Copenhagen-based artist Maya Gürtler a.k.a. Pen & Ink is a woman of two creative trades; illustration and tattoos. Her black and white, nature-inspired designs pay tribute to her passion for the beautiful outdoors. We sat down with her over a coffee-infused drink to talk about her love for pens, her fascination with forests and the role of light and shadows in her artwork.
What’s your favourite drink at Happy Hour?
I don’t drink much alcohol, but when I do my favourite drink would have be a nice glass of dry champagne or an espresso martini. I’m a coffee junkie. You are based in Copenhagen.
What do you love most about living in Denmark and what could you do without?
In general Denmark is a great place to live—especially Copenhagen, which is such a beautiful, old city I love it! It’s not too big and not too small. I live in the city, but the coast and countless forests are close by. We are quite far north, and I could definitely do without the long, moist and dark winters. But then again, we do get the most amazing, long and light summer evenings!
Why are pens your go-to medium?
I love the simple look of pen on paper. And to be honest I don’t have enough patience for massive paintings. Working with pens and paper allows me to get a lot of ideas down quickly.
How would you describe your style?
I think, at its essence, my style is clean and simple. My drawings almost look like they were graphically designed, despite the fact they are all created by hand. I work primarily with cross-hatching and geometry. I love transforming natural subjects into something new and different, as opposed to just copying them—I translate them into something modern and almost digital.
Plants and animals are your main subjects of choice. Where does this fascination come from?
I love nature. It’s as simple as that. I spent a lot of my childhood in Sweden’s forests because my family owns a house in the countryside. My father is Norwegian, so I also spent time in the mountains in Norway. Whenever I feel the need to recharge or rediscover myself, I gravitate towards nature and solitude.
Who or what inspires you? Why?
I draw a lot of inspiration from the wilderness. Other artists also inspire me on a creative level. The people around me inspire me to do better, push myself and keep at it; especially in times when my inspiration reaches a low point.
Tell us a little bit more about your relationship with tattoos.
In addition to being an illustrator I am a tattoo apprentice. I love the mix of the two worlds. They are not that far apart, and I use my work and style in some of my tattoos. The craftsmanship in tattooing is very different and quite challenging—but it is so much fun! It’s pretty amazing when you tattoo your designs onto people knowing they will be there for ever.
What are three things you could never live without?
I could never live without my books. I have always been an avid reader and I am slowly, but surely, building my very own library. Admittedly, this has gotten a bit out of hand. It’s taking over most of my dining room at this point. I need a bigger house.
Secondly, I couldn't live without music. I’m very much into all things folk, country, blues and old soul. I always listen to music when I work.
Finally, I couldn’t live without my dog. He is a Greek rescue dog and keeps me company when I work alone from home. Without him that would get pretty lonely at times. He also makes me laugh a lot!
Where do you go when you need some headspace?
I always turn to nature when I need to clear my mind. I love talking walks in the wild forest around our house, and strolling down the long, deserted shores of the coast.
Light or shadows?
Both! I love light, it revitalises me and gives me energy. I thrive on it. But there is something interesting about shadows, especially for my creative process. My work is mainly an interplay with shadows, and it is often here that I come across the most interesting things.
Thank you, Maya!