Interview with Peng

Interview with Peng

May 11, 2021

Whether you’re a newbie or a dab hand, drawing can often be daunting. That’s why cartoons are the best place to start!

Over several decades teaching in schools and art colleges, Austrian cartoonist Peng has developed expert knowledge of the building blocks of drawing and sketching. As he shows, creativity can come from anywhere. Entire sketches can spring up from the simplest lines or curves. Even found objects can spark brilliance – who knows, maybe a stone or leaf could provide the next flash of inspiration!

Peng's latest book, I Can Draw, is a stylish yet playful approach to drawing cartoons, designed to excite even the most tentative artists. We recently ran a brilliant virtual workshop with Peng, and we were excited to catch up with him later to find out a little bit more about his work and why he believes that drawing should be accessible to all...

To buy Peng's new book, 'I Can Draw', head to the Thames & Hudson website here. Be sure to use our special Big Draw code: 'ICANDRAW20' to receive 20% OFF! 

Interview: Matilda Barratt in conversation with Peng.

Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and your practice? 

For many years, I drew as a cartoonist for various print media (daily newspapers, magazines, weeklies) and other clients (illustrations, poster designs etc.). The personal highlight for me as a passionate racing cyclist was accompanying the Tour de France as a cartoonist for the German television station ARD.

I held countless comic and cartoon workshops, taught at the Art University in Austria, and ran advanced training for art teachers at a pedagogical college. I was a founding member of the Academy of Comic Art in Kassel (D) and twice led the summer academy course there with my colleague HU. For all these teaching activities I have developed many innovative modules and methods. A matter close to my heart is the promotion of young talents and contemporary art teaching. 

What are your earliest memories of drawing?

At school, when I was bored, I secretly made jokes and caricatures about teachers and classmates for fun and passed them under the table. That was the beginning and it has never let me go.

[Spread from Peng's latest book, 'I Can Draw']

We’d love to hear more about your new book, I Can Draw!

The basis for the book is over 30 years of experience with workshops, teaching assignments, art education, and work as an illustrator and cartoonist. In innumerable workshops I could use such simple methods to ensure that people would have fun drawing, whether children, young people or adults. To process this simple approach in a book, especially for people who believe they can not draw, was the logical next step. It is an approach that promotes the individual, the expressive. There is no wrong or right, beautiful or ugly, but it is about an optimization of the individual style, the recognition of the beauty of perhaps scrawling drawings. 

Where do you typically find inspiration?

While people-watching, looking at old master paintings, looking at cool contemporary art, goofing off…

What would you say of the importance of creativity in education?

My book is in a way an attempt to counteract the unstoppable digitalization, which results in a loss of personal handwriting and the cultural technique of drawing.

Promoting the individual nature of drawing, and the motivation to use it as a very personal output in letters or the revival of the self-drawn and handwritten postcard… it’s all so important. Drawing with children is essential for the brain and the imagination - especially the imagination!!!

Why do you believe that drawing should be accessible for all?

It should simply be on offer for everyone to express themselves. If you learn to think creatively, then you can transfer that to all areas of life.

[Spread from Peng's latest book, 'I Can Draw']


Is there such a thing as a ‘bad drawing’?

Yes, sure ... very bad ones, even. Anything else would be strange! But that doesn't matter. The important thing is that you don't think it has to be good the first time! It doesn't have to be perfect! Beauty is no longer the point... it could also be critical, funny or nothing at all!

What do you find most challenging, as well as most rewarding, about your career as an illustrator, author and cartoonist? 

To have found a language that works. And to have the possibility to delight and entertain people with it.

[Participants' sketches from Big Draw virtual workshop with Peng]


What would be your advice to someone who was tentatively considering picking up a pencil for the first time?

Don't think too much and start simple. Don't set the bar too high and look for a good source of inspiration. If my books could be such an inspiration, that would make me especially happy. It is not dissimilar to learning to play a musical instrument ... you just have to practice!

So, what’s next for you? Have you got any exciting ideas up your sleeve?

Yes, enough ideas and concepts! I want to continue working on two children's books and finish them. And then change discipline in the summer and carve wood sculptures... and ride a lot on my road bike!

Thank you, Peng!

To buy Peng's new book, 'I Can Draw', head to the Thames & Hudson website here. Be sure to use our special Big Draw code: 'ICANDRAW20' to receive 20% OFF! 

If you were inspired by this interview with Peng and would like to find out more about him and his work, head to his website here. You can also follow him on Instagram: @this_is_peng

Registrations are open for The Big Draw Festival 2021: Make the Change! Find out more about the benefits of becoming an organiser here and other ways to support The Big Draw's mission here.