I’ve been a fan of Hugh’s work ever since I first laid eyes on it. The playful organic quality of his lines enliven imaginative and often humourous illustrations that stay with you long after you first see them.
Hugh has kindly taken the time to talk to TF about his work, process and inspirations.
Q1. Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a Toronto-based illustrator/designer who grew up in rural Quebec and the States. I am also a partner and art director at Half Hunter. My work has been recognized by American Illustration and Creative Quarterly, and published in The Globe and Mail, Condé Nast Traveler, Maisonneuve, Nylon Guys, and The Stranger. Some of my recent group exhibitions include the 100 $how at Wieden+Kennedy (Portland, OR) and A Landmark & A Mission, The Sketchbook Project (Pittsburgh, PA).
Q2. How do you approach starting a new project? What is most important to you when working on an illustration?
My biggest concern is time efficiency and strategy. These days, I’ll plan everything that I need to do for a project using Trello (trello.com), which is a workflow board. It’s a great platform for building projects, and helps me manage everything from dealing with contracts and deadlines, to the creative process (allotting time for sketches and final deliverables).
For bigger projects, I’ll even invite the client or my creative peers to check out my project board on Trello, so that they can see the project in action, and collaborate with me. Once the project is organized and ironed out (in all its details), I find that I have more time and freedom to explore during the sketching and final illustration phase.
Q3. What’s the role of sketching in your creative process?
Sketching plays a big role in my art. It spurs me into a state of spontaneity while drawing. It’s the “anything goes” stage, where I write down as many bad ideas as possible, letting trial and error play out on the page. I also use it as an archive, flipping back through old sketchbooks to find new inspiration. Sometimes sketches that were once just silly drawings, or technical studies and experiments, evolve into something that I might find useful for current or future projects.
Q4. We really love the series of portraits you do, especially your Movember series. Are portraits/people a favourite subject of yours to draw?
Next to dogs, absolutely — yes. Portraits are lots of fun. I found a couple of old high school yearbooks a while back and slowly took advantage of drawing these young, then-innocent pubescent teenagers. Someone I know summed up my portraits: “It’s as if those grotesque close-ups from Nickelodeon cartoons never switched back to normal animation; they just stuck and stared at you and that’s life.”
The Movember series has been really rewarding, and it’s gotten some great feedback. Basically I was trying to figure out way to participate that would draw attention to the cause while making it a fun exercise for me. The result was a goofy, daily illustration (rather than an instagram/photo) of my moustache’s growth. Some of the sketches are more far-fetched than others, and I often take requests for themes — like the Ninja Turtles Stache and Cookie Monster Stache.
Q5. What’s your weapon of choice?
Pentel GFKP brush pen, black sharpies,15-year-old Pelikan watercolour kit. All of them are easy to carry around, and effective for quick sketches and documentation. My “Big Hug Mug” coffee cup is also on this list because I am a shameful addict.
Q6. What’s your favourite procrastination pastime?
Being a sports junkie has always been a big distraction for me. Keeping track of scores and irrelevant statistics for various sport teams is a good way to kill any creative momentum that I had three seconds ago. Looking at dogs in the park is also an amusing pastime.
Q7. What are some things you do for inspiration? Do you have any specific rituals, sources or habits that help inspire you?
I like to draw early in the morning while listening to podcasts and audio books; listening to other people’s great storytelling always triggers some kind of inspiration. I always try to create a thorough to-do list as a daily ritual, so that’ll keep me going throughout the day. Daily runs or anything physically challenging (which I should do more often — aaahh) help me get away from the drawing board when I’ve hit a wall.
Q8. What are five things you couldn’t live without?
A cup of coffee
A good slice of pizza
HUGE thanks to Hugh for taking the time to do this interview.
Be sure to stop by Hugh’s site!
All images ©2013 Hugh Langis