Since its inception in 2004, the annual Pictoplasma Festival Of Contemporary Character Design And Art in Berlin has delighted audiences with its eclectic mix of back-to-back artist presentations, character-driven installations, colourful exhibitions, playful interactive displays, screenings, and all-night parties.

Returning this year with top artist presentations by McBess, Jeremyville, Rilla Alexander, and Matias Vigliano (founding member of the Argentinian Doma Collective – doma.tv) and many more, it was with excitement that I returned to Berlin for the latest Pictoplasma instalment.

I wasn’t just there as an observer, I was exhibiting our Character Totems, too. As creative director of the Inkygoodness (inkygoodness.com), I was helping to put on our first show at the festival, a collection of wooden totems featuring characters painted by the likes of Matt J0nes, and Hattie Stewart.

With so many loyal followers returning year after year, is it any wonder why Pictoplasma has such enduring appeal? As illustrator -- and fellow Character Totem organiser -- Michelle Turton (michelleturton.com) observes: “What really makes Pictoplasma so special is how accessible the artists and speakers are to the audience – everyone chats to each other no matter what their background or experience.”  Rilla Alexander (byrilla.com) relishes the rare social opportunity: “The festival gives people an opportunity to share work with other like-minded people… in real life!”


Matt JOnes' Mini-Tea tour included (above, left to right) JEFF, the Tarantulas, Lukas Gülcher, and (below) Sneaky Racoon


Rilla Alexander's character Sazi (above) from her book Her Idea (below)

Creatives hunting for inspiration are also rewarded, as illustrator Ben Steers (bensteers.com) notes: “It’s a great chance to catch some of the best character animation out there, and meet the people behind the work.”

Pictoplasma co-founder Lars Denicke adds: “These events have a very unique atmosphere, since it’s all about very personal work – and not commercial jobs. The speaking artists are always very passionate about the characters they create – as if they were family members.” 

The talks offer a rare insight into the working methods of the artists, and what inspires their work; creating characters that become iconic and instantly recognisable. For Australian artist Rilla, the birth of her character Sozi reflected a period in her life when she became frustrated and plagued with self-doubt. She says, “Sozi is my alter-ego, and the line between us is increasingly blurred. Her book, My Idea, tells the tale of my procrastination-laden journey to finish a long talked-about picture book.”

South Park animation director Ryan Quincy’s bleak but optimistic artwork, shown for the first time outside the US at Pictoplasma

As a member of Rinzen, Rilla has published several collaborative book projects and travelled to New York, Tokyo, Madrid and Mexico City for exhibitions and workshops, but it has been this very personal story which has touched the Pictoplasma audience.