The Life & Craft of Marion Dönneweg
“For me, painting is like meditating. Like living in a parallel universe with rainbows, crazy cats, ramen noodles, and giant birthday cakes. I love it.”
This, ladies and gentlemen, is the mind of Marion Dönneweg. With a background in advertising, Marion is used to translating everyday ideas using photography, illustration and typography: bold and colourful graphics, inspiring pictures, handwritten quotes and so on are elements she works with daily.
“I would love to think that my work makes you stop scrolling mindlessly in your Instagram feed because something about it catches your interest, makes you smile, think, feel good, or inspired. I would like you to look at the illustration, and think ‘Yeah, that’s me. That happens to me, too. That resonates with me.’”
But how did she get to where she is now? Inheriting her creativity from her artist mother and her rational approach from her father, a German engineer, she knew she had to specialize in something that would both fulfil her artistically and, as she herself admits, pay her bills. She, therefore, started studying Graphic Design while working as a trainee for an advertising agency.
After years earning her living as a successful art director, she decided to, quote, “throw it all up and start from scratch as an illustrator.” Having discovered illustration in her 40s, and having never painted before, she teaches herself on a daily basis, experimenting as she goes and favouring digital painting to its analogical counterpart.
Today, she has her own online store called Just Cool Design, and, among others, she sells her prints to some brick and mortar shops around the world. But what does her father think of this decision? Well, he’s still “pulling his hair about his crazy daughter,” she jokes.
Describing herself as a communicator rather than a traditional artist, Marion likes experimenting with different styles, according to the concept she wants to convey: whether messy or clean, her work is extremely eye-catching and never boring to the viewer.
What does she love the most about her craft?
To her, it’s the “unlimited freedom you got expressing ideas in every possible way. The ability to create a unique and personal reality with your own rules. No gravity. No perspective. No logic. No anatomy. A world full of colour, contrast, and texture.”
For Marion, sitting down and painting is the most intimate, uplifting and relaxing thing she can do, although she sometimes forgets to go for her groceries or pick up her kids from school because of how much fun she’s having. She begins with a simple phrase or idea, and then just takes it from there, improvising and creating something completely unpredictable every time.
But how does she get her ideas?
“It’s the way my brain works,” she says. “Ideas always seem to pop in my head while cooking, watching Netflix, or on the yoga mat, and I try to write them down in a never-ending to-paint list.”
Some examples? The shadow of three oranges. A crack in the wall. A surprising pink color shade in an old lady’s hair. Yellow and white lines on the pavement. Olive trees twisted by the wind. Marion’s creative mind is always on, and it doesn’t stop creating even when she’s not paying attention.
While a day in her studio might not be as exciting as it might sound, her clients surely bring her a lot of joy. To represent this relationship, she recalls the following episode:
“A woman bought my I love you so so so so so so much print for her daughter, because she had a hard time saying those words to her. I feel very honoured to be part of this.”
To make her day? Simply express how her work made you feel. Easy!
Although studying advertising, selling herself and her art has never come naturally to her, like every time she has to introduce her work to a new shop. Despite the many people that show interest in her work, the hardest part for her is dealing with rejection and dismissal. Living from your art might be difficult, but it is all part of the process, and Marion knows it.
At the same time, she has a very clear idea of where she would like to see her work in the foreseeable future: 1) a funky, design-driven hotel like the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam; 2) an episode of the Simpsons, or “the coolest and most awesome thing that could happen to my career,” as she calls it; 3) Lady Gaga’s living room, because “that would probably pay my bills for the next two years,” she jokes.