04 Nov Interview with Ingo Fast, an illustrator in Bangkok
Ingo Fast, an illustrator
3 November 2017
With a stroke of pencil as precise as it is humorous, Ingo Fast draws illustrations for a number of prestigious media publications. After Berlin, New York and two world tours, the artist has decided to take his drawing boards to the banks of the Chao Praya and has created the cover for this fifth edition of Latitudes.
The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine, Der Spiegel, Moma, Unicef… Ingo Fast creates conceptual and narrative visuals, oscillating between landscapes and urban cartographies. His illustrations have found their way in numerous magazines, newspapers, books and brochures, as well as editorial, institutional, educational and advertising projects.
Settled in Thailand since 2010, the artist has already spent two decades in the field of illustration as a freelancer. After studying art at the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, Ingo left for New York to continue his studies at the Parsons The New School of Design. He then joined the Fullbright program, a scholarship that put him in contact with other illustrators and teachers. “At the time, illustration was a fairly new field; it was a privilege to be able to pass one’s time drawing, to enter this small community of illustrators in New York, the capital of publishing. It opens doors and helps one to meet the right people to get published. Artists are very sensitive people and it is very important to be able to show one’s work,” he explains with a touch of nostalgia.
At the beginning of the nineties, Ingo Fast started his career as an illustrator in the heart of the Big Apple. Oscillating between small jobs and occasional commissions, he gradually imposed the freshness of his style which is full of imagination and humour, mixing lines drawn by pencil or pen with watercolour, gouache or colours produced digitally.
“I sold my first illustrations around 1991-1992. The first time was for a Swiss newspaper. At the same time, I did all kinds of small jobs to keep going: studio assistant, roller-blade courier… Just until I could do my job as an illustrator full time.”
Since then, he has earned the recognition of his peers at American Illustration, in the Societies of Illustrators in New York and Los Angeles, the Society of Publication Designers, the Society for News Design, and Graphis. He has exhibited his works at various art galleries in the United States and in 2011 he produced the illustrations for the Beach 67th Street/Gaston Avenue subway station in New York. “A few years after my beginnings in New York, I started working for several magazines. I had to collaborate with more than 200 print publications in the United States, Germany and Switzerland, all over the world, in fact,” he explains. His art is not, however, limited to the press: Ingo Fast has also done illustrations for children’s books, textbooks, lettering, postcards, t-shirts, etc.
Like many artists, Ingo developed his childhood passion: “At the time, I liked to draw Spanish galleons crossing the seas. I escaped into a virtual universe through my illustrations. Today, as an adult, I continue to daydream through my drawings. I like to create scenes from the point of view of a bird (literally or conceptually), to create maps that invite the observer to enter another world.”
From the virtual trip to the real journey, there is only a simple step which Ingo took in 2005 for a first eight-month tour through South Africa and Europe, and again in 2007 for a period of thirteen months, this time only travelling by land or sea. Like a lot of long-distance travelers, Ingo then found himself in an optimal condition to realize an old dream to do a world tour: “Twenty years ago, I had a diving accident which made me realize that we only live once and that this life is short. Travelling was an old dream that one often thinks difficult to achieve due to a relationship, children, work… I did not have a girlfriend, the job of freelancer became more and more mobile, I had the possibility of working from everywhere and, in addition, I had no children. All the conditions came together for leaving”.
To finance this journey, Ingo collaborated for three years on a weekly basis with a technology-oriented blog in Hong Kong. “Despite conditions that were not always easy, I always delivered my illustrations on time. I did not miss a single one, even in Bali after an earthquake when I had to ride for several hours all around Denpasar before finding an internet connection so I could send in my files”, he jokes.
It was also at that time that he met the Thai mother of his children. After spending a few years in New York where his eldest daughter was born, he decided to move to Bangkok. “I find Bangkok to be an intriguing, exciting, pleasant and multifaceted city to live in. Professionally speaking, I am geographically independent. Being here or elsewhere is not a problem. Moreover, what is the difference between being seated in a Starbucks in Bangkok or one in another country? You can easily imagine yourself to be in New York or Berlin,” he notes.
With a little over 25 years of experience, Ingo now works almost exclusively on order. Starting with the subject and a few keywords and indications, he makes his first sketches, usually on a small format in order to get a better overview of the whole thing before enlarging it to the correct size. “For the Latitudes cover, the developer MontAzure, who ordered the project, wanted to keep their distance from its design. I knew that they wanted a fairly realistic map of their project, which is one of my specialties. I could not, of course, represent everything, but I selected several key elements of their real estate project in Phuket and I tried to assemble them in a playful and sophisticated way, in order to show the details that are only possible with a drawing”, recounts the artist a few days from delivery of the final illustration.
Through the Latitudes cover, Ingo reveals the method behind all of his work: a reflection stage where ideas are put down on paper, before picking up the pen and drawing by hand, then adding the colour (usually digitally) before delivering the order and any corrections. “For the Latitudes cover, I had to do three versions and there were several requests for changes. For example, the client wanted the beach to take up more space, because it is one of the last properties in Phuket to enjoy such a beautiful stretch of white sand. Most of the time, the process is the same, except for large-scale projects like the illustrations in the New York subway station. For this type of project, I work differently”. At the same time, Ingo admits to a preference for less monumental projects. For him, the smaller it is, the greater the challenge, because the conceptual aspect takes on much more importance. “For me, modern art in general rests above all on the idea, whether you know how to draw or not”!