This is Birgit Schössow’s fifth cover for the magazine, and, if one looks at the others, the sheer versatility of her style becomes apparent. Schössow lives in Germany, and she recently told us about the pleasures of where she works.
You live out in the German countryside, not far from the Baltic Sea. What is it like during the fall?
It’s very relaxing. From my studio I look into the garden and, beyond that, a pasture with sheep. North Germans are said to have a soft heart in a tough exterior. That’s how I feel about the landscape, especially in autumn and winter. Right now, it’s great to take a walk by the sea: the wind is blowing and you’re almost alone on the beach. And then you can stop for a Pharisäer—a hot rum with coffee and whipped cream—or maybe two.
Do you work at home or in a separate space? What’s your workspace like?
I have my studio here in the house. I jump out of bed and can go straight to my workplace—what a luxury! Maybe our job as artists is to make no difference between life and work. When I have an idea while cooking, I don’t have to go far to try and pursue it.
In school, you studied children’s-book illustration. What did that field teach you?
For my diploma thesis, I illustrated “The Member of the Wedding,” a novel by Carson McCullers—so not a work for children, though I don't really see much difference. It is a coming-of-age story that teen-agers could read, if they only knew about it. If something goes to your heart, touches you, it does not matter how old you are.
You’ve mentioned being moved by J. J. Sempé, one of our most frequent contributors. What draws you to his work?
On the one hand, it is his warm, human way of bringing figures to life. And then I happened to read a book by Sempé when The New Yorker published my first cover. Sempé described how he stood in front of the New Yorker’s building and was too shy to go in. Very likeable fellow! If I had children, I would be happy if they were like Le petit Nicolas.
Which other artists do you look to for inspiration?
I just purchased an extra-large edition of all of Rembrandt’s sketches and drawings. What a pleasure. I also just saw a very moving interview with Hockney. Lucian Freud is great. And sometimes a rough, old wall is inspiring.
See below for more covers that celebrate fall:
“A Pretty Picture,” by Benoît van Innis
“Autumn in Central Park” by Eric Drooker
“Rolling Out the Gold Carpet,” by John Cuneo