Experiencing Doro Ottermann’s art is like being inside a magical Rube Goldberg machine that creates yellow colored pencils by brilliantly engineering levers and pulleys out of things you might find in a kid’s desk. When she was given drawing pens as a young girl, Doro began her intricate, thoughtful scribbling—and never stopped. She’s been furiously drawing, illustrating, writing books, and animating charming short videos intermittently with her rigorous napping since she graduated from the University of Hamburg with a degree in visual communication. We connected with Doro about her unique attraction to lost items, her love of knitting and napping, and so much more to celebrate the launch of her Artist Shop.
Your final project in college was about lost items you found on the streets. How did you come up with that idea, and what was compelling about it to you? What medium or form did the project take? What were some of the objects?
I was completely at a loss on what project to do for my exams, so I took a lot of walks in my city, hoping the idea would just magically appear. And then I found a to-do list someone had lost, and nothing on the list was checked. So I decided to take care of this list and did all the things as close as possible. Went to the addresses written down, took photos there, and all that. And while I was doing this, I found some photos someone had lost or thrown away. I then drew the people on these photos. When I found a shopping list I bought the things written down there and used them for cooking.
Picking up things from the street got pretty addictive, so over the course of a few months I collected a huge amount of coins, play cards, plastic items, lists, love letters, hate letters, and even a rap some kid wrote down. In the end, I turned all these little projects and also all the found bits and pieces, into a lost-and-found office with a huge desk and drawers full of my collected things, files of letters and lists. People could walk in and add to it or take things. So the whole thing kind of happened by accident and turned out entertaining and fun in the end.
What are your earliest memories creating art and what were some of your early mediums?
I started drawing in school at age 7 or so because my mom forgot to give me pens earlier when I was smaller. First things I made there were dozens of advent calendars with little drawings hiding behind countless doors. I liked drawing and creating so much that since then I never stopped.
As a writer and illustrator, does narrative or storytelling play a role in your art, and if so, how?
Yes, of course. I like telling stories and entertaining other people. Sometimes when something stupid happens in my life, I like to turn it into something useful, funny, or helpful because I like being optimistic—and laughing about most things makes them less scary.
When you’re not illustrating, designing, writing, or making stop-motion animation, what do you like to get out and do? What activities give you energy and inspiration?
I go running and I like knitting. Both things are like a vacation for the brain or as I call it “braincation,” this is really important because if creative people are creating all the time without a break, I don’t know what might happen. Maybe the brain explodes? Especially knitting is great. I just enjoy following a pattern and having to count stitches. So calming. And in the end, I have something nice and warm to wear. It’s like winning on so many levels.
What does your process look like for your stop-motion animation pieces? What do you like about making them? What’s difficult about making them?
I’m self taught in animation and am still learning about it—trying out what works and what doesn’t. The most difficult thing for me is that it takes a lot of patience to do animations. And sometimes, I’m not a very patient person. Or, let’s say, I swear a lot during the process…But also, it’s definitely a lot of fun! It’s a bit like doing magic, as you can always do little tricks that would never work in real life. This is what I like most about doing animations.
What are some of the main themes or topics your work highlights?
Not sure that I really have one main theme. It’s more, I think the world currently is in a very bad state with the climate crisis, politics, and so on. With my work I decided: when I can’t change things, I at least don’t want to add to all that misery. That’s why I try to create good and positive things that make people laugh or think, and maybe feel less alone in all this chaos.
Do you like to team up with other artists on your work? If so, what’s your philosophy on creative collaboration and what do you look for in artistic partnerships?
Yes, I love that! I regularly ask other artists I like to do projects together when I think it will work out. Some reply, and some don’t. Sometimes this leads to nice collabs, this especially works well with the animations I do.
What do you do to refresh your artistic passion when you’re not feeling inspired?
When I’m not inspired, I go to the couch and take a nap. The best ideas come to me before I fall asleep or in the moments when I’m waking up from a nap. That’s why I call myself a “napworker” and wrapped up a whole science around what I call “napworking.” It’s very useful because it combines the two things I love the most: working and taking naps. I hope that in the future more people will become napworkers and benefit from this technique. Also, it’s great because even if this technique doesn’t work for you, at least you had a nap and feel refreshed!
What advice do you have for up-and-coming artists?
Do things YOU like, show your work, and if you are a chronic overthinker: postpone all the overthinking until you’re done with the project.