Swiss Illustrator Lawrence Grimm at CMYK Festival

Swiss Illustrator Lawrence Grimm at CMYK Festival

June 2024

Since 2019, Hereford College of Arts has organised an annual festival bringing together illustrators, printmakers and artists for a day of talks and display, showcasing the work of local established and emergent creatives. Previous events have featured talks and workshops by Molly Fairhurst, John Broadley, Design for Today, Stephen Fowler, Russel Taysom, Pencil Pot Club and many more. For the 2024 edition, artist and curator of "Printing in Swiss" exhibition Ed Catley invited Zurich-based Australian-German-Swiss artist and cartoonist Lawrence Grimm. As a result of this collaboration, Lawrence Grimm offered a workshop in HCA’s brand new Digital Hub to an audience including participants aged from 9 to 60. The goal was to explore how reducing an illustration can evoke an emotion and intensify a message. Participants discovered ways to draw small single panel stories using digital techniques and became more familiar with BITMAP digital format.

You travelled from Zurich to Birmingham to participate in the CMYK Festival at Hereford College of Arts. You took this opportunity to introduce a group of people aged nine to 60 to your work and explain the notion of BITMAP formatting. Can you tell us more about this choice?

BITMAP is such a wonderful format and lots of people don’t know about it. It’s a colour-format made up of only black and white. Because it doesn’t have over 16,000 colours like with CMYK, the file size is a lot smaller. This means you can use that file space to increase the sharpness of your image when you scan it, you have a lot more pixels per inch(=dpi). And many printers can print BITMAP, so for me, it’s like creating a beautiful precise artwork with a home printer. Also, the use of black and white gives you an interesting limitation in terms of content. I like to see artworks flourishing within a given system.

Riddles are a big part of your work, where do you take inspiration from?

Well, life is a riddle, after all. And life in the city of Zurich, where I work and live, is quite surreal. It’s really clean and nice and yet there are a lot of lonely people yearning for love. Realities interlock and form a strange path of spacetime. Sometimes, you walk through everyday life and there’s something like a trapdoor to a different dimension of meaning, happiness, sadness, loneliness or hope. I hide those trapdoors in my cartoons and viewers can find them, dive into them and solve riddles.

You have collaborated with a wide range of clients and are currently working on a (big) book. Which projects do you enjoy the most and why?

The projects I enjoy most are the ones where I have lots of time just sitting at the table in my workspace in a big factory hall full of illustrators and artists, and I can dive into a different world by drawing. Some projects involve a great deal of planning, and it takes months from the initial idea until you see the result. I like creating huge murals, but what I love most is when something happens the minute you do it, like a tiny illustration you can hang on the wall after you finish it.

After talking about formats, printmaking and murals, you touched upon the idea of reduction. Where does the desire to ‘reduce’ reality and ‘transform’ things come from?

To reduce something means that you strip off things that aren’t absolutely necessary, so you can focus on the core. Also, someone who looks at a reduced image adds the missing parts in their head, which may be a more interesting process than just looking at a 1:1 reproduction of facts and figures. I often create a series of works and give myself reduction rules like ‘draw it in 100 seconds’, ‘it’s BITMAP’ or ‘only draw half of the picture and mirror it’. On one hand, those rules give a series a sense of unity, on the other hand I’m quite a perfectionist and by giving myself some limitations I can save time.

Tips and Tricks: what advice would you give to a young illustrator?

One piece of advice I can give is to note your ideas. I carry around a little book and a pen everywhere, and when an idea comes, I sketch it or write it down. I number my booklets and keep them on a shelf. Over the years they have formed something like a soil, where projects can sprout from. Also, once in a while I’m in an emotional stage of my life, where suddenly an idea for a project emerges. Even if I have no time at all, I take a week off and dive into that idea and outline the project, because that constellation of me and the world in that very moment may not return and the ideas may be forgotten. Last but not least, I try to follow projects that give me joy (or are paid well) and I’m open to different forms of art.


Hereford college digital space workshop -Participants reveiwing the first round of results based on reduction method, led by Lawrence Grimm and spported by Ed Catley and the Swiss Embassy in the UK

Lawrence Grimm currently works on a collection of drawings, supported by Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, a book should be published in 2025.