-eye view of Amsterdam. A few years later Isaac, my partner, saw that card, saw that friends had kept it and framed it and spotted the potential. He encouraged me to draw a big and bold panoramic view of London, which I did over several months next to my architectural day job.
I had never spent that much time and energy on one single drawing so seeing the finished artwork was quite an eye opener for myself.
One thing led to another and by putting our complimenting talents together we started embarking on our journey as an artistic brand under the Arty Globe name.
Tell us more about your shop in Greenwich - it started as a stall but is now an established shop that has been around for many years! We would love to hear the story of how it came to be.
At the very beginning of our journey we tried a few different avenues. At that time, we were still based in Grantham, Lincolnshire, so Isaac did day trips down to London with a little suitcase full of greeting card and postcard samples with my artwork and managed to get them in to a few shops in Central London including the London Transport Museum.
We also had a little, albeit not very successful, flirt with a stall at Covent Garden Market. However, we didn’t really have any experience with market trading and it was also not the right environment for us.
By a friend’s recommendation we discovered Greenwich Market, which we loved at first sight as it had and has a much more artisan and artistic feel with a very unique crafts, designer makers and artists community.
We set up a stall, improved our skills how to design and arrange an eye catching and enticing market stall and started trading whilst still coming down from Grantham with heavy suitcases full of our little product range every Thursday evening and returning Sunday night.
Our products such as cards, a few stationery items, melamine coasters and a few 50-piece gift jigsaw puzzles were loved by visitors and locals alike which gave us the confidence to move into a small shop unit about half a year later.
From a market stall with lovingly designed gifts we suddenly turned into a gallery shop as we then had the wall space to display the artwork as wall art and offer it as prints and canvasses.
As the collection of artwork and our product range grew the unit became too small about a year later and we moved to a bigger shop, one of the nicest and most prominent shop units surrounding the historical covered market, where you can still find us today.
What motivates you to work for yourself? Do you have any rituals or habits to keep you creatively motivated?
I guess as an artist and illustrator working for myself, or more precisely for us and our own business, is just the natural way. We constantly need to develop the vision for ourselves, what we want to do and where eventually we want to be harnessing the creative and artistic potential. Naturally as an artist I always like and prefer to decide what interests me and what project I want to do next.
I also do commissioned work for clients based upon a brief. Normally that brief is more a general direction and clients like giving me the utmost freedom to come up with my own interpretation and design.
Normally the motivation comes by itself. After a break from drawing I start feeling an itch in my hand; I look around starting to analyse objects and strip them down to the essential, defining lines and want to put them on paper.
The closest thing to a ritual I could see is probably the fact that I like listening to music that has something to do with what I draw for getting really into the mood.
For example whilst working on my most recent big project, my illustrated map of Europe, I enjoyed a variety of music, from the Beatles, French chansons, Portuguese fado, Almodovar movie soundtracks to Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov, Grieg and Abba!
What is your biggest achievement?
I don’t really see one single thing as my biggest achievement.
Since most of my drawings and designs are labour intensive, large scale projects that need careful planning and meticulous execution - the completion of every single one feels like an achievement. It is always very rewarding to see something that initially only existed as a vague idea or vision eventually coming to life.
It is also a very rewarding experience to see that my artwork and designs, which are my very personal expressions, are appreciated and loved by so many other people.
And last but not least I could also call it an achievement to see my art in the context of established well-known brands - whether as a little 100 piece gift puzzle flying around the world and being sold on board of British Airways planes, a bespoke commissioned illustration for the business section of the New York Times or as beautiful and popular 1,000 piece Gibsons jigsaw puzzles.
Our Business Development Manager discovered your work at an exhibition. Is that how you find the majority of your clients?
Yes, when it comes to exploring the potential of art licensing, shows such as Brand Licensing Europe are probably the best opportunity. Doing that show for the first time in 2017 and then again in 2018 and 2019 was the big door opener and hugely important to us.
Regarding commissioned projects the exposure my artwork is getting in our gallery shop at Greenwich Market is also very helpful. So far quite a few projects started with clients seeing my art on the wall as prints or canvases here in Greenwich. Even my US agent discovered my artwork in our gallery whilst on holidays in London.
Besides that, the internet and social media become more and more important these days. Whether on instagram or facebook or if someone comes across my website or behance profile when searching for something specific or “just browsing for now” - a good online presence is the key to be noticed!
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists who want to develop their career?
Do what you love doing and enjoy the most even if it is just for yourself initially and only appreciated by a few friends. But I guess that is what an artist would do anyway.
Then go out and spread the word (or in our case rather the imagery).
Your own website, Facebook, your online portfolio on Behance or your Instagram account are excellent platforms to get seen and noticed. I would also focus first of all on creating the most beautiful account that YOU like and that you think represents your work in the best possible way instead of looking anxiously at the number of clicks, likes and followers. They will come and if not by snowballing then organically and steadily.
Look for opportunities to participate in exhibitions and art fairs. There are a lot of pop up galleries out there which give also not-yet-discovered talents the chance to be seen by the public in an artistic environment.
And if your art is also suitable for merchandising and use on different products, try a market stall first. This is an easy, inexpensive and pretty much risk-free way of checking out what works and what maybe doesn’t, who your customers are, how to fine tune your designs to also stand out in a more commercial set up and eventually do successful marketing to different customer groups.
And finally, what’s next? Do you have any exciting projects in the pipeline?
As it happens, I just finished a large-scale project, my illustrated map of Europe, something I wanted to do already for a long time and which kept me busy all the way through lockdown from early April until September.
Shortly afterwards I did a concept sketch for a detail-rich piece for a client in the US. The work on the actual project might start later this month.
Besides that, I definitely want to extend my portfolio of lovingly illustrated hand-drawn maps, maybe with North America or Ireland to start with. But before that I might allow myself a little creative break.