Peter Brockhammer is a character designer, illustrator and concept artist working in the publishing, games, and movie industry. Peter’s work is influenced by classic Disney and Studio Ghibli and he has previously worked for KARAKTER - Design Studio, ImagineFX and 3D Total.
Hi Peter, where are you based and how long have you been creating?
Hey Hey, first thanks a lot for reaching out to me for this interview. Since 2009 I’ve been living in Germany's exciting, colorful and amazing capital city, Berlin. Originally I am from east Germany, but after my high school graduation in 2008 it became pretty much obvious to me that I should move to Berlin and study something to do with art.
As clichéd as it may sound, my parents told me that I was drawing ever since I had been able to hold a pen. And to be honest, I can’t really remember a period in my life where I haven’t drawn.
My parents always wanted me to study fashion design. I have no clue why, because neither of them were related to art in any way. After several workshops and meetings at fashion design schools, I realized that this was definitely not a business I could see myself working in.
By accident I enrolled into a university where I started studying Communication Design focused on Illustration and Concept Art.
You’ve previously said the art of Disney is a huge influence, are there any particular Disney artists or characters who have influenced you more than others?
Disney movies had a huge impact on artists of my generation. I think everyone can name 3-4 artists with a similar style, and I would say that I am one of them.
The Little Mermaid was the first Disney movie I saw. I think I must have been around three or four years old. This movie had a huge impact in my life. There is this fascination about the fact that she is a fantasy character, not 100% fish nor 100% human, but something in between. Maybe this is a hint as to why I always related to her, because I always felt the same as a child, not fitting into the norms of society.
Drawing mermaids gave me a lot of joy, and drawing dynamic and flowing lines became my thing.
Another important impact followed through the work of Chris Sanders who did the character design for Lilo and Stitch. He created a whole new style for Disney with different faces, body shapes and expressions. What’s really stood out were the female body shapes he created. In previous movies the female protagonists all had the same hourglass shape and pretty faces. But in Lilo and Stitch, the main characters had to be strong and tough, which the shapes had to represent to the viewer. That opened my view on creating characters. Even now I remember how I wished to draw like him.
You also reference classic painters such as Caravaggio and Alphonse Mucha as inspirations. Can you tell us a little more about their influence in your work?
In high school I was lucky to grow up in a city known for amazing art museums and history. Combined with a great art teacher, this made for a great benefit. One of the main rules of becoming a good artist is to learn from the masters. Renaissance paintings from Caravaggio, Raffael or Michelangelo taught me some great lessons about color, composition, light and anatomy. Later I discovered Alphons Mucha, who was revolutionary to me because he combined a realistic aspect with a more graphic, almost comic-book style. His dynamic outlines made a great contrast to the realistic women he drew.
Outside of the art world, are there any other influences that have had an impact on you and your work?
Definitely my professor from life drawing class at University. She is one of the reasons, beside The Little Mermaid, why my lines are so dynamic. We were not allowed to draw on paper any smaller than A1. Her reason was that we wouldn't be able to feel the line we are drawing, and she was completely right. I think this is advice not everyone gets in their lifetime.
You recently custom built your own studio and workspace. How was this as an experience, and what was the most rewarding part of designing your own set up?
Every time I’ve moved into a new apartment my workspace has been the most important part. Your workspace has to be your happy place to be. You have to decide what you need to get into work mode and be inspired. It kind of forces you to think and reflect about yourself and who you are as an artist. It is almost like an appointment with a therapist. Afterwards you feel smarter and wiser. Well at least I do.
We love plants here at Procreate, and noticed you’re a big plant fan. What do you get out of keeping plants?
Haha, I didn’t expected this question. Deep in my heart I have an esoteric soul. Once I called my working space my little ‘Zen Garden’ and plants are a main part of that. Being connected to nature gives me a lot of peace and relaxation. Maybe there is a connection to my childhood, where I spent a lot of time in the woods. Having the smell of trees and moss in my nose and hearing the rushing of the wind calms me down. And my little jungle brings me a tiny piece of that to my working space.
Like a lot of artists, you started out using traditional media and transitioned over to a digital workflow. What attracted you to creating in digital?
Okay I’m feeling really old now thinking about it. I think it’s been around 17 years since graphic tablets became a thing. And to me it was so exciting making art on a computer. It is super easy for me to get excited by new things no matter what it is, as long as I haven’t tried it out before. After my first graphic tablet I became pretty excited by every new digital art tool that has been released. iPad Pro has been one of them, and I would say that it has been the most worthy investment out of of all of them.
Your work is full of grace, flow and movement, and often avoids the more static front-on perspective used in traditional character design. What draws you to this more dynamic style of character design?
I think each artist has their own unique way to draw related to their emotions during the process. It feels like I can truly express myself, and that the lines I'm drawing feel real to me. Does that make sense? But at the moment I am trying to combine static and dynamic styles to create exciting contrast. So stay tuned. :D
What’s on the horizon for Peter Brockhammer?
Last year I decided to go back to university and study Game Design. I got scared I might miss something and get stuck. So I invested some money in getting some 3D modeling and programming skills. Because, why not? :D
What’s your favorite Procreate feature, and what do you enjoy about using it?
The Palette Capture feature is my game changer. Just by dragging a reference picture to create a color pallet makes it so quick and ready to work. I just love it.
If you could add one feature to Procreate what would it be?
That is the hardest question. I am really bad at finding out what I need. But I would say seeing you grow as a company from the very beginning, I can always trust Procreate to make our art even better with every new release. This is how I feel looking back on all the artworks I made with Procreate.
Discover Peter’s stunning work at pietmaen.com Follow him on Instagram @pietmaen or support Peter via his Patreon.