A few months back, “The Museum of Comics” in Israel (yes, there is such a thing) presented a piece of illustrated art titled “So anyway, we’ve arrived to NYC”. The artist, Omer Hoffmann, a Brooklyn based illustrator, tells a story that most of us are familiar with; a couple lands in NY, “strangers in a strange land”. They leave behind a complicated reality and come to a new one. I spent some time looking at this poster in preparation for the interview. Hoffmann’s witty observations hit home. On the first look, I chuckle at the inevitable cup of Starbuck Coffee and throngs of pigeons. On the deeper level, it unravels the subtleties of NY, as they are seen through the eyes someone that already knows the ropes, like the ‘apple’ worship and the pesky administrative officials and faceless individuals.
This piece is a part of a series, named “Meanwhile in New York” and it centers around a theme that Hoffmann finds to have “an emotional impact on us as Israelis living in NY. The next comics,” he says, “deals with the fact that we hear news about Israel, only through the internet, which created a difficult emotional experience during the last round of fighting.”
Hoffmann graduated from the department of visual communication in Bezalel Academy, majoring in illustration. Before his studies, he worked as a 3D animator, but he quickly realized that animation wasn’t his true calling. “There was nothing exciting for me, about coming to work everyday in order to move a character 3 inches.”
Since making the switch, he has been working for Israel’s leading newspapers and magazines.“It was easier to get work in the newspaper industry. There are plenty of projects and they are usually short. As an illustrator in Israel, you do whatever you get your hands on. You even switch styles to get work. And you surely are not in it for the money,” he laughs. Hoffmann’s work can be seen in Maariv and Yedioth Aharonoth newspapers and in Globes Magazine. His illustrations are usually scenematic, polished and full of wit.
How do you approach a new project?
Hoffmann explains that the process of Illustration is functional in it’s core . “I get the context from the client and try to depict what they want you to convey.” He lends his vision about something he has never seen before, which allows him a great deal of self expression. “This is what I love about illustration,” he says.
“When I start working with someone, there are many guidelines. But once the connection is established, I get the general outlines and have much more creative freedom. For example, I’ve been illustrating a column for Globes Magazine for a year and a half. My relationship with the writer is great and I receive a lot of creative license to enrich, illuminat and sometimes even subvert the literal meaning of the article. My illustrations are in dialog with the text.
Hoffmann’s move to NY was spontaneous. “My wife and I came for a two week vacation and decided we would like to come for longer. We wanted a change, an adventure.”
From NY, he continues to work for some Israeli publication while making his way into the American market. One of his illustrations appeared in the Wall Street Journal and I was curious about the differences between working with US and Israeli clients.
“The basic workflow is very similar and the real difference is in penetrating the industry. In Israel, if you are good, you just have to know someone, and you’re in. Here, in the US, it’s much more complicated. You need a good portfolio and to keep pressing until you get noticed. You also need to send greeting cards and maintain a good relationship.”
Aside from newspapers, Hoffman also illustrates children’s books. His third book, “Tigerpox”, by Orna Landau, was recently released in Israel.
Do you illustrate differently for kids?
“My style depends more on the nature of the work and less on the audience. In newspapers, things move quickly so my style is more polished and technical. When I illustrate for children’s books, I get more time and my style is sometimes “sketchy” or “scribbly” and has more texture.
Do you enjoy some projects more than others?
“I’m passionate about all my projects. I love working on all of them, I really do. The first fee I ever got for a drawing,” he recalls, “was at the age of 6. I was doodling on the sidewalk one day, during a family trip to Paris. Some passers saw my drawings and began throwing money. My mom really took offense,” he laughs,” and began returning it. But I didn’t mind, I just wanted to keep drawing.”
Written by Rita Schifter
Other articles and interviews by Rita Schifter:
Wow, that is so great. What a talent.