Published Jun 6, 2019
Dazzled By 'Discovery': One Fan Artist's Journey Through the Stars
An interview with Steffi Hochriegl, the German artist who used her talents to find an undeniable home in the Star Trek fandom.
By Jay Stobie
Star Trek fans have drawn inspiration from the franchise for over 50 years, finding sanctuary in the show’s moral vision, futuristic technology, and captivating characters. Countless scientists, engineers, mathematicians, teachers, authors, and artists cite Star Trek as the catalyst that emboldened them to pursue those challenging careers and ultimately excel in their respective fields.
Only two seasons into Star Trek: Discovery’s reign and the series’ positive impact on its viewers is evident in the incredible array of artwork that “Disco” enthusiasts upload each week. German artist Steffi Hochriegl ranks as one of the most luminary talents in this realm and regularly shares her work with the world. Aside from allowing her to express her passion for Discovery, Hochriegl’s creative process has given her a means of connecting with others and a relaxing outlet for life’s stressful situations.
While Hochriegl grew up loving Star Trek and regularly watched reruns with her father, Star Trek: Enterprise proved to be the first installment of the franchise that the self-taught artist was able to follow throughout the entire duration of its run. In the period between Enterprise’s finale and Discovery’s premiere, Hochriegl kept her fandom afloat through the three Kelvin Timeline films. “The Kelvin films gave me the opportunity to finally see a Star Trek movie in theaters,” recalls Hochriegl. “It was touching to see the films on the big screen, and I was so happy when ‘Disco’ came and brought that feeling back all over again.”
The chemistry and friendship that Discovery’s cast demonstrated during their press tour prior to the show’s first season instantly caught Hochriegl’s attention. Having admired Jason Isaacs and Anthony Rapp’s careers for years, the young artist was thrilled to learn about their involvement in the latest iteration of Star Trek. “I could tell that this was a special group of people,” says Hochriegl. “I felt inspired and drew my first Lorca piece just before 'The Vulcan Hello' came out, and Bo Yeon Kim shared the art on her Twitter. I‘ll never forget that moment, because that‘s how this journey started for me.”
Uplifted by the feedback to her fan art, Hochriegl began a portrait series that documented the characters from Discovery’s first season, as well as various drawings based on behind-the-scenes photographs released by the cast and crew. Hochriegl’s work continued to garner praise from the Star Trek community, quickly establishing her as one of the top artists producing Discovery work.
“I think my art shows compassion and love through my of use traditional pencils, although I also adore fans who express themselves through digital art and cosplay,” Hochriegl says, musing on the popularity of her pieces. “Most importantly, I see it as my way of spreading love. Love for the actors,
Hochriegl’s egalitarian attitude ensured that her work covers more than just the core cast members. Recurring characters L’Rell, Admiral Cornwell, Doctor Culber, and Ellen Landry appeared in the artist’s series, as did bridge officers Keyla Detmer, Joann Owosekun, Gen Rhys, and Airiam. Hochriegl’s inclusive approach reflected the teamwork that emerged among Discovery’s crew members by the first season finale “Will You Take My Hand?” The series’s first 15 episodes presented the artist with an entertaining adventure that deflected her attention away from dealing the cyberbullying she’d been experiencing. Instead, she was able to channel that energy into her art.
Unaware of how drastically her life would change when she initially began releasing her drawings, Horchrigle remains taken aback by the personal relationships that she has forged with fans around the globe. “I've found friends for life, people who would go out on a limb for me, and who I would do anything for as well,” beams Hochriegl. “It is a highlight to watch Discovery and livetweet with the fandom. We discuss scenes and chat with the actors about it. It is wonderful that everyone is so reachable and genuine.”
The outpouring of kindness has profoundly affected her outlook on her place in society. We all experience feelings of solitude and doubt at one time or another, and that uncertainty often plagued Hochriegl’s thoughts. The positive reactions to her art bolstered the German’s confidence and supplied her with determination and purpose. “I feel grateful and blessed, because sharing my art has shown me that I‘m not useless,” she says. “I can make a difference by bringing people together and giving them hope.”
Even the show’s cast and crew ended up enamored with Hochriegl’s talents, as well as with the artist’s humility and endearing personality. Mary Chieffo (Discovery’s L’Rell), Kenneth Mitchell (known for portraying the Klingon trio of Kol, Kol-Sha, and Tenavik), Rekha Sharma (Commander Landry), and Jason Isaacs all took an interest in Hochriegl’s art, initiating bonds of friendship that continue to this day. Hochriegl chats with the actors about their fondness for musicals, sports, and poetry, while she and Chieffo collaborate on a portrait series of selfies. “Jason’s career has motivated me since my childhood, and it means so much to me that Rekha, Ken, and Mary have become dear people in my life,” says Hochriegl.
Hochriegl ventured out on a trip to Destination Star Trek Birmingham in 2018, an experience that the artist will always cherish. The convention afforded Hochriegl the chance to meet several of the fans she had befriended on social media. Encouraged by Chieffo and Mitchell, Hochriegl also braved her fears and decided to line up to meet Isaacs. Luckily, Chieffo and Mitchell were seated nearby, where they cheered on Hochriegl and took photographs as the fan and Isaacs embraced. “My best friend held my hand the whole time, but it turns out Jason was probably just as nervous to meet me as I was to meet him,” laughs Hochriegl. “He almost forgot to give the Klingon fan in line ahead of me a handshake!”
The moment turned out to be special for all involved, as Chieffo and Hochriegl broke out some impromptu dance moves set to music played by Isaacs (“Stayin’ Alive” by the Bee Gees) and some background vocals from Mitchell. The fun gathering included some touching words from Isaacs, who spoke to Hochriegl about methods of overcoming cyberbullying and finding faith in one’s abilities.
“Jason complimented my talent and said I have no reason to be insecure,” remembers Hochriegl. “He laughed and joked that he was not worthy to be drawn by me, and I said that I felt I wasn’t worthy to be praised by him so often. Our 'not worthy' exchange had become a running gag between us after he complimented me with that phrase on Twitter. It felt as though Jason talked to me for ages, despite the line being so long. I’m very thankful.”
Buoyed by Birmingham, Hochriegl started on a new series of Discovery portraits as the buildup to the show’s second season intensified. However, the artist decided to take a different approach on her latest pieces, opting to draw a half-profile of each actor accompanied by a sidebar featuring their character’s name. “The challenge is to make them look directly at the viewer,” explains Hochriegl. “I needed to keep them relatively similar and get the character right, even though you only have one side of the face.”
Hochriegl’s experience from her previous Discovery drawings, coupled with the support she received from fans and actors alike, gave her the courage to take on such an arduous endeavor. “I had a bit more confidence during season two,” she explains. “After a year of drawing so many images from the show and the actors themselves, I knew my lines and reference points.” Of course, it is only natural that lingering doubts occasionally resurfaced. “As an artist," she said, "you are always a bit self-conscious and hope people will like what you do.”
The German fan artfully portrayed the fresh appearances that the main and recurring cast members sported for the second season, most notably updating the attire worn by High Chancellor L’Rell and Section 31 agent Philippa Georgiou. Newcomers Captain Pike, Spock, Nhan, and May joined the ranks, and Hochriegl completed her set with fan-favorite Linus. The artist’s fondness for Jason Isaacs and Rekha Sharma remained, as she happily put in the extra time to incorporate Lorca and Landry, despite the fact that neither officer appeared during Pike’s tenure as the Discovery’s captain. The 14-episode arc supplied more than enough wondrous intrigue to fuel the artist’s innovative vision.
As Discovery has grown in popularity, Hochriegl has matured as a person and an artist. A newfound wisdom manifested alongside the familial relationships the artist built with Trek enthusiasts and actors, while the young creative uncovered strength and resolve that she never realized resided within herself. Understanding and purpose replaced feelings of doubt and vulnerability. “I’ve learned not to take criticism on social media personally, because people often say things they don’t mean,” says Hochriegl. “I now know to be proud of myself because I have every reason to be, just as Jason advised me at Birmingham.”
The artist, who frequently dabbles in singing, writing poetry, and acting in local theater productions, has witnessed her drawings receive accolades from countless people, as well as on After Trek and in the official Star Trek Magazine. Discovery incited Hochriegl’s imagination and granted her the fortitude to risk putting her heart on public display through her art. The result? A self-assured artist who now seeks to pay these lessons forward. “My advice for other artists would be to keep going and never stop creating, because you never know what is around the corner,” states Hochriegl. “Sometimes I close my eyes and I can‘t believe all of this actually happened. I feel like part of the Star Trek family.”
Jay Stobie (he/him) is a freelance writer and consultant who has contributed articles to StarTrek.com, Star Trek Explorer, and Star Trek Magazine, as well as to Star Wars Insider and StarWars.com. Jay can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @StobiesGalaxy.
Star Trek: Discovery Seasons 1-4 are currently streaming exclusively on Paramount+ in the U.S., the U.K., Switzerland, South Korea, Latin America, Germany, France, Italy, Australia, and Austria. Seasons 2 and 3 are also available on the Pluto TV Star Trek channel in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. In Canada, it airs on Bell Media's CTV Sci-Fi Channel and streams on Crave. Star Trek: Discovery is distributed by Paramount Global Content Distribution.