THE ART OF ILLUSTRATED MESSAGES.
Words inspire, music emotes, but a good piece of art leaves a permanent mark on the soul. Marrying God-given talent and an almost obsessive attention to detail is London’s pencil perfectionist, Von. With a client list that includes Faber,4AD, Non Format, The New York Times, American Express, The Guardian, Nike, Wallpaper, GQ Italy, and Dazed & Confused, the not-yet-30-year-old is fast gaining attention across the globe for a cutting-edge art style that effortlessly fuses technical skill with original talent. Inspired by musicians, artists and activists who challenge society, and eager to inject a new take on a traditional art medium, Von is stirring up the contemporary art scene, commanding everyone to look up and say ‘hello.’
“I have loved drawing since I can remember but one memory that always sticks out is my Dad’s box of drawings that he kept in the loft,” starts Von from his rooftop studio in London’s Shoreditch. “Every now and then he would bring them down and show me all these great designs and drawings of old cartoon characters from when he was a kid. At the time I thought it was the coolest thing, like he had some super power or something.” Fast-forward two decades and Von’s own super sketch powers have fuelled his incredible achievements, transforming his art from mere ideas into magazine layouts, gallery exhibitions in Paris, London and New York, and globally recognised commercials. Schooled in London, Von admits that becoming a full-time artist was always a career goal. “It’s always been my plan to [create] full-time but putting that into practice is far easier said than done,” admits Von. “I had a full time job as a junior designer in a small firm for a year or so before setting up the Hellovon studio in 2006. It was about half way through that job that I knew 100 percent that I had to take that leap of faith and, with a heavy dose of luck, I might just be able to pull it off.”
For anyone fortunate enough to view Von’s pieces up close, it’s obvious that luck is far from the main element in his equation for success. A discerning appreciation for the visual and an ability to capture with his hands that which most people fail to capture with their eyes, sets his work apart from the masses of illustrative art currently saturating the marketplace. Described by Grafik magazine in 2007 as “one of the illustrators of the year,” Von’s work elicits a sense of raw and undeniable talent, wherein imagination, cleverly fused with experimental digital technique, has become the tool of choice. Clarity exists alongside a kaleidoscope of conveyed messages in each Von piece, causing the viewer to draw on memories, imagination and experience to decipher and construct its meaning. When asked what he thinks makes for a ‘good’ artist Von hesitates before responding, “It’s so subjective, but from my perspective as a commercial artist/illustrator it’s the ability to use a completely distinct and arresting visual language to convey even the most dull of messages… The people I respect most as visual artists are those that very much stand alone in the work they produce, they have their own language, style, aesthetic and vision.”
Not one to get precious about being labelled a ‘commercial’ artist, Von readily admits that creating for the corporate world plays a vital role in maintaining an artistic career. “Illustration has started to take on an air of glamour in the last decade with more key figures going on to become well-known both outside and within the industry,” suggests Von. “Commercial brands want to align themselves with illustrators and artists who are seen to be cool, as much as the other way around. The big guns of illustration are practically brands themselves and have become that way from expertly understanding how to balance the symbiotic relationship between themselves and commercial brands,” he says. Von is no stranger to working with multinational entities and views the steady flow of corporate contracts a compliment of sorts.
Says Von, “The fact that both commercial companies and collectors are willing to pay me for something I enjoy so much is the biggest compliment… It’s incredible to have so much control over my career and to be able to earn a living from the one thing I love doing most.”
TEXT BY Fiona Killackey