Blowing trumpets with Michael Rytz

Featured in: Issue Nº 9

Category: Interview


Danish Michael Rytz (b. 1975) is a self-taught artist and illustrator.

Tugged away in a small flat under the roof in Copenhagen’s west side Rytz produces tons of drawings, books and zines.

– Opaque met him after he had been up drawing and chugging coffee all night.

By Erik Duckert
Photo by Martin Kurt Haglund

The floorboards of the attic apartment squeak and the whole flat tilts noticeably to one side creating a slightly cartoonish atmosphere in the space.

R: “It all began with these small sketch books. Before Facebook and Flicker there was this thing called Fotolog where I would connect with illustrators all over the world.”

Rytz tapped into an underground network of drawing and illustration, where the artists would fill out pages in each other’s sketch books – even draw on top of each other’s stuff – and send the books back and forth and round the world creating volumes of polycentric compilations.

R: “We would put our books in an envelope and mail them to each other to work on, even drawing on top of each others stuff which was kind of tough sometimes if you’d been working really hard on something just to have it molested … but that was how it was.

Then at one point the books started ‘getting lost in the mail’, typically when some renowned artist had contributed to them and they increased in value. That was kind of demotivating.”

Rytz still fills his books, just doesn’t mail them round much anymore.

R: “I just scored this new book. I’ve worked up a nice arrangement making my ‘work illustrations’ during the day – and then I have my books. I can spend weeks just filling books, typically at night when the family is sleeping.”

Pulls out one book after the other brimming with work.

R: “In the old days I would cut out some of my drawings from the books and sell them when I really needed money. I don’t anymore.”

We move round the flat, drawings everywhere: piles, bags even, of work and paper stashed everywhere.

R: “Some drawings can lay dormant for 4-5 years before I return to them – the only thing that finishes a drawing is if it is framed, I mean then you can’t get to it … but even then … this one for example, you see, the frame has broken so maybe I should work a bit more on that one now.”

R: “I have paper hundreds of years old, I just hoard what ever paper I can get my hands on.”

R: “I’ve never really had a plan with what I do, just work all over. People used to tell me to focus, focus, focus: to just do one thing in one particular way and stick to that.

But my work springs from chaos: from accidents or from when I’m just zoning out and notice some little piece of cardboard or some overlapping pieces of discarded paper that have fallen in just right way on the floor – that’s where inspiration strikes.”

Rytz doesn’t have a formal education and over the years his work has become an essential mode of expression for him.

R: “Let’s say I was a little boy whose parents couldn’t understand his language then I have this trumpet through which I can address my parents without having to explain anything. Whether statements are true, false, incoherent, wise or silly doesn’t even enter in to the category.

That is what all this is: this is my trumpet.”