Have you checked out Hani Abusamra’s portfolio yet? We’re really excited to be representing him and can’t wait to see where his work ends up. Hani was included in Computer Arts’ Top 25 Illustrators to Watch in 2018 and we think he’s going to go far. So enjoy discovering some more about Hani in our interview below…
Tell us a bit about your university experience – did you learn drastically different things at your BA in Graphic Design and your MA in illustration? How do you draw on what you learnt at uni in your work now?
The MA differed to the BA in that it was shorter, more intense and there was much less direct guidance. It was also a much more introspective method of studying where you’re not so much learning about a subject, more-so learning and discovering your own unique place within that subject. BA study is about studying something you’re passionate about and taking as much as you can from it, MA study is about putting something back.
How do you typically create your artwork? Talk us through your process.
First of all I come up with a concept, whether it’s for a commercial piece or personal piece. This is often the most fun part of a project.
When it’s a personal project it will usually come completely at random based on something I interact with in some form; a picture I see, exhibition I visit, book I read, person I talk to etc. From there I get excited and start cracking on with making it before I fall out of love with it.
Commercial differs in that I don’t really have the privilege of wandering around until inspiration hits, so I tend to spend some time with the brief until I understand it inside-out. Next I start coming up with ideas that I don’t think are obvious. I don’t like making work that feels as if just anyone could come up with the idea.
In terms of process, I sketch out what I want to make and then start looking for the right pictures so I can begin making a rough collage to understand the composition better. On a commercial project this would essentially be the rough I send to the client towards the beginning of the project.
Then it’s a process of refining the composition and adding in hand drawn line work and pattern so that I can make the piece pop and create a visual through-line that helps with the narrative of the piece.
We love your striking packaging for Liberty’s South Devon Chilli Farm sauces – can you tell us a bit more about how you approached that project?
I was approached by the award winning branding agency &Smith to create some illustrations for their client, Liberty London. Twelve illustrators in total were approached by the agency to create packaging illustrations for 12 different craft food and drink producers.
I was coupled (with great delight) with the South Devon Chilli Farm. I didn’t want to include any pictures of any chillis because it seemed obvious and easy. Instead I wanted to depict the gates of hell opening up in the picturesque setting of South Devon, creating a cheeky, fun and manic illustration that communicates the heat within each bottle.
You say that you’re in awe of science and religion. Can you show us some pieces of work that explore those subjects and talk us through them?
I think there are elements of my fascination with religion and science in most of my work – whether I actively put them there or not.
I’m obsessed with religious art and imagery and the way that different faiths steal art and symbolism from other religions in order to communicate their own agenda. I love the way that entire movements can create their own visual rhetoric by taking something that has an inherent meaning associated with something else, and just tweaking it slightly. It’s cheeky and sobering at the same time.
Science and nature are just amazing to everyone I think, right? Tropical flora, seemingly impossible rock formations and weird natural phenomena like Star Jelly (give it a Google) – what’s not to be in awe of? I think as a collage artist I’m always looking for things that look peculiar and interesting that I can, at some point, potentially incorporate into my work, and science has a seemingly infinite supply of the stuff.
Specific pieces of my work that probably hint towards these themes in a more blatant way include Natural Science No.1, Get Behind Me Miriam and They Were Allowed to Look Back (They Would Not be Turned to Stone).
We heard you’re into comics! Can you recommend a gripping comic book?
That is such a massive question that I could discuss for literally an entire month.
I read about 40ish ongoing titles each week/fortnight/month, the majority of which are from DC, who are absolutely killing it with their massive Rebirth event right now. If you’ve ever considered getting into superhero comics I would recommend starting with DC Rebirth because it’s absolutely quality. Another tip is to not be daunted by the sheer amount of titles there are – just pick one and then let all of the other titles trickle in if you think the characters are interesting. They all cross over so you’ll be able slowly introduce yourself to new characters as you read.
For non-superhero and indie comic books I would say that my favourite ongoing series at the moment is a book called Southern Bastards. It’s a genuinely stunning book illustrated by the amazing Jason Latour and published by Image Comics. It tells the story of a very corrupt small town in the south of America and it deals with some very hefty subject matter that’s probably for more adult readers. It’s impossible to put it down once you start.
Do you have any plans to work on your own comic book series in the future?
Not really… Or at least, not until you just asked me that question. I’d obviously love to, but I’m not sure what it would be about. I know what I appreciate in comic books and I’d never let myself make something that I wouldn’t be excited to read myself. I’d have to figure out some kind of story or narrative or find a writer to work with. That sounds like more fun actually – collaborating with a writer!
Tell us a bit more about your collaborations with photographer Riccardo Raspa and how they came about. Would you like to collaborate with more photographers in this way?
Riccardo and I met at art school in 2008. I think we met during an exhibition in one of the school’s galleries and started talking about collaborating. We did various bits and pieces throughout uni but also kept in touch once we had graduated.
If I ever need a photographer for something it’s usually Ricc that I’ll go to first. We’ve worked on quite a few projects together but the majority of them have revolved around fashion in some capacity.
I love Ricc’s work and the way he shoots seems to lend itself to the way I draw. Whenever I collaborate with him I end up with something that I couldn’t have foreseen at the beginning of the project, in a good way.
I collaborate with a lot of photographers. I’m doing some more doodley pieces with a different photographer very soon, be sure to keep checking back! Also go and check out Ricc’s site.
What would be your dream job or commission?
I’d love to work with a record label I admire in any capacity but preferably doing record sleeves. A label like Sub Pop, Domino or Matador maybe.
I really want to do a series of decks for Flip Skateboards. I was obsessed with Flip when I was younger and their decks were probably some of the first bits of commercial illustration that I fell in love with.
I would love to see my illustrations used as a brand asset in some capacity. So maybe some work with a branding agency.
Anything to do with restaurants or food. Maybe a set of illustrations for a new restaurant or some more projects centred around food packaging?
Little White Lies magazine is a bucket list client, for sure.
Obviously I have a million other people I’d love to work with but there isn’t enough space on the internet for me to list them all!