Enchanting Illustrations from Chris Hagan

by Cass Art

Trying to prize yourself away from Chris Hagan’s gorgeous illustrations is a painful task. Brighton-based artist Chris summons all things magical, adventurous landscapes see the grinning gytrash or a wolf giving a cuddle, a preying tiger or a polar bear with a fetish for woolly jumpers. What’s more is that all of Chris’s illustrations are available to purchase on his Folksy page, a site dedicated to handmade design and craft. 

We caught up with Chris for more on his dream-like creations...

When did you realise that illustration was your calling?

I originally studied a Fine art degree, after which I tried other aspects of art and design such as graphic design and sequential art and then my interests gravitated towards illustration where I worked on my style for a year or so before putting my work up online, I’ve always wanted to pursue an artistic career but it has been a journey to get to the point where I have felt happy enough with my work enough to put it out there for human consumption!

Can you tell us a little about your process? What inspires you and how you plan your work?

Recently I have been working in a mixed media collage and paint technique I usually sketch out rough idea and then work out the composition as it happens before I stick down the collage elements, it’s the same technique for most of my landscapes. On a good day I can draw spontaneous loose lines first time and in other cases it can be the first very first loose freehand thumbnail sketch that I will refer back to and use as the template for my image, which I then blow up on the photocopier and trace, they then become the loose lines for my image. I’m always striving to achieve a childlike and naïve quality to my work, which can be more difficult than it looks with many preliminary sketches involved in order to keep simplifying and loosening the image more and more.

For subject matter for my illustrations I am drawn to old folk tales, some of which are very unusual and lend themselves well to illustration, and they can be darkly humorous! I’m also interested in the simple themes that occur within early American folk art. My work seems to suit an earlier and simpler time period. I’m also a big fan of some of the Neo Romantic themes that occurred in the work of English artists and Illustrators of the 1940’s onwards such as John Piper and Paul Nash, as well as other well-known artists, illustrators and designers of this period such as Edward Bawden, Barbara Jones and Julian Trevelyan, I'm also a fan of many contemporary illustrators who work using mainly non-digital techniques.

What are your essential and your favourite materials to use?

For Illustrations I use mixed media – collage, acetate, gouache, watercolour, coloured pencil and ink, for my paintings I use mainly gouache, watercolour and pencil.

Aside from selling on Folksy, do you exhibit your pieces?

I do exhibit in local galleries. I am planning to approach galleries further afield in the New Year with a view to selling my prints. I have been approached by a few galleries out of the local area but would really like to exhibit a show locally or in London at some point as I now have a good body of larger format original work, at present the quandary is finding artists/illustrators who work along similar themes to exhibit with.

What does 2014 hold for you and your beautiful illustrations?

Having my first illustration work published at the end of last year as one of the stories within of Brighton the Graphic Novel -by Queenspark books was a real thrill, I would like to keep the momentum going if I can, particularly in the area of children’s illustration, so I’ll be approaching potential agents & publishers over the course of the year, but realising that this can be difficult area to navigate I’ll need to pursue some further advice and help with relevant contacts before I take the plunge! I am currently planning a children’s book/graphic novel inspired by folk tales with my collaborator Jim Holland who wrote Seawater  which was the story I illustrated as part of Brighton the Graphic Novel. Also throughout the year I’ll be looking forward to creating more work for my Folksy shop as well branching out into greetings cards and some monoprints very shortly.

We wish Chris the best of luck and prepare to see more of his amazing illustrations in 2014! Follow Chris on Facebook for all his news and updates.

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