Founded in 2015, ZEBU is a creative duo from Berlin which is active in the fields of art and illustration. The studio's bold and dynamic visual language is applied in print products, murals, rugs and exhibitions.
MEZCAL VERDE: When did you start doing illustration and why?
We are both born and raised in Berlin and that's also the place where we are based right now. We have our roots in graffiti and urban art culture. We both met at a punk concert as teenagers and soon started to go painting together. Back then we mainly painted in abandoned buildings or squads and we screenprinted little posters and stickers. It came quite natural that we were drawing figuratively. Back then creating things was a more playful thing for us, we did not reflect much on what we were doing. With attending art school we drifted more and more into design and art. Looking back, we think what fascinated us is that illustrating and painting gives you the freedom to create your own images, free from reality or naturalism. And that is what is still interesting for us.
MV: How do you think one's environment influences an artist's work?
Z: We think one’s environment has a huge influence on an artist's work. Firstly, we are very privileged to live in one of the richest and safest countries in the world. The fact that we are able to go to an art school seems so normal, but it’s not. It is such a huge privilege to have the freedom to do what we do.
MV: How do you both manage to work together over the time?
Z: We work together as good as anything. We sketch together, compose the composition together and discuss the colorings together. Sometimes we have our own drawing sheets for doing sketches, sometimes we sketch together on the same one. But we always talk about it together and take the good aspects of the different ideas we brought to paper. Of course, at certain points of the work, the tasks are split up. However, the image-ideas and forms are always created together. There are hardly any projects we work on individually. Cooperation has many advantages for us. We can inspire and motivate each other. One person can pick up the train of thought or the line of the other and continue it. This way we are able to create a visual language which we could hardly archive individually.
MV: What do you enjoy most about your work?
Z: We are really happy and grateful that our work enables us to live an independent and free lifestyle. We have the chance to structure our days after our own rhythm and we get the chance to travel, see new places and meet new people and cultures. Another thing we really enjoy about our work as artists is that we have the chance to create, bring ideas to life. It’s such a great feeling to catalyze inspiration in form of paintings, illustrations, murals or rugs!
MV: Which techniques do you use?
Z: We always like to try out new techniques and mediums to work with. Since the beginning we love to paint murals. What we like about working on walls is that you have the opportunity to present your work to a big variety of people. This gives you the chance to inspire an audience who would maybe never go into galleries or look into design books. Also working on a mural is a welcome variety to the daily illustrator-life in the studio, because you have to use your whole body to paint. It is almost like a workout. On the other hand we also really enjoy painting big or small formats in our studio, using acrylic paint and brushes. We also create digital illustrations for books, zines, prints, etc. Lately we have been experimenting a lot with a tufting gun to make our own rugs.
MV: What message do you want to share through your work today?
Z: Our visual language is reduced, abstract and bold. The way we paint is a result of the way we see the things around us. When we look at an object, shape or figure we feel the need to reduce its form and make it more abstract. We like to erase all the unimportant information and focus on the essence. Through this creative process our work becomes bold and dynamic. There is no fix agenda in our work, but there is definitely a motivation for the way we paint: Through reducing and abstracting the form of the human body we create figures which can’t be assigned to a specific gender or nationality. Every person should have the possibility to identify with our work. We would like to depict a diverse society in our works, not a stereotype one.
MV: What is the inspiration behind the label you created for Mezcal VERDE?
Z: The main idea for this design is based on an urban local slang. Here in Berlin, you can call yourself or a friend a “Schnäppervogel” if you had a lot of shots during a fun night with your close ones. It translates roughly like “shot bird“ or “liquor bird“, but not at all in a derogatory way. It’s more a fun, loving nickname which reminds us of the fun nights and good times with friends during a night out.