Christoph Niemann’s “Virtual Reality” | The New Yorker

On the cover of the Innovation & Technology Issue, Christoph Niemann captures the eternal tug of war between the lure of the outside and the joys of technology. Even for a prehistoric cave dweller, the tablet could prove potentially absorbing. The dilemma has only grown as the number and variety of technological gadgets has proliferated. We recently talked to the artist about the place of digital tools and good old-fashioned paper and pencil in his creative process.

You are very proficient with digital tools, yet many of your images celebrate the magic of simple line drawings. Do you like to work out ideas with a pen or on a tablet?

Pencil and paper are still my first choice. Drawing ideas is closer to writing than it is to painting, and a pencil lets you slowly search for a shape, while markers and pens have too much contrast right away. Tablets are a wonderful invention for the kind of work I do, particularly animation, but the radiance of a drawing on screen, especially when you add color, can help mask a weak idea. And I wouldn’t want one of those to survive, would I?

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You often work in series, like the one above that you recently posted on your Instagram account @abstractsunday. What led you to make characters from hammers and nails?

This is the kind of exercise we did in art school: take a metaphor and squeeze as many iterations out of it as possible. Usually, they are just playful riffs. Like so many, I was helplessly obsessing over the war in Ukraine. These drawings became a release valve for the mess of confusion, anger, and fear in my head.

Given a choice between staying inside on a sunny day to work on an idea or going outside and enjoying the spring, which would you choose?

Of course I would go outside! Though, usually, after eight minutes, I’m antsy and thinking, “OK, this is nice. Thanks.” And then I go back to my desk, where I belong.

For other covers about innovation and technology, see below:

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