INTERVIEWED BY Michaela Stehr IMAGES @danielhugoillustration
Cape Town-based illustrator and artist Daniel Hugo gives some insight into his character’s alter ego, the evolution of illustration, and his future plans.
His journey into illustration
Daniel grew up in the Koue Bokkeveld and studied Graphic Design in the late 90s at the Cape University of Technology.
“I’ve always enjoyed drawing and after completing my course and a short stint as a graphic designer, I kinda accidentally became a freelance illustrator.”
“For the past 2 decades I’ve worked as a storyboard artist, visualiser, book illustrator and concept artist for numerous advertising agencies, publishers and production companies. In that time I’ve also created numerous independent, underground sci-fi comics. After my first successful solo exhibition in 2022 with Escap3 Gallery, I’m focussing more on creating limited edition prints, original art and new comics.”
The comics and characters which have influenced his artistic development
As a kid Daniel’s first introduction to comics were Superman and Batman, later Tintin and Asterix, 2000AD and Heavy Metal.
“There are honestly too many to list! I’m forever discovering new artists and comics – new approaches I’d like to emulate and incorporate into my ‘style’. As a kid I would always nerd out and try to figure out how the artists would create certain lines and the ways they would use the pictures to tell a story. From there it just naturally progressed with a lot of support and encouragement from my parents and teachers.“
If he had to create a character for himself
He has, in fact, already created a character or alter-ego of sorts.
“The character was conceived around 2000 as The Oneironaut and was a way to turn some of the dreams I’d had into short, wordless comics. Through the years the character has morphed from a male, in the initial 3-5 page stories, to the current, female iteration as Die Strandloper. The most recent 100-page story was published in collaboration with Dream Press SA and takes the reader on a journey through the land of Mekterra. More ideas are brewing!“
Colour or black and white (or how about sepia)?
“I have no particular preference. It really depends on the image I have in my mind and the kind of atmosphere I’d like to convey. I do like that with digital work, one is able to keep possibilities open. One can quickly try an option without having to commit and without destroying your sketch or underdrawing in the process.“
His art straddles the space between the future and the past
“I love reading about history and have always enjoyed sci-fi and fantasy books. I imagine a lot of the imagery, ideas and insights have found their way into my art through the years. Other than that, it becomes quite metaphysical and difficult to really discuss or explain without sounding terribly pretentious.“
How he conceptualises the artistic worlds and landscapes he creates
When creating many of the illustrations/art, Daniel tries to imbue it with a sense of place, with its own past that has shaped the people or places inhabiting the picture.
“In recent years I have been inspired by the myths, folklore, and the landscape of the Cape, with its fauna and flora, combined with my own dreamscape as the basis of much of my personal work.“
His favourite piece
“I love them all! However, I’m really proud of ‘Die Strandloper’ graphic novel. Specifically for the amount of time I spent creating it, the sequential narration, the quality of the artwork and the cathartic process it was to create. It has opened up a whole new world for me to explore with readers.“
A typical working day
“I try to go for an hour’s walk every morning around 7 am. Then shower and breakfast before the workday starts at 9 am to 4ish. I usually make dinner and then spend time with my partner until around 10 pm. The next few hours I spend drawing for fun, working (if I have a tight deadline) or reading/researching until midnight or 1 am. Rinse and repeat.“
The mediums he works in and where he feels most comfortable
Daniel works with pencil (mostly), pen and ink, watercolours, acrylics on canvas and also the digital app, Procreate.
“I can’t say that I have a strong preference for any of the mediums, seeing as they all have pros, cons and qualities that make them special. That said, I do appreciate the way digital is able to emulate a lot of traditional media, yet has the handy ‘undo’ for mistakes. Other times, it’s the tactility of traditional work and the mastery of a medium that adds to its charm and power.“
“I want to find the time, in between commercial work, to create a new series of paintings, limited edition prints and also begin a new Oneironaut comic that explores the world and denizens of Mekterra further.“