German artist Lucy Bohr uses digital illustration as a medium for personal expression; her evolving portfolio brims with vibrancy, relatability, and the spirit of youth. We spoke to her at the House of Vans Berlin event; a one-off experience including workshops, concerts, and art exhibitions that champion the work of emerging talents, like Bohr.
We are chatting outside in direct sunshine; it’s afternoon in early spring and the summer atmosphere is finally approaching. “When the weather is warm enough I like to sit in parks and work. The color combinations of people in nature shape up to be nice first compositions, and I think, ‘Oh, I have to sketch that!’”, she explains. Bohr’s multicolored images of urban culture, fashion, and relationships, originate from observing friends and strangers going about their daily, modern lives. “I start with people watching, usually from a cafe”, she says. “I’m interested in how urban surroundings shape people’s experiences—the little things we do each day”. This includes situations like drinking coffee, relaxing with friends, embracing a lover, or smoking cigarettes. “The relatable things”, she laughs.
"I’m interested in how surroundings shape people’s experiences—the little things we do each day”
When asked why she is drawn to portraying the nuances of human life through art, the softly-spoken Bohr puts it matter-of-factly: “It just feels natural”. Illustrations of affection feature regularly throughout her work, be it through simple gestures of handholding, cuddling a friend, or whispering into an ear. “They’re things we alldo, and all desire”, she says, “and you can easily find yourself in the artwork and imagine that it’s you”. In addition, this relatability extends deeper to portray a subtle presence of emotion. While simple in their design, Bohr’s illustrations feel alive with reality because of the way they show the complexity of human feeling—at times, loneliness, yearning, and contemplation, trickle through her work. These displays of intimacy are important because they allow the viewer to connect with the art. “I guess that’s what I’m wanting to achieve, that something resonates with the person looking at the image”, explains Bohr. We agree that art should try to be relatable, and that the value of graphic design lies in its easily digestible nature—it is not esoteric, like other forms of art can be. “I think that’s important. There are a lot of different people in life who will interpret the art in different ways”, Bohr acknowledges. “It depends on your own experience”.
Bohr, now living in Cologne, is currently studying graphic design and visual communication at HMKW University, and admits that her color-block style has been shaped by her classes there. “It’s the first thingyou learn”, she says. Her illustrations are characterized by bold, contrasting colors and sharp lines—when asked if she is influenced by the works of artists like Matisse, Hockney, or Caulfield, Bohr gives a knowing smile. She raises the sleeve on her right arm: she has the contoured outline of Matisse’s infamous 1909 painting ‘Dance (I)’ tattooed into her skin. We laugh, and she is flattered that I’ve made this connection to her second-favorite artwork—the first being Gustav Klimt’s ‘The Kiss’, a tattoo she has on her other arm. “I think it’s impossible for a work to have only one influence”, she states. For Bohr, there’s everything from movements in art history and her physical surroundings, to the artists she follows on Instagram and her grandmother, an avid painter.
"You have to believe in yourself and in what you do. Because a lot of people are very scared to fail. But failing is important and it can be a good thing"
Bohr’s presence at the House Of Vans event was her first involvement in a group exhibition, and most certainly not the last. Her longer-term ultimate goal is to illustrate for Die Zeit. “That would be my dream”, she muses. So what stands in her way? “What I’m still learning is that you have to believe in yourself and in what you do. Because a lot of people are very scared to fail. But failing is important and it can be a good thing”, she says. “Fear can also be good, because it shows how important something is to you. And once you know that, you can do anything”.