To celebrate the release of the Rotholz x Gabe World Environment Day Collection we sat down with the Munich-based Graphic Artist Gabe to chat about all things: art, fashion, and navigating through the COVID-19 Pandemic. Gabe is a multidisciplinary graphic artist from the south of Germany who gets inspired by life itself and uses art and design to understand the world around him.
With the occasion of the World Environment Day Gabe has collaborated with Rotholz co-creating limited edition T-shirts and printed posters, whose profits will be donated to the NGO Sea Shepherd to support the protection and conservatorship of marine wildlife worldwide.
Hey Gabe, great to catch up! First off, introduce yourself to those who are new to your work...
Yeah, sure! My name is Gabe. I'm a graphic artist living in the south of Germany. I've been living in Munich for 12 years and I recently moved to the countryside where I originally come from. I’m a graphic artist with a background in communication design, and now I create art for a broad variety of mediums from art prints, illustrations to murals and larger format works. My style really fuses my communication design background, my love of comics and graffiti and typography still influences me a lot too. Creating logos for such a long time has had a strong influence on how my style has developed, and working predominantly in a digital space.
So if we take it right back to the beginning; what inspired you to first pursue a career in art, how did it all start?
My interest in art started very early. I've always loved to draw, since I can remember I enjoyed creating. The first big influences in my style were comics and animation movies, like Disney. I think when I was 12 or 13 I already thought I wanted to be a graphic designer. In 6th grade I had a really cool art teacher who had us designing logos, which I found very interesting. Then when I was 14 or 15 the graffiti boom started and after a couple of years, me and some friends started to run a sound system playing Jamaican dancehall music. When this began to catch on I started to design the flyers. So basically when i was 14-15 photoshop and working on the computer started to play a big role in my design process.
Once I graduated from school it was obvious that I wanted to study communication design. At some moments I had the idea to move and become an art teacher or study in a fine art academy, but I have always gravitated more towards the design world, so I studied communication design in Augsburg, Germany.
However, before I started my university studies, I started a t-shirt brand with a friend, also jamaican-dancehall related, so during that time we flew multiple times to Jamaica to buy records. On one of these trips I found an art college where I ended up studying for a semester and wrote my diploma project. There I found the foundation for creating design and art. I finally graduated in 2009 and started working as a freelancer.
After bouncing around the freelance graphic design/illustrator space I’ve begun to focus more on collaborative projects with brands I feel a natural connection with, personal projects, and more selective commission work over the last couple years.
That’s a really cool path. Can you give us a little bit of insight into your process as an artist, from beginning to end?
It varies depending on the project. I like working with a certain frame, I guess that comes from my illustrator days. My main method or process, once I have a theme or an idea to work on, is working with rough sketches first and then developing the concept digitally with the iPad. I work mostly vector based, just to be more flexible. Especially with personal projects I love to work on the concept and execution over a longer period. For example, I'm currently developing a personal print series that lives in my sketchbook for now, it’s something I have been working on for around two or two and a half years now. I strongly believe that execution with time just gets better. I find it always good to have an idea in the back of my head and revisit it until I’m 100% satisfied with the result. For example, for the print series I have changed the artwork numerous times. I really like to work with time.
And then boom, the COVID-19 pandemic hits. How has this global pandemic affected your life as an artist?
The impact was pretty big in 2020, and as for many people it has had its positives and negatives. Before the pandemic I was doing very well performing live drawing sessions and paintings, basically I created art in front of the public as a performance and that was my main source of income. At the time I was also working doing commercial illustrations for agencies, but I felt very burned out, so one week before lockdown I talked to the agencies and informed them I was going to take a break until august 2020 to develop my own projects.
So lockdown kind of gave me the space to breathe and take a break from the more commercial work. Soon after I created my first solo exhibition called Utopia, a direct result of having more time to invest in my own personal projects. As a result most of what I'm doing now kicked off at that moment. On the other hand, from an economic standpoint 2020 was the worst year of my career. A lot of personal development, but not a lot of financial gain. But this was an important step.
Lockdown helped put a lot of things into perspective, and made me reflect on society and environmental issues. One of the biggest collaboration projects during lockdown was In This Together. The project aimed to support the independent artist community in and around Munich from various creative fields. We chose a mural concept that in the end was presented as an exhibition in a window row of a hotel in central Munich. That was another very satisfying moment during lockdown.
Yeah we really loved the In This Together exhibition too, really beautiful work. How did you first discover Rotholz, and what attracts you to the brand? Can you remember your first piece?
I actually can't remember my first purchase, but I feel like Rotholz was always around, especially when it comes to the whole sustainable fashion movement. I really can't say how long I've known the brand but it has been for many years. My girlfriend got me my first Rotholz beanie. From the brand I appreciate a lot that you guys do not approach sustainability from a trend point of view but as core value for your business, unfortunately you can see many brands jumping in the sustainability wave but only through greenwashing tactics. As much as I have distanced myself from the apparel industry, I'm still interested in fashion and looking good with a simple practical wardrobe. From the brand aesthetic I really like the fact that it is simple and timeless, made in Europe and can be worn to last.
Very kind words, we appreciate the support! What motivated you to join forces with us and take part in the World Environment Day project where all proceeds were donated to Sea Shepherd?
I remember when we first exchanged emails, you guys mentioned that the t-shirts that were planned to be used for this campaign were from an overproduction and were now surplus stock. I thought it was a really cool way to really make use of pre-existing blank t-shirts, that would otherwise probably have been destroyed or sold on. Also from a business standpoint it made the whole process less complicated for me. As I mentioned before I’m very aware and concerned about the climate crisis. Currently, I would consider it the biggest social issue in my mind at the moment, so participating in this project and contributing to find solutions was really like crossing something off from my bucket list, and gave me a cool platform to contribute to this social issue in a positive way. Also the fact the design theme was around marine wildlife, because of the NGO Sea Shepherd, made the design process really refreshing and enjoyable for me. I had a very concrete theme to work on and I was able to focus more on the art print rather than the project's concept. And I think we can all agree that the outcome is super cool.
We cannot agree more, it was a super enjoyable process working with you for a good cause. But looking forward, what does the future hold for Gabe?
There's a lot of things in the making, now I'm super excited about a new project that is going to launch later this month (June 2021). Supported by the FC Bayern Basketball team I developed an artwork for a basketball court in Munich. It's my biggest project so far and basketball is a subject really close to me. The project name is Sugar Mountain, and it's a huge old industrial area in the Sendling suburb of Munich where a communal skate park, basketball courts, and even a venue for concerts has been constructed. All these outdoor installations will be for free for everyone with the intention to lift up the community there. I also have a couple of art print series I want to release this summer as soon as I can take some time off. This print series works with cultural references such as movies and album covers. Later this month I will also be launching my side project Reason and Riots Drawing Club where I will sell my illustrations and drawings, and then I will also release more stuff/content in a more weird, fun and political way.
Well, we wish you great success with all your projects, Gabe. Thank you very much for your time and the great collaboration. We’re looking forward to seeing and hearing more from you!
Photo Credit @nolemastudio