Daniel Coulmann is a German photographer and graphic designer from Hamburg who creates striking works that combine imagery, text, and various other visual elements into something that is startlingly unique and impactful. We spoke to Daniel about his background, his love of film, and how he ensures his designs work for multiple products that he’s made available on Redbubble.
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]”…every thought, no matter how simple or absurd it might seem at first, could be precious.”[/tweet_box]
Tell us about your background.
It was very clear to me in early days that I will be doing something creative one day. Even as a kid I enjoyed to create beautiful things, to draw, handcraft and to come up with stories. When I was around 8 years-old movies and television series had a great appeal to me, so as a teenager I got properly addicted. What fascinates me about that medium until today is that it combines so many different art directions. Specifically the work from David Fincher had a sustainable impact on me. His movie Fight Club was a revelation to me. I think he combines film, photography, acting, literature, music, and graphic elements to create a unique artwork like nobody else. This triggered the wish in me to get to know as many of those areas as possible and studying as a graphic designer covered a lot of it.
How did you get into photography?
Through my video projects. At some point I replaced my old digital 8 video camera that started to show its age with a digital reflex camera. Initially only for videos, I started using it for photography more often.
What inspires you?
You can find inspiration simply everywhere. On the train, at the breakfast table with the family, combing through books and magazines or browsing the internet. If I don’t load my head with too much grownup, day-to-day stuff, but allow it to be childish, than it’s full of unsorted little ideas. I try to capture all of them. Because every thought, no matter how simple or absurd it might seem at first, could be precious. During the brainstorm there is no place for rationality.
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]”I try to think in advance about how the design could look on separate products.”[/tweet_box]
What is your creative process?
I have a box in which I collect all of my ideas on index cards. I comb through that pool of ideas regularly. Sort, add, throw out and eventually pick the ideas, that I think are ready to be executed. Before I start with the execution, I think about the matching style and color concept. Additionally, I try to think in advance about how the design could look on separate products. I create most of my work with Photoshop and Illustrator. For that I created templates a while ago to start each of my online designs. Those templates contain of patterns for each product that is being offered on Redbubble. This way I have an imagination during the design process already how it might look and can adjust the design to the separate formats.
The work “I SEE FIRE” is great. Can you tell us more about that piece?
I’m glad to hear, it’s also one my favorite designs. Most of my photographs develop on trips and are rather spontaneous discoveries than planned projects. I love the sea, that’s why most of my destinations are around coasts. To gather new photographic impressions, I decided last year for the first time to go to the mountains. There I watched one evening how the setting sun colored the mountain across my holiday home in such a glowing red, that it seemed to burn. I usually have my camera with me. Out of all I didn’t have it with me on that day. So during the next days I put my tripod at the same time on my balcony and waited for the spectacle to repeat. It never repeated. Instead I got “I SEE FIRE.”
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]”…satisfaction would only hold you back from wanting to learn something new, from developing.”[/tweet_box]
What’s been the most important lesson for you as an artist?
During my studies, and some time after, I had a hard time finishing my work. I was simply never happy with what I did, because I had that fixed idea, that it had to be perfect. So I constantly started over from the beginning or tweaked small things endlessly. If I didn’t have deadlines I probably wouldn’t have finished a single work. I ended up working through the night before the closing date.There is one moment during my semester I like to think back to, because it had such an impact on me. I attended a course that was called Creative Training. Our tutor, a slightly whimsical older gentleman, who used to have a long and successful career in advertising, once picked up a discussion that I had with a few of my fellow students about that exact idea of perfectionism and ended it with a passionate speech about how perfectionism doesn’t exist. That it’s good not to be satisfied, because satisfaction would only hold you back from wanting to learn something new, from developing. It took me a while to really internalize that thought, but it was one of the most valuable advises I ever got. In art the reward is definitely the way.
Do you have any advice for artists who are at the beginning of their careers?
To be honest I don’t even see myself at the point of my life at which I would want to give young artists any advise. I don’t even know which route I picked would eventually get me. But I hope that one day I’ll be able to confidently say that it’s worth to listen to advise, specifically your own, to trust your gut feeling. That it pays to remain true to yourself, to say ‘no’ sometimes and not to get influenced by others for short term success.