Franco-German artist Kera Till on illustrating ELLE’s April cover in the times of social distancing

A political science major-turned-illustrator, artist Kera Till’s artwork is an unlikely mix of satire and femininity. But, all of her work never fails to represent the zeitgeist; her artwork titled ‘Commuting in times of Corona’ for instance struck a chord with so many on Instagram that it went viral. The Franco-German illustrator who has also worked with fashion giants like Chanel, Rimowa, Cartier and Hermès, among others, worked on ELLE’s April cover. In an interview, she reveals how she balances motherhood while working from home and what are the highs and lows of working as a freelance artist.

Excerpts from the interview: 

ELLE: You’ve majored in political science. When did you realise you wanted to be an illustrator?

Kera Till:  I was always drawing and mainly inspired by vintage fashion illustrations. But, when I finished school, illustrations weren’t so popular in magazines. I didn´t realise it could become a job. While I was an intern at Net-a-Porter in London, I dared to show some work samples to the art director and she gave me my first little commission to illustrate for the website. That’s how I knew I had to carry on and there was a chance my passion could also become my job. I got commissions from magazines and slowly built up a professional portfolio.


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ELLE: What is your favourite creation so far? How challenging was it? 

KT:  My most precious experience was drawing live for Chanel at its show in Hamburg. It was challenging to draw live and so quickly but I had a clipboard and a few pencils clipped on it so I didn’t have to search for anything. It was unforgettable.

ELLE: ‘Commuting in Corona Times’ seems to have hit the right chord on social media. What was your reaction to it going viral? 

KT:  I am so happy that my ‘Commuting in Corona Times’ map was shared so much all over the world on social media. I was trying to distract myself in quarantine and came up with this idea. I drew it quickly, posted it on Instagram, went to bed and the next morning it had already gone viral.


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How commuting should look like these days. I know not everyone can work from home though… #staysafe #stayhome

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ELLE: How do you balance being a new mother and working from home? What’s the one tip you follow to stay organised?

KT:  At the moment our son is at home with us the whole day. We work in shifts and sometimes I work at night when he is sleeping. It’s not my favourite time to work but I do not have much choice. The good thing is that I am more disciplined because the time I have to work for myself is so limited so I try to make the most of it. And outside this special time of crisis, the best tip is always to get help if you can afford it.

ELLE: Which of your dream brands have you worked with so far? What’s still on the bucket list?

KT:  I worked with a lot of brands I always dreamed of. Chanel, Rimowa, Cartier, Hermès, Ladurée, The Carlyle Hotel, Barilla. I still dream of a collaboration with Coca Cola Light, which I drink a lot.


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All I want for Christmas… Live drawing for @cartier at #Hörl last night #cartier

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ELLE: What are your biggest struggles as a freelancer for 10 years? And, what is your advice to other freelancers?

KT:  Like a lot of creatives, administrative work and bookkeeping isn´t my favourite part. Also, I work all the time and sometimes too much. But, this is also my tip when you start: don’t expect it to be like employment. It will always be different, you will work at the weekend and nights. Therefore, you will have a break in the middle of the week when others are working.


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ELLE as a magazine has always been empathetic of the current climate. We took the informed decision to not carry our planned cover shoot. It just wouldn’t be right—and it wouldn’t be fair on our readers especially when our world is at the edge of a breakdown. Instead, we worked with three exceptional artists to create imagery that would be symbiotic of world view right now. . We asked the acclaimed Franco-German artist @keratill to interpret her idea of social distancing. “For me, India is all about colour. I tried to visualise social distancing without making it scary or dark, and because it is still about connection, I used the dashed lines,” says Kera. Read more about our collaboration with @KeraTill via link in bio. . As a gesture of goodwill, our April issue will be available for free download on on April 6. . Editor-in-Chief: @supriya.dravid Artwork: @keratill Animation: @vidhimirpuri Music: @bensound . #ELLEApril #Art #SocialDistancing #FlattenTheCurve #InThisTogether #StayHomeStaySafe #KeraTill

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ELLE: How was the experience of designing the cover for ELLE India? How did you conceptualise it?

KT:  First of all, it is such an amazing opportunity and visibility in a country I have never been too. I have been dreaming to visit for a long time. For me, India means colour. To create a cover, it is important to think about the graphic impact first. I tried to visualise social distancing without making it scary or dark. It is still about connection, that’s why I used the dashed lines. I hope readers will like it! I also hope it will be recognisable from far away.

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