Text: Tristan Ceddia Images: Chris Hopkins
Chris Hopkins is a bit of an enigma. He is originally from Sydney, is now located somewhere in Japan and only recently got a (very minimal) website upon realisation that he was being mistaken for another artist. Nonetheless, he makes wonderful graphic illustrations. Determined to find out more, Tristan Ceddia tracked him down for a little back and forth banter.
Tristan Ceddia: Where did you grow up and how did you begin your career as an illustrator?
Chris Hopkins: I grew up a few hours south of Sydney and for as long as I can remember, I’ve always liked drawing. I’ve never really worked solely as an illustrator but rather got my start at 19 working as an animator which progressed to becoming an art director, the whole time working for ad agencies (which had it’s pros and cons). Whenever possible I would draw as part of my job and for some reason I also started taking on illustration jobs outside of full-time work, for fun and to pass time more than anything. In 2005 I decided to leave my job to just concentrate on freelance work which I’d say is a 50/50 split between illustrative work and art direction. Both of which I enjoy… And God knows what I like to draw isn’t suitable for everything.
TC: So what do you like to draw?
CH: Things I like… Loose shapes, flowers, Steve Martin, that type of thing. I like things that to me are also kind of funny or a bit ridiculous without being ironic or hip or contrived and mostly not boring, at least I hope. The composition side of drawing is also interesting to me and something I really enjoy.
TC: What made you decide to live in Japan?
CH: As a city and a place to live I’ve always loved Sydney. At the time however, for better or worse, I was just not at all into in what was taking place creatively. Japan on the other hand was one of few places I had experience in travelling to and just a place where I felt comfortable, so that was that.
TC: Has this move had a big influence on your subject matter and style?
CH: I wouldn’t say living here has changed the style of my drawing beyond its natural progression, although certainly it has influenced subject matter. It’s hard not to I think. Even just day-to-day stuff becomes referential on some level. I also like a lot of Japanese artists and artwork so there’s that influence too. It’s a fine line though. I mean, I’m very conscious of not taking everything in that direction or over-doing it.
TC: Do you work in the creative industry in Japan?
CH: I don’t really think about things in those terms but I suppose so? I’m not sure. A few years ago it was certainly more the case with the majority of work being for Japanese clients. These days it’s more geographically spread. I don’t actively promote my own work or try to solicit new clients despite working solely as a freelance artist. (I only recently put a small website of work online after learning a different artist of my name was being mistaken for me). It’s always been a matter of seeing what comes my way as opposed to trying to push things in any particular direction, Japanese or otherwise.
TC: I assume working with Japanese clients would involve speaking at least a little bit of Japanese. Do you ever find yourself (pardon the pun) lost in translation?
CH: I understand a little but really I’ve been lucky. Most clients have been able to speak English so in that regard, it’s all somehow worked out.
TC: Your work mixes modern themes with a classic Push Pin era style illustration. What draws you towards this more classical style of drawing?
CH: I don’t know how classic it is but thanks. I’ve always just felt I can only really draw one way and that’s kind of cartoon-like. I’m honestly terrible at doing anything realistic so I just try to focus on what comes most naturally.
Taste wise and amongst many other things, I do particularly like a lot of the art deco revival graphics that were being created from the mid eighties into the early nineties. From Push Pin right through to artists like Thomas McKnight into what could be regarded as hotel lobby art. Along these lines a friend recently told me that my drawings often remind him of Ken Done (I really liked this). I think more than anything a whole lot of stuff (artists, interests and otherwise) just get muddled-up in my head and what remains is probably something that shares the feeling and sensibilities of that period without looking quite like it. To me it comes down to loose pattern or composition driven illustration that has some kind of warmth or energy to it. I also place an importance on seeing drawings through from pencil sketches to finished art, something I feel can be overlooked these days.
TC: Do you find yourself drawing often? Is it something that you are doing every day?
CH: Not every day unfortunately, but most days. It’s the colouring or finishing of illustrations on the computer or the more design orientated jobs that mostly seem to get in the way of actual drawing. It’s okay though.
TC: Can you describe the thought behind the cover image you illustrated for us?
CH: As is sometimes the case, I started out with one idea but mid-way it turned into something else. I was originally thinking about that old Pepsi logo and wanting to pair the red and blue of the logo with the red and blue of a school uniform. Anyways, it slightly changed but that was the original thought.
TC: If you had to look at one image for the rest of your life, what would it be?
CH: In the name of brownie points, my girlfriend’s sweet face.
Next story: Beyond Thunderdome – Georgie Thomas
Text: Tristan Ceddia Images: Chris Hopkins