An octopus with a cake hat, holding a cigar, a clarinet, a bicycle and a picnic basket while looking at you with a ‘so what’ expression. Next image – two birds with boys’ heads flying with an umbrella amongst the clouds. Then – a sailor with jumping jack doll-joints, holding hands with a mermaid. You get the picture? Welcome to the world of Lynn Hatzius.
With degrees in illustration and printmaking under her belt, London-based Lynn works as a freelance artist for publishers, record labels, magazines and newspapers. I first stumbled upon Lynn’s fascinating human-slash-animal figures at The Last Tuesday Society, where she is taking part in the ‘Beasts Royal’ art exhibition until 28th January (read our review of this wonderful place here). Later, looking through the gallery on Lynn’s website, I quickly found myself having one ‘wow’ experience after another. The work is quirky without being cutesy, and beautiful with a dark undercurrent. Looking at Lynn’s work means making a string of discoveries, with the seemingly neverending flow of the most randomly put-together imagery. Someone get this lady a solo show, please?
You frequently mix human and animal forms in your work. Where does this come from?
With my collages, the significance lies with the process of discovery. It is almost as if these creatures pre-exist, simply waiting to come alive through my act of selecting, shifting and finally fixing a composition down. In extracting elements from different sources that catch my attention, humans take on new and surprising characters and animals are given human traits and expressions, sometimes humorous, other times maybe a little disturbing.
Could you tell us a little about your work process – how do you build up an illustration?
Working with illustration is quite different to working on my personal collage pieces. An illustration brief will give me a conceptual framework, meaning the piece is not left to chance. This is why I usually use the digital medium when working on a commissioned illustration, as this makes changes much easier. I will scan in material from my vast collection of printed papers, books, maps, magazines and old photographs, or search the internet for related imagery. I cut and paste elements in a similar way to working with a scalpel or scissors, but with the advantage of being able to reverse an action and alter an illustration to fit certain requirements.
Your portfolio has illustrations, collages and prints – which is your preferred medium?
Collage and printmaking both open up the possibility of chance encounters and the happy accidents I so enjoy. I am fascinated by the thought of taking a given structure, shaking it up and letting the pieces take on a new life and reveal hidden meaning. The recycling and mixing of materials in the collage process is similar to the way I work in print. I will mix different print processes, use found scraps to print from and let the magic moment of the ink transferring to paper surprise me with an often unexpected result. Printmaking lets me reuse elements and produce multiples, whereas a collage will always be an original, which I can often be rather precious about.
Your work is full of clever little details. Where do you draw inspiration from?
My inspiration comes from the material I use – books, manuals, magazines and found printed papers. The juxtaposition of disparate elements, and the joining of entirely different subject matters, seems to hold the key to a neverending number of new images. I work in a very playful and spontaneous way on my collages, it is like solving a puzzle. The separate pieces get shifted until a certain combination startles me, and a new figure is revealed.
Sometimes your work feels a bit sinister (in a good way) – casually so with the bolted-together body parts, but with the monster pieces it looks more deliberate. Is it?
I guess I am attracted to the unusual, the uncanny, to combinations that might seem strange at first. This wanting to be surprised or startled is part of my working process. With projects such as the ‘Monsters’ playing cards it is quite different. The work needs to follow certain guidelines and a preconceived idea, which narrows down the possible scope of an image. While this way of working sometimes feels a bit contrived, I enjoy having to limit myself to certain restrictions and channel an image towards a purpose. If it is a commissioned piece, working with a good art director can push my work towards new approaches I wouldn’t naturally choose.
Monsters playing cards
Why did you become an artist? What do you wish someone had told you when you were just starting out?
I don’t think being creative is a choice. I always felt it chose me and I did my best to make it happen. I would say you need to be honest and true to yourself and don’t ask too many questions, just do, make, create and if you’re focused and want it badly, I believe things work out.
Your work has been in The Guardian, and you have several well-known magazines and publishing houses on your client list. How did you build up this network?
Having studied illustration, rather than fine art, meant my mind was set on finding a way of applying my work to a commercial use. After I left the course I eagerly visited some publishers to present my portfolio. My focus on book cover design has taken several years to establish. While it is important to send regular mail-outs to remind clients of your work, building a network through friends has helped me significantly along the way. Over the years I found that allowing time for my personal work alongside illustration projects has given me a good balance, mainly in that I panic less about not finding jobs all the time. My work as a collage artist has grown more important to me since doing an MA in printmaking. I view this side of my career separately to the illustration work in the sense that it is less pressurised through deadlines and restrictions.
Book cover: Shalimar the Clown (Salman Rushdie, Vintage Books). All images courtesy of Lynn Hatzius.
You are part of the Monsters illustration collective. Tell us a little about this please.
I joined the Monsters shortly after finishing my studies. We try to work a little like an agency. We send mail-outs together, keep a joint website and a group portfolio. The idea is that we represent each other and share costs of promotion material. We try to meet once a month and keep each other up to date on our personal progress. The advantage of being part of a collective is that you share a network of contacts and feed off each others’ experiences.
What do you do when you are not making art?
I rummage through charity shops and enjoy going to flee markets, always on the hunt for used cheap books and other ephemera, old frames and unusual bits and pieces. I love the outdoors and coming home to cook some delicious food. Taking care of the plants on my tiny balcony or checking on my fish gives me regular welcoming breaks when I work from my studio at home. And of course travelling, which I can fit nicely around work as a freelancer.
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