Avant-garde

Comics as a form of illustration – Titus Ackermann

Titus: Was vom Leben übrigbleibt, Erinnerungen an meinen Großvater, Work-in-prgress, Skizze Seite 9
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Titus Ackermann (artist’s name: Titus) is characterised above all by one thing: versatility. He scribbles small black-and-white cartoons, models plastic figures, and paints large-scale acrylic portraits. He doodles children’s drawings and produces sleek advertising images and scrawly logos. Titus, born in 1970 in Basel, sees comics as a form of illustration. For him, each drawing style has its own raison d’etre.

Comics as a passion from childhood on

This diversity in content and form expresses the passion with which Titus has approached comics since early childhood. “My parents say that I just didn’t succeed at learning to read in first grade. Then my father had the idea of giving me Mickey Mouse comic books. Within two weeks, I was able to decipher the texts in the speech balloons,” Titus remembers.

Ackermann drew his first cartoons for the school newspaper. His caricature of the school director led to the paper being prohibited. “I discovered what power drawings can have,” says Titus. He immediately invested the money he earned in a comic shop in more comics. A friend of the family, the Luxembourgian artist Francois Didier, became his first artistic mentor: “He gave me pointers and recommended that I acquaint myself with the many forms and varieties of drawing,” thus Titus. He counts Hugo Pratt, Gianni Pacinotti (Gipi), David Hockney and Tomi Ungerer among the important artists who have significantly influenced his own work.

His career aspiration of “comic artist” was soon clear. But about three years were to pass before he obtained his desired admission to the Stuttgart Academy of Fine Arts under the renowned illustrator Heinz Edelmann. A postgraduate study programme in children’s book illustration and journalistic drawing followed at the Macintosh School of Art in Glasgow, Scotland.

Founder of the comic magazine Moga Mobo

Titus has lived in Berlin since completing his studies. He enjoys its metropolitan hustle and bustle. “Here, east and west mix and form something new.” Together with Thomas Gronle and Jonas Greulich, he founded the artists’ group Moga Mobo. Since 1994, the trio has produced the comic book series of the same name that is available free of charge in bars, movie theatres and comic book shops. The comic book soon attained cult status with its weird and wonderful ideas: once, they produced an issue with the theme “Sommerloch” with a hole in the middle (translator’s note: an untranslatable visual pun – the German word for “summer slump” is “Sommerloch,” literally “summer hole”), another time they issued an Advent calendar with 24 Christmas stories.

For an issue on the theme of “faith,” Titus illustrated a text by Terry Reilly. In five panels, with sparing use of pictorial means, the comic tells the story of a man who escapes depression and death. Titus made use of unusual perspectives for the comic’s design: a bird’s-eye view of a small child makes the child seem even more innocent, a zoom to a face focuses on a slight smile. A comic like a lovely song – well-structured, poetic and harmonious all at once.

International successes with the German-Japanese comic project Kugelblitz

Titus regularly seeks out contact with other artists. In 2005, he spent several months in Tokyo with the Japanese artists’ group Nou Nou Hau. Together, they developed a story about a Kugelblitz (i.e. ball lightning), and became a sensation with exhibitions in Japan and Berlin. Since then, he offers drawing courses for amateur and professional draughtsmen in Cuba, Algeria and in Lebanon on a regular basis.

Titus is currently working on a comic dealing with his grandfather’s life story, who lived through the French occupation of the Ruhr region, the Weimar Republic, National Socialism and the post-war era: “an exciting journey into my own family’s history.”
Rieke C. Harmsen
is an art historian and works as an editor for the "Evangelischen Pressedienst" (epd).

Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Online-Redaktion
June 2010
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