CHASED) Art and People Berlin

People: Interview with Illustrator Johannes Helgelin Hald

21 Okt

In relationship with the creepy

Interview by Ilona Dzengeleviciute

Swedish illustrator Johannes Helgelin Hald, living in Berlin, Germany, seems like an ordinary person to meet in such city. The things, which make him stand out from the crowd, are the creepy hand-made monstrous drawings and animations, all done with a tiny bit of color-blindness and the way he works around it. Apart from his personal projects, he has been working with musicians such as Passion Pit and Foster the People, and has gotten most of his inspirations from a huge forest next to his childhood home, where as a kid he would be playing with things that many of us wouldn’t find as much attractive.

I am waiting for him in one of his most favorite places in Berlin – bar “Laidak”—when suddenly he appears, quite shy from the first sight, holding a glass of wine in one hand and unlit cigarette in another. The atmosphere with a weird female voice singing in the background seems just right to start the talk.

Johannes hasn’t finished any particular design school but he attended a course in school named “Hyper Island” in Sweden, Malmö. Hyper Island is a pretty well known place across the whole world, teaching creative people to develop their skills towards becoming better in their desired fields of occupation – whether it is design, motion graphics, creative marketing or other. Johannes chose to study motion graphics.

“It’s an animation but it’s also more directed towards the industry in general. It wasn’t, like, based on any artistic behaviors at all, it was just kind of a way to get into all the system to start working in companies and stuff like that.”

So was it your first step into the design field? “Yeah… Well not really, though, because when I was around 18 or 19 years old, me and my friend were just sitting around, not knowing what we should do with our lives and we just decided to make this music video for a band named “Passion Pit”. So we did that and that was basically how I started doing what I do now. And then I started studying. I mean, I’ve always been drawing, ever since I was really young and then that video for Passion Pit was, like, the first big thing. It was 6 minutes long, we didn’t know how to animate or anything. Afterwards the band contacted us and said, like, “Hey, this is awesome”. So that was kind of how I started making music videos, animation and stuff like that.”


(c) Johannes Helgelin

(c) Johannes Helgelin


So how can we call you now? “I mean, now I work as a director, animator and illustrator. I don’t do websites at the moment, but it’s coming. I have people asked me a couple of times if I could design stuff for them and one of my best friends, with whom I live, is a UX designer, so we’ve been talking about maybe doing something together.”

I now start to see Johannes in a more diverse perspective than I did before the interview. Unfortunately (or lets better say, thankfully?), some loud construction sounds start to happen outside the bar, and this becomes an incentive for me to bend closer and focus on the chat even more carefully.

Lets get a bit back to Hyper Island. How much time did it take for you to finish your studies there? “I think the motion graphics program now lasts for two years, but when I studied, it was only one year. And then six months were for an internship.”

According to Johannes, all students, after finishing their programs, had to find internship placements by themselves and after that most of them would get normally hired. He got himself a place in so called Collective in London.

“Tasks at school would mostly be focused on learning to work with other people, big groups and real assignments, and we’ve worked with such clients as MTV and Nike. In Hyper Island they believe that all the information is already out there on the Internet, you can basically learn how to animate just by sitting and browsing Youtube. So if you want to, you’ll find out it someway. But learning to work with other people, that is a whole other thing. So the school is just more focused on working within big groups.” How big would the groups be then? “Groups can consist of, like, 5 or 6 people, and I used to work in such, too.”

Johannes could’ve chosen any other subject to study, too, but his interest in music and videos made him decide that animation was the thing he wanted to do.

Apparently they don’t just simply teach you how to draw or something like that? “No, there are so many people at that school and some of them basically don’t even get to touch a computer. But I have some friends who, when we just started studying, were just like: “Yeah, I don’t know what I’m doing here”, and now they’re in New York, working as directors and producers. Because, for instance, they found out they can organize things.” So it’s also about communication studies as well? “Yeah. And basically learning what you’re good at.”


(c) Johannes Helgelin

(c) Johannes Helgelin



Getting more into Johannes’ illustrations, I subtly call them rather unusual and creepy, which is then followed by his quiet and short giggle. When I ask him why’s that so, he isn’t fast in replying. “It’s a really hard question”,— he gasps. “It’s weird, but to answer it, I think I would have to go through some kind of therapeutic sessions for, like, 15 years and then, don’t know, go on some journey for another 5 years (laughing). But I’m kind of obsessed with things, that look really disgusting, or some melting stuff. I don’t know why, but I’ve always been very obsessed with weird looking people, monsters and stuff like that. And frightening patterns! I’ve always been kind of very fascinated by a pile of worms, for example. And I guess that the breakthrough for me was in 2005 or 2006 when I stumbled upon two events—the first one was like a small art gallery in my hometown, where the French artist called “Shobo Shobo” had an exhibition. He was drawing very crooked-like figures, and the lines were really stressed. Up till that point I was kind of obsessed with drawing very perfect lines and everything, but when I saw that and with a combination of going to a concert of a band called “The Knife”, where a director Andreas Nilsson made a video for a song “Silent Shout” with just some monster-looking kids with long black hair, I got very influenced by that in some way.”

To many people your illustrations might seem rather scary. Is it your intention to make them look like that? Do you intend to give these feelings to others? “No. I don’t think it’s scary when I look at it, not at all (laughs). It’s hard to explain… but when I sit and draw a face, there are some parts I like to outline more than other. And it could be just this lumpy stuff. You know, when you eat food, and some people like it really salty. So, to me it’s just a natural way of drawing characters.”

Many of the characters you draw are positioned in the forest. Does it relate to you somehow? Could you say that you’ve been inspired by forest surrounding? “Yeah, I grew up in a really small village in Sweden, I spent my 8 or 9 first years on this planet in that small town, and it was surrounded with a huge forest. I was always out playing with my friends and building weird stuff, so that influenced me very much. I’ve been drawing that for a while now but I’m starting to do more of interiors lately, for past 6 months or something like that—more like a closed room, no open spaces or anything like that. But I’ve been working on this one graphic novel for the past 2 years called the “Midnight Creeper”, and that one is based in the forest.

It was a huge fucking forest and we were always out playing till really late. And when it would get very dark, and there wouldn’t be any light left, you would start seeing weird stuff. It’s kind of a feeling when your eyes are just tricking you. Now when I think about it, I guess those first 8–9 years I was all the time surrounded by bugs and shit, frogs as well. We used to collect a huge amount of frogs and put them in a pond. And, I mean, frogs look really weird. We would always also find dead animals in the forest. So I guess those kinds of things got stuck into my brain in a way.”

From this moment Johannes gets even a stranger person to talk to than I realized before. But it was in a completely positive way, and I don’t know whether the construction sounds from the outside, which instantly went off right after this monologue finished, or just the story itself made the whole atmosphere become more mystical and dim.


(c) Johannes Helgelin

(c) Johannes Helgelin



Trying to get the idea of his unique drawing technique, which is pretty old-school—he does it simply by drawing and coloring with a hand on a paper — Johannes points out that he starts just with sketching up an image with a pencil, going with the outlines and then filling in the lines by adding colors in the end.

You’re using markers. Why you don’t choose an easier way and go digital with vector shapes in the first place? “The thing is, as I mentioned before, I think that many artists have their obsessions, something that they keep on doing, and for me it’s that kind of a texture that markers make when you do something by hand. I’m obsessed with those kinds of textures. I’ve tried scanning my stuff and adding colors in Photoshop—that’s also what I do on a daily basis when I work with corporate, boring stuff. But when I do that, it feels like it lacks something, it lacks a human touch. That’s why I like coloring by hand.” So more of your work is made by hand rather than just digital? “Yeah. Everything I do for myself, like, illustration wise, is made completely by hand, there is no digital touch to it at all. I guess, in a way, when you digitalize something, put it into computer, start retouching and cleaning off, adding colors, you’re also making an image that you can easily copy, print it and just sell it. By copying, it also loses that kind of originality in a way. I mean, I love the printing technique, as well, and doing stuff for magazines, but I’m also very obsessed with just this one “X” of an illustration.”

How do you sketch it? Do you need to erase lots of parts from the first time? “When it comes to sketching part, so I’m pretty good at it. I sketch basically the whole picture on the paper first. And then, of course, I erase and spend further hours just filling in the lines. Sketching, in a way, is actually the creative process, and the rest is just automatic. You’re almost like a cogwheel in a big machine — you’re just supposed to do it and add the colors.”

When it comes to the last question I want to know from him about the whole drawing process, I then get a bit lost and confused. It appears that this artist, who is supposed to be sort of a professional in his own field, has this tiny and rather ironic feature of his. And when I, naturally and not expecting any kind of similar response, ask him if he takes colors for his drawings randomly or has some sort of a color palette, Johannes is quick to reply:

“Oh, I’m color-blind, so I don’t know what I’m doing. When sometimes I see pictures of my friends that I really like, I then take the colors from them, copy and use in my illustrations. I mean I’m not 100% color-blind, I just have this weird thing when red and brown kind of melt together sometimes. Of course, I see green, but you know, when there are, like, 500 million types of green, so when it comes to different shades, it gets kind of complicated, and then I have a really hard time. But what I then do, is I just copy other palettes from things I see. Or sometimes I just pick them randomly and hope for the best.” That’s pretty ironic! “It’s very ironic but I love colors. Even if I’m color-blind, I still see colors and can see that something looks good and something looks bad. So I don’t want to step away from that, and I do believe that even if you’re color-blind, you can still learn just by copying. You know, some musicians are just born with that kind of a feeling that they can play the guitar, they can make equations in their heads, but the rest of the 95% of the musicians have to practice and copy others to be able to learn how to play their instrument. And I think it’s the same way with colors, actually.”



Speaking about Johannes’ animated work, I’m curious to ask if he has any priorities regarding to it by choosing to just illustrate or animate his characters instead, or he sees it as a full combination.

“I mean it’s really hard because, again, going to the whole thing about practicing stuff, and since I work a lot with animation on a daily basis when I do that boring work, I don’t draw for a week or two and then I can feel I kind of fall behind. It’s like if you haven’t practiced riding a skateboard for five years, then you have to do it maybe for a month and then you’re back on top again. And I would love to do animation of mine, of course, I’m going back into the whole thing like making music videos and stuff, but right now I just want to sit down and illustrate more.” That means that whenever you draw your illustrations, you still imagine them in motion? “Yeah, even if I just draw one picture, there is like a story to it, and there is like a motion, and I do see that, but it all comes down to time in the end. Like, right now I don’t have that much time sitting down and starting animating my own work. So I have to kind of focus now on plain illustrations. And also finish them. I have a couple of projects I want to just finish and then maybe after that I’ll start doing something more.”

Right after his last response I remember I wanted to ask him about one of his biggest projects, where together with his friend they made a music video for the band named “Foster the People” and after were staff picked on Vimeo for it. This might seem as a winning achievement to many artists and illustrators, but Johannes isn’t bragging about it and keeps rather subtle.

Tell me more about the video, what were the cool sides and not that great ones about it? How you got such an offer and how you made the whole deal? “Yeah, I can do that (laughs). Because we did that first music video for Passion Pit, there were a lot of people in the industry in the US that contacted us and said, like, “Yeah, we’re going to put you in this database”, because we worked with Columbia Records. And there was a guy working for Columbia Records who had some bands under his wings. I guess I emailed these people once in a while when I had free time with something like: “Are there any new jobs coming up?” And the guy who worked for Mark Foster, the core of Foster the People, said: “Actually, there is this new single and he wants to make an animated music video. Do you think you could do that?” And so I said yes.”

This was the moment, from which he, together with his friend Hannes, started to work with Mark Foster, the one, who is a singer and makes the songs for the band. Together they wrote the script for the video, would be sending illustrations forth and back to him and came up with the whole concept.

It wasn’t hard to communicate with him? “No, no, he was very nice, he wanted to send us coffee and shit. I don’t know if he was trying to say something about that, like: “You should stay up late and work late on this because this is important” (laughing). But he was a really nice guy and easy to work with. But that’s always something that when you work with animation, most people tend to forget that it takes a very lot of time. Especially, when you’re only two people working on something like that. It takes a lot of time and it’s very stressful and painful on a mental level. But he understood that and was very nice to work with. However, it was still a very painful process.”

Even though Johannes mentions it as a quite big and demanding work, these were the only drawbacks he could have thought of, and eventually it took a surprisingly short amount of time to finish the video — the whole project lasted approximately a month, when they took all the hours and put it together.

“Only two people on a video like that was still insane. Now, when I have more experience, I don’t really understand why we were this kind of stubborn and just like: “No, we’re going to sit here just us two and do it, and we’re not going to invite any other people.”

Would you rather appreciate doing some music videos or some other motion graphics for less known musicians or bigger ones? “I would love or I’d want to work with smaller musicians because when you work with such great bands and huge, really established ones, the personal contact gets lost in a whole process because there are so many people involved in the making. I’m actually working with this polish musician called “Coldair” creating an album art for his upcoming album, and he’s a pretty small, upcoming artist. So I’d love to, and we’ve been talking about making something like a music video. This is what I kind of want to focus on when I’m done with all of the illustrations. But the problem is that there isn’t a lot of money in the music video industry, especially not when it comes to the smaller bands, and that’s why I have to work, like, 8 hours every day to be able to survive and pay rent and stuff.” …And just do some more work afterwards…? “Yeah, kind of. I mean, I work 24/7, I do that. Of course, I go out once in a while to meet friends but I often do sit in my room and just work” (laughs). But speaking of smaller artists, that Polish artist, for instance, so did you contact him yourself? “No, he found me on Instagram. He said: “Yeah, I like what you’re doing, would you like to make my album artwork?” And I was just like: “Hell yeah, of course I’m going to do that!”

So for now Johannes isn’t currently looking for any other opportunities himself, but it appears that they just find him through all the social media. However, he keeps very open to chances as these and is going to start finding music himself, both that he likes and feels something about, and also focus more on smaller, not that well known musicians. He states this as a bigger possibility to have an intimate contact with them, when he can talk about things for hours, then after go back into the studio and start producing things.

So the main reason of it is that there are no other people in between, and you don’t need to talk to any other managers? “Exactly, because when a band goes into that kind of scale, there is like an image, a continuity that they have to keep as an artist. And I don’t know, you can call it as being a narcissist; in a way it’s very narcissistic — you want to interpret that song your way and put your own color in it. And that can become kind of a struggle for producers and people involved in the band, and also a record company that invested millions of dollars in it.” Did you come up with this problem with Foster the People? “No, actually not, or just maybe with the things such as color palettes and design of the characters. He already had a guy who made his album artwork, and we were kind of asked to base the illustrations off of that. It was kind of like “OK, we did it and it was a good experience”, but if he asked something like “I want your style” or “I want you to thrive in this project”, it would’ve looked different. So, I wouldn’t call it as a problem because I think it’s always important to put yourself in situations that are kind of weird and unfamiliar, but there definitely were some internal conflicts in me when I sat down and started to work on the illustrations. But it was good, and of course I’m satisfied about this. I mean, one year ago me and my friend were asked if we wanted to start to work on this very corporate job—project, that would last a year. Good money, though. You might think that I could’ve been, like, “Fuck, I don’t want to do it, I want to just be at home and smoke cigarettes”, but I also realized in a way that: “But you know what, I could be good just coming up and working with a lot of people and doing stuff that I’m not familiar with and that I don’t like” because maybe something else will come out of it. And so it has—now, a year later, I’ve learnt so much just by doing things I don’t like to do.”


How you might have already noticed, Johannes, what includes working on bigger projects with animation, collaborates with his roommate and a good friend Hannes. By living and working together they once decided to start a studio of two and named it — wait for it — “HannesJohannes”.

What was the main idea behind starting a studio out of two people? “We’ve been friends for over 10 or 12 years and we’ve always been very different. I’m very artistic and irrational when it comes to creating stuff, and Hannes is very calm person, he’s very logical and good with all the technical difficulties. I saw he was really good when it comes to all the computer programs and all of those things. And I wanted to do something. So we just started working, and at first we were just more having fun when we were kids, just like going out into the forest and start filming stuff. Then we graduated high school and were like: “What the fuck should we do with our lives?” And yeah, as said, we thought maybe we should do this music video for Passion Pit, and we did, and saw that we work pretty well together because he likes to solve problems and I love finding problems (laughing). So, I don’t know if there was an idea behind it. It was just two really good friends wanting to create things and do stuff together and have fun.” So in the end everything worked out? “Yes, we’d learnt a lot of things. We still work together, I live with him, we share an apartment. But of course, as always, when you work very close with someone, you are going to stumble upon different situations and stuff like that. And that has happened, but we’ve always been pretty good at what comes to talking about it, I guess. But I mean, the best part is to grow up with someone like a friend.”

But do you prefer more working within a team or alone? “I think it depends on the context. If I’m going to produce some really nice indie music video for a small band, and it’s very just an animation, I prefer to be maybe 2 or 3 guys working. But if it’s a bigger project and there are a lot of things that need to be solved, I like to work in a bigger crowd. So, it depends, but I guess I like being around people, I love having them around when I work. I mean, when I’m on my own just sitting and drawing, I always have some movie in the background or something like that. So I think I prefer working with people, actually, more than maybe alone.”

When I ask Johannes if he ever considered of going to any advertising or creative agency, he hesitates for a second, but then confidently replies that when it comes to working with animation, so “it’s huge and there are many things to do”. The main things in such agencies that have been pulling him off or bumming out was the thing that after some time you can become this “cogwheel in a big machine” or if you’re really good at what you’re doing, then it’s likely that others will load a bunch of work onto you.

“But of course, it cost my mind on several occasions, and that’s also why I took this long and maybe boring job because I knew that maybe after all I should go out and do something else than just my own stuff.”

And is your day job actually somewhere in Berlin or not really? “It’s like a production company based in Stockholm, and we work in a group of four people. Me and my friend Hannes work from Berlin, and the other two guys are in Stockholm, and we have Skype meetings every single day. But I guess that in future, when it comes to working in big agencies, I would love to be picked because of my skills, you know. I mean, maybe because I’m good at drawing or I have some weird ideas, and that people hire me based on that, but not that I’m good in the program. Like, that my brain is worth something.” But it has to be a really custom agency, since your work, lets say, is kind of extraordinary? “Yeah, well lets see what happens” (smiles).

Got to admit—my initial plan of coming to Berlin was to mainly visit a couple of concerts, but thank for all the lords out there, Johannes was also in the city by that time. So, mainly what I had seen before having the interview with him was that Berlin still had this artistic, underground kind of vibe with tons of subcultures in between. With this thought I came to Johannes and was curious, whether he had this same idea on his mind, and if it was one of the reasons why he moved here. He is then pretty fast with his laughter and a brief “No”.

“I just cannot figure out how to exist in Swedish society. How can I explain it… Sweden is a very safe country, there are so many safety nets everywhere, people stand in lines, and it’s very structured. Growing up in Sweden you learn from very early on that there is one or maybe five different ways you can go—this is kind of a subconsciousness that the society has. I don’t know how to explain it, but this is like a collective way of thinking in Sweden, and there are five different ways you can live your life. Like, you go to school, then you graduate and you can choose to study to become a doctor or something like that, or you can find a job. Ever since I graduated high school, I had a really hard time finding my way, because society was asking and parents were asking, even friends, something of me, and I was trying to please them, while I was also trying to please myself. So there was this conflict, and in the end I just exploded. I just decided: “OK, this world — Sweden — doesn’t really work for me, so I have to go away where things are kind of, like, different”. I mean (sighs quickly), I didn’t know that Berlin was like this. I think the first time I went here with my friends was around 2007, and I stayed for three days. And so this is my second visit.” Since when, actually? “I moved here a year and two months ago, like, last May. Sweden wasn’t for me, I wasn’t for that framework in a way.”

After all, the reason Johannes thinks he moved to Berlin was because another really good friend of his and a current roommate Simon was coming here.

“He means a lot to me, we met at school in Hyper Island. He had his internship in New York and then went back to Sweden. And I had mine in London, where I stayed for a year. I didn’t like it, the rent was too high and it wasn’t for me. I also went back home to Sweden, and then we just decided: “OK, lets move to Berlin”. I mean, in terms of culture here, or people whom I admire who has been here before—maybe that was also a reason. Like, David Bowie and Iggy Pop, Lou Reed — this has had some kind of relationship to me, too, and maybe that’s also why I decided on Berlin. So, I guess, it’s generally mostly been about friendships and music…” So it still has some art stage in it, too. “Yeah. But I had no clue it was like this, no clue at all. I love this city, I’ve been here for a year and I don’t want to live anywhere else. At least for now I feel so much at home, I can work till 4 or 5 in the morning and then go down anytime and start talking to people. And that doesn’t really happen in Sweden.”

And are there any Berlin related works at the moment? “Not yet. But I’m hoping. I’m finding more bands and musicians, maybe writers, too, for whom I really want to make some cool book covers, for example.”

My further question I wanted to ask was about future, and since Johannes was now recently mentioning musicians, and how they in a way influenced him on choosing the location for a living, I was quick to ask if he thinks there’s still going to be HannesJohannes and how he imagines himself, as Bowie sings, in “Five years”…

“It’s really hard. I think I only have one plan, actually. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I’ve always been planning ahead, since I was really young. I’ve always been very good at when it comes to planning, but I also realized growing up that it never turns out the way you’ve planned. It always goes really weird, so now when I’m 26, I think that my only plan is to get better at what I’m doing — better at working with people, drawing, animating, I don’t know, meeting people, whatever. Practicing too, I want to practice more and more.”

So, for example, to get better at illustrations, have you thought of doing some other techniques or learning some new ones, or you’re strictly tied to that kind of drawing of yours? “When the time is right, I think I will maybe do something else. Right now I’m obsessed with that and I get a lot of pleasure out of it. But who knows, maybe in two years I will have done it for a very long time and feel like this is not fun anymore, and then I start to explore some other techniques.”

Johannes is still not very sure what else he’d be doing and keeps on figuring things out, but one of the possibilities mentions is doing some sculptures and characters out of clay or any other similar material.

I see, you’re still thinking about it. “Yes I am.” Like, thinking all life long… “Exactly (laughs). I’m going to turn, like, 80 and die and I’m going to think: “At least I thought about stuff, at least I had it up here” (laughing and pointing to his forehead). No, but I mean, time will tell, but I’m 95% sure I’m going to start exploring some other techniques, yeah. But I think that to be really good at something, you need to really sit down and practice. Both when it comes to fine liner and sketching, adding colors and, as I mentioned before, the whole color-blindness thing… And yeah, every time when I sit down and I make an illustration, I also feel that I’m practicing. I have a lot of fun, and it gives me a lot of pleasure, but I also feel like “Yeah, I’m really not there yet, I still have a lot to learn”. And so my only plan is to basically practice and learn a lot of stuff. And have fun.”

Keeping on with the same topic, I’m very curious, if Johannes has ever thought of completely other sphere. As a person, who only took a course of one year in animation, he might have probably had a lot of space to think about other opportunities or occupations, as well. Johannes gets lost just for a second.

“No, not really. I mean, maybe a voice actor…? I don’t know, actually (laughs). I haven’t really thought about it. But I guess, I’d be focusing on just illustrating and animating, mainly on music industry where I am right now. But who knows, maybe in the future someone contacts me and says: “Hey, you know, I’m a writer and would love to create something together”, and I will start, like, writing more, maybe creating comics and stuff like that.”

Would you be interested into drawing some illustrations for comics? “Yeah. I’ve been working for two years already on my graphic novel Midnight Creeper, though it’s not a really graphic novel, it’s more of a collection. It’s based in this huge forest, and I think the book is mainly about depression and stuff like that. In a way, I’m writing stuff, but it’s really not like a comic thing, it’s more like a huge illustration with tiny bits of texts on every page. There isn’t much of a plot you can follow, it’s more like a vivid, dream-like thing. You turn a page, and there is one illustration. There is a tiny bit of text and there is some kind of a story behind it, and you read that. And on the next page there is a new illustration.” Do you have any idea when you could finish it? “I think it’s going to be finished in two months, actually.” So you’re thinking of printing it out somewhere? “Yeah, I’m going to contacts some publisher’s agencies and see what they think of it. I still have a couple of pages left, and things to do, but yeah, I’m hoping to release that, and maybe that would be some kind of a catalyst in my life.” So tell us as soon as it is published! “Yes yes, I will spam my Facebook and Instagram with where to buy it, and stuff.”


When it comes to work, Johannes is pretty accurate with everything he does at certain times. Just like most of us, he also sets some kind of a routine to make his days more efficient, whether it covers his daily tasks from work at a Swedish company, or just cleanliness of his personal space.

“It depends in what kind of phase I am at the moment, sometimes I wake up around 12–1pm in the afternoon. But usually it is 8–9am. So I go from my bed to my desk (laughs), and I sit down and I make a cup of coffee, and then we have a morning meeting at 10. Then I work from, like, 10-ish till 5–6pm in the afternoon. I get off, go around the apartment, see what Simon is up to, see what Hannes is up to, and then I go back into my room and start drawing or (pauses) vacuuming the floor or something.”

But do you have any kind of traditions how you’re drawing your illustrations, your personal work? Do you set any kind of milestones how you’re making them, or does it just flow out in it’s own way? “I have, like, a paper and pen, have two desks in my room, the one with my computer and a lamp and Wacom tablet. And then I have another desk where I draw. I always have a pen and paper, and when I get, like, an idea or something, I sketch it down and put it in a folder. Then, when I decide to draw, I take out that folder and start flipping through the different ideas and then I put one on the table. But every time, and this is also a routine in a way, before I start drawing, I always clean my room because I’m obsessed with the things being clean. I vacuum my floor twice a day. So, I always have to kind of vacuum the floor and just scrub everything off and put pens, paper and everything, and then I can start.”

And apart the “Midnight Creeper”, is there any other bigger project you’re currently working on? “I don’t know if it’s a bigger project, but the “Midnight Creeper” is one thing, and then I have other illustrations that are just kind of out of the blue, but I’m trying to put some consistency into those ones, as well, so I then make, like, three of them. If I make a portrait or something of a random monster, I try to do two more, so that there are three in total. And I have a couple of those lying around.” Do you have an idea what you’re going to do after that? “I think I’m going to do some kind of a collection, like some book, just collect the things from over the last four years or something like that.”

This is the moment from which the interview is supposed to be going to an end, and I have planned to ask Johannes only very short questions, trying to get from him 3–4 words as an answer for each. Since the forest was the space, which has inspired him the most through his whole life, I wondered what he would’ve stated as another point of inspiration. Johannes is not very confident with answering at first but in a form of a subtle question says: “Bathroom?” When I explain my question, he is fast to expand it to a broader thought, which ends to be one of the most philosophical parts in our whole talk, which is great.

Since the forest inspired you in a way, so I’m just going towards that direction… “Ah, okay, I was thinking of more like a setting. If not the forest, then… (Pauses while thinking) Uhm… I think music, definitely, music and conversations. Speaking with friends or just, like, being in this place (looks around), drinking wine and sitting, talking about life and stuff — that gives me a lot of inspiration. And music as well, I am obsessed with music and I listen to it when I’m working, when I watch documentaries, read the books about musicians. And that kind of thing, the artists — that gives me a lot of inspiration. Not always in terms of the story or the character but in terms of consistency, when it comes to the universe. I’ve been obsessed with Andy Warhol and that whole 60’s era in New York for a very long time now, and because it’s like a universe, it’s consistent and it has all characters, has the setting and has all of that. So when I listen to music, I tempt to, like, read about that kind of universe. So, if I get into the Shoegaze genre, read about it, like Slowdive and other bands in that era, going from the 80’s to the 90’s, there are all these characters. And when I sit down and start drawing, I want to kind of have all those characters in my work, and it should be like a small universe that a person could just look at and feel that it’s more than just an illustration — it’s like a small universe with different characters doing different things.”

From the moment I heard the Shoegaze and the band Slowdive being mentioned, my attention got a bit carried away, since I was trying to be fast and reply to it that we’ll definitely have to talk about these two later after the interview. Nevertheless, there were still two more things, which I wanted short answers to, so my other question was aimed at his illustrations, connected to, yes, pizza. We all have our personal fetishes, where some of them might be pretty secret, while others are just there, a step away from others to realize. And Johannes’ subtle one, as I’ve guessed, was pizza related, since he had it added into couple of his drawings.

So if not pizza, then…? “If not pizza, then bathroom. Like, the whole interior, the toilet, bathroom and everything… That one.”

And really sort of a broad question, but the world would become a better place when… or if…? “Erm… When you practice yourself criticism. I think that the world becomes a better place when people are capable and able to step out of their bodies and critic themselves, and acknowledge that there are so many people on this planet, and we’re really all very different. And sometimes we do forget that everybody is just different. So, by having that kind of a skill and ability, I think the world would become a better place. And it’s something I practice together with my friends everyday.” So you kind of enjoy being criticized…? “I mean, I don’t enjoy being criticized, but I know that it’s a good thing, and I need to be able to cope with criticism and to able to criticize myself. Maybe not always, but when it comes to illustrations and stuff like that, and also when it comes to just being a person I am in general, yeah.”

Here my interview with Johannes ends, and even though the whole talk took for nearly an hour, I felt like it could easily go on for at least a few more. And even though it was supposed to be just kind of a question- answer form-like mainly about his drawings and animation, I am happy he was this person who is easy with expanding to broader thoughts and go on talking about life and beliefs and interests in general.

For anyone of you, who have some thoughts on their mind after this read, and would like to find a partner in creative crime, such as Johannes, feel free to check this man and more of his obsessions over here:


About the author:

Ilona Dzengeleviciute is a UX/Visual Designer and Creative currently living and working in Prague,
and occasionally travelling to other cities of Europe to meet artists and talk about their works.
She would love to collaborate on any kind of design related projects, so feel free to contact her anytime.

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