The Block

Art & Culture — 1 year ago

Karlotta Freier On Evolving Through Collaboration

Karlotta Freier on community, collaboration and representing points of view. 


Based in Brooklyn, Karlotta Freier’s work spans illustration and comics, with her primary mode being editorial illustrations, for articles in publications like The New Yorker and LA Times. The deft skill involved in creating a good editorial illustration – working in collaboration with the text of an article to bring it to life, without overshadowing or creating too prescriptive a reading – makes an interesting companion with Freier’s recent endeavour: Illustrators Acquainted


The community project, which started life as a Q&A Zoom session, is about fostering communication and knowledge exchange in the illustrator community. It’s an antidote to the fact that illustration, like many creative jobs which involve especially freelance projects, can be isolating.


Here Karlotta Freier shares her thoughts on community, collaboration and representing points of view.


Shop Karlotta’s Magic Garden T-shirt here.

Everpress Team
Courtesy of Karlotta Freier

I want to open by talking about Illustrators Acquainted, the community you co-founded with Tara Anand. Why do you think it’s valuable for illustrators to connect, and to foster community in this way?

I think it’s vital for any group to be connected, and unfortunately illustration can be an inherently lonely job. Unlike my husband, who is a musician and meets a lot of people by working with them, I know most of my co-workers only through email. I am lucky to have a studio that I share with fellow illustrators and animators, which means I have people around me daily. We can casually share thoughts on an illustration we’re working on, email etiquette or budget, and it’s very clear to me that this exchange of experience gives us all more agency. 

Exchange of experience gives us all more agency 

Courtesy of Karlotta Freier

Illustrators Acquainted started as a call over Zoom. I am used to getting a lot of messages on social media and emails about how this industry works, but in that particular month there were just way too many to field, so I decided to invite people to an open Zoom meeting, thinking maybe 15 people would show up. Instead, there were 100 people, and it was very clear everyone was longing for some feeling of community. 

Shortly after, Tara [Anand] reached out and offered to help me with this and we just kept the calls going. Lately we have started inviting guests, and it has been so insightful to learn about their progress; everyone has to deal with the same issues but everybody solves them a little bit differently, which is where we can all learn from each other.

Relatedly, do you like working collaboratively with others? What’s the secret to a successful collaborative relationship if so?

Almost every job that I work on is a collaboration between me and an art director or designer, and sometimes it’s a whole team of people. For me, that’s a very rewarding part of the process, because I always evolve through it. I really enjoy, for instance, when an art director has a vision for a piece that doesn’t feel very natural to me in the beginning, but then the process pushes me to develop something new. The things I discover through collaboration are constantly adding to my toolkit.

Courtesy of Karlotta Freier

Was childhood a creative space for you?

Yes I thinks so. I was always drawing or crafting something. Sometimes I can’t help but find it a bit funny that I have been doing the exact same thing since I was a four year old listening to audiobooks and drawing all day. I don’t think I have changed much!

I always evolve through collaboration

When do you feel most creatively satisfied?

When I surprise myself by discovering something new.

Why do you think you’re drawn to illustration as a medium?

I like how the drawing is being used for something, how it’s part of our lives.

Courtesy of Karlotta Freier

You often provide illustrations to help bring articles to life, for everyone from The New Yorker to LA Times. What do you think makes a successful illustration for specifically an article or written piece? Do you try to add new meaning or depth to the piece or simply draw out what’s being said?

In the first years of working with magazines I tried to add a deeper meaning, or a comment through the illustration, for which I always encountered resistance. The main thing I try to add now is a mood. I think my task with the illustration is to evoke empathy, and represent the writer’s point of view.

I like how the drawing is part of our lives

How do you know it’s time to give up on something you’re working on?

When it feels stiff and lifeless it’s usually time to find a new approach.

Courtesy of Karlotta Freier

What’s on the horizon for you for this year?

I hope a lot of exciting stuff! Apart from work, I made plans to travel more in 2023.

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