Henning Studte, 48, has brandished the European drawing pen for cafebabel.com ever since the birth of the 'Tower of Babel' section. Week in and week out, the skilled caricaturist and newspaper illustrator has gained international understanding, being regularly commissioned to draw for papers as diverse as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the Frankfurt Rundschau. In places where language barriers appear insurmountable from time to time, Henning Studte creates a universal translation with the stroke of a pencil which can be understood from Portugal to Estonia.
What compelled you to draw?
At school I always had a lot of fun impersonating the teachers- their sayings, their pronunciations, their manner of speaking and slips of the tongue, their gestures and their facial expressions. After I left school, I had a strong desire to capture the comic, the droll and the bizarre that surrounds us, with a pencil and to provide aid through exaggeration.
Where do you get your inspirations from for 'Tower of Babel issues'?
The 'Tower of Babel' article always arrives on a Friday. I usually read the text through once and let it get to work inside me. By Tuesday evening the text is 'ripe', and then there are only a few hours before the editorial deadline. With a glass of good wine from an EU country, I submerge my pen with some black Indian ink in the glass. This means that the colours are well rinsed, well mixed and well stirred and so can be brought to the page. Afterwards, the picture is scanned and sent to the editor in Paris via e-mail.
What does 'Tower of Babel' mean to you?
Over the weeks I have grown fond of the Tower of Babel texts which I have been honoured to illustrate. I find I learn a lot about vitality and marksmanship such as the humorous wisdom of an individual language. They bring about the feat of creating countless expansive pictures from a condensed text. I hope that I succeed, in portraying the text in pictures, to conjure a smile on the face of one 'Tower of Babel' reader or another.
How does cafébabel.com’s method appeal to you?
I have always had a strong interest in contemporary political and social events. At one point I spent a long time drawing cartoons for the civil movement 'Mehr Demokratie' ('more democracy'), which was adopted for the referendum in Germany and for European ranks. It was while I was there that I cafébabel.com caught my attention, and I applied immediately to be an illustrator.
Is Europe a caricature?
Europe is in no way a caricature! Europe, for me, has great promise of international understanding and of civic understanding, such as has already been accomplished with cafebabel.com, engaged in its small international editorial office. But this understanding will only succeed if the European people see themselves as a large orchestra characterised as such that the people are conductor, musicians and audience all in one. Only they should decide what is played and how it is to be played. They should respect that no-one should be playing in the foreground. If all the instruments are in tune with themselves and with one another, it will all come together in harmony. This is displayed best – and the language once more underlines this – through the referendum. Without this the danger would be that Europe would have 'blown it' and ruined the repertoire because nobody is listening anymore.