Whilst I’m not in any way qualified to say this, I’ll say it anyway. The internet is democratising art, for both the consumer and the artist.
Indeed, it’s highly likely to be more difficult to make money off of your work when it’s given away for free (with your consent or not; oft without credit) for Tumblr kids to materialise from their mum’s printer to pin on the ‘carpe diem’ inspired feature wall in their bedroom. At least said kids are increasing their dose of culture, right?
Who knows. But that’s not why we’re here.
Lilly by Basia Napora
I stumbled upon Berlin-based artist Lilly Friedeberg’s work (actually, her business cards) on a design blog - the kind of thing a weirdo with a desktop folder labelled ‘Inspo’ does at 2am in the morning. Thankfully, it was credited, and I was immediately transported to the Elfriedes’ Tumblog, scrolling through a plethora of works obviously inspired by growing up in the 90s, without doubt from the mind of a youth influenced by sex, drugs, fast food and cartoons.
It took me only half an hour to have written Lilly an email, intrigued by the work she was putting out there, and all too keen to learn about the woman behind the moniker.
The moniker, she explained, was prompted by her friend's hesitation to let Lilly use her real name when stickering thier small home town - back when they were 16. Looking for an alternative, that friend pointed to her signature, which dropped the 'berg' in favour of a shorter-scrawl 'L. Friede'. Morphing the spelling by adding the 'E' and removing punctuation, eventually slinging an 's' on the end because the original wasn't available on Tumblr, we have today's Elfriedes.
She’s been drawing since she was in school, particularly in classes she wasn’t fond of. It took her a long time to get serious, she says, since finding her way into studying graphic design at University. In her last year at tertiary, she reflects that it wasn’t in the confines of study that she learnt how to draw; instead, she took advice from friends, and investigated other artist’s works, often contacting them about their techniques. Whilst Lilly recounts learning generalised art and design techniques, it was through her personal methodology that she encountered her “favourite way to draw.”
Lilly’s favourite way to draw at the moment requires capitalising on a strong contrast. This personal style emanates in pastel copic marker-coloured drawings, outlined by thick black ink markers. She doesn’t limit herself solely to pen and paper, however, finding that transmitting a piece to a digital version and colouring it in with a tablet can lend a different perspective.
Walking us through her process, Lilly’s first step is always collecting ideas, sometimes in the middle of the night, usually by writing them down. The next move involves digging through those rough descriptions and putting together sketches; when finding one she likes, she draws over the pencil outlines with black ink marker, solidifying its existence. Uniquely, she almost always draws two versions, finding the second is usually the best, “You avoid some mistakes, and change details you didn’t like in the first version.”
It’s only after those foundations are laid that she applies colour. Despite an affinity for immensely colourful illustration, her skill is manifest in applying a maximum of five colours per work.
Lilly recognises Tumblr as hugely important to her growth as an artist - in terms of pushing work’s production, and raising her profile. She’s spent several years collecting inspiration and connecting with other artists on the platform, and grows excited talking about the possibility (which was impossible only a decade or so ago) of sitting in your pyjamas on a couch in Germany, and connecting with people across the rest of the world’s continents.
Speaking of the internet age, when I asked who Lilly’s inspirations were, she referred me to the list of people she follows in Instagram, referring to their lifestyle, work, personal brand or aesthetic as a source. Most of the artists she admires work within the realm of distorting pop culture; muddling with characters and iconography of well-loved cartoons, toys, and games.
She credits her own attachment to this scene as a factor of having grown up in a pop-culture environment, falling in love with the worlds of The Simpsons, Nintendo, and Disney, in particular. As a kid, she recalls playing Mario Kart with her friends until late at night, when he parents were sleeping. Her art calls this nostalgia to the fore, but twists it in such a way to “create something that is in a way familiar, yet strange at the same time.”
On the deeper side of the coin, Lilly doesn’t proffer a specific message innate across her artwork, arguing a preference for allowing the viewer to see what they want to see in it. The unnerving nature of playing with people’s childhood memories sees Lilly cherish the works that come out cute, yet offer and obvious element of weird, “Like, you are never really sure if that cute unicorn is really that nice, or if Furby is just having a really shitty day.”
Residing in Berlin has meant Lilly is part of an already huge and consistently shifting artistic landscape, smack in the middle of numerous daily exhibitions, and thousands of imported creatives finding their niche. She says it can at times be a little intimidating, and when that's the case, retreats to her mum’s house in the village, or visits old friends in small towns.
As for the future, she’s looking into the potential of tattoo artistry, an industry that would surely welcome her given her penchant for pop-culture and rebellion. Then, there’s the opportunity of seeing the cities and countries she’s only so far reblogged from.