“Handmade drawings come with a certain inaccuracy,” says Berlin-based illustrator Sophia Martineck, whose sketchy, blunt, and charming work has been featured in The New York Times Magazine, the Guardian, as well as a host of German weeklies. “For me, this looseness brings life to a drawing.” As well as her editorial work, Martineck is an avid and prolific comic-book maker, having created a number of picture books depicting everything from Sherlock Holmes to rural life in Germany to stories by Katharine Mansfield.
Unlike a lot of the sleek, crisp, digital images that adorn the culture section of today’s newspapers, Martineck’s work is deliberately rough. Her straight lines and warped perspectives, her intense detail and careful coloring inside the lines, and her meticulously rendered—though oddly wiggly—limbs, body shapes, and facial expressions remind me of what a child might sketch in a ring-bound notebook while watching cartoons on a rainy Sunday.
Yet instead of drawing super villains and fantastic heroines like a child (probably) would, Martineck is fascinated by the everyday. “It’s familiar, pretty simple, but at the same time quite powerful underneath,” she says.
The everyday can be annoying, brutal, or boring. But it’s inevitable.
In her sharply rendered images, patients go to the dentist for check-ups, a man dusts his precious China collection, a woman mournfully takes her trash out in the rain. “My stories always happen in the real world,” Martineck explains. These real-life moments suit the simple, everyday medium of the rough pencil lines that they’re created with—and from these ordinary moments, other narratives emerge. A woman taking the trash out is someone removing all the reminders of an ex after a break up; you can read a lot into what’s usually ignored and unobserved.
To begin an image, Martineck writes down key words that she’ll imbue a sketch with, then circles over and over the paper, making small rounds of sketches until all the details are complete. She works to the dimensions that an illustration will be published in, so her drawings are often small, each line meticulous.
With 2B pencil for sharpness and 3H pencil for texture, Martineck’s illustrations convey a view of the world that’s both charmingly childlike and astute. By shifting her perspective away from the realms of a kid’s imagination, focusing instead on quotidian life, the special qualities of the things we typically ignore become strikingly apparent, and kind of wonderful.