Illustrator Martin Haake on art and imperfection

Martin Haake is a Berlin-based artist whose illustrations and maps have won him international awards and commissions from clients across the globe. Here, he talks about his love for outsider art, the beauty of the German capital and his recent work for Savills

Matt BeavenEditorial & Creative Director

How and when did you start as an illustrator?
I studied communication design in Berlin. While most of the students started working in advertising, I decided to become an illustrator. I had not studied it and I had no experience in doing illustrations as it was not part of the study programme, but that probably helped me to start afresh and work in my own style.

How would you describe your style?
I work in a kind of naive way. I try to put as many things that I love into my work as possible: collage, outsider art, children’s book illustrations from the 1950s and vintage board-game design.

Which artists and illustrators influenced you most?
I am very much influenced by outsider artists like Bill Traylor, Howard Finster and Martin Ramirez – their images are imperfect, full of mistakes, naive and therefore charming, I think. But my all-time hero is Saul Steinberg.

Who are you most excited by today?
The world of Wes Anderson.

What is your working method?
I play around with roughs, paint, draw and cut paper, and then put it all together on the computer, where I do the composition and work on details.

Has technology changed how you work?
Yes. When I started, I was working in an analogue-only way. But after some inner struggles, I decided to also use the computer and Photoshop, so I could use all kinds of tools to create my images.


You recently created two map-based illustrations for Savills. Did these have any particular challenges? What did you enjoy most about them?
This was a wonderful job. Maps allow me to work with all kinds of materials as well as hand lettering. It was great to create a map of the Cotswolds area as I really love that place. As I was researching the landscape, buildings and people, and putting it all together, it felt a little bit like I was on vacation there.

How would you describe your studio?
It’s a light-filled space with high ceilings in a nice neighbourhood in Berlin-Mitte. The state of it is something between really tidy and quite a mess.

How has Berlin influenced your work?
The beauty of Berlin is in its rawness, mix of concrete and Gründerzeit buildings, kind of unprofessionalism, and charming people. It’s full of galleries with new and fresh work that inspires me to create art.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be doing?
I would love to be a composer and write some easy listening music.

Find out more about Martin’s work here

Martin is represented in the UK by Central Illustration Agency