Artist and Fashion illustrator Naja Conrad-Hansen tells SLAIIB of life as an illustrator and why she would choose black.
Naja Conrad-Hansen has quickly become one of the top illustrators in the Danish fashion world since she started her career at a not so young age. Her style of illustration is both distinctive and captivating and her illustrations are frequently seen in leading fashion magazines.
You seem very busy with illustrations in many magazines. What are you currently working on?
I am working on a series of 10 portraits of Danish personalities for the magazine Where To Go
Working as an artist and illustrator must be different from working in an office job. How is our average work day?
I usually get up at 7:30 and take a walk in the park next to where I live. This is my workout – when I get to do it [she laughs]. I dress casual since I work from home and right now I just go home and go through my mails quickly before I start working. Last night I stopped working at four o’clock in the morning. I’m seriously busy at the moment.
What got you started as an illustrator?
Well, in my twenties I travelled the World and lived a few years I Berlin where I survived by working as a bartender and selling fruit at the market place and other random jobs. I really had a travel bug in me, but when I had my daughter I felt a need to get serious about my art. I was 27 when I got in to the Danish Design School. In the beginning I thought about designing clothes, but it was the images that captured me. I did a lot of graphics and illustrations all along. I like the mix of graphics and illustrations. They sort of speak to each other.
You seem to finally have found your true vocation, but why fashion?
Fashion is a great passion of mine in the sense that fashion is a way to look into the future. I do not mean this season’s fashion but fashion as a mirror of society. Fashion is a way to sum up the times we live in and see where we are going. I also get inspired by fashion – or – it is kind of tricky because inspiration comes from all the things you experience as a person. It comes from the past, the future, what you read, the music you listen to…but fashion is a great source of inspiration and I sometimes make collages of fashion magazines and other stuff.
Does your inspiration ever run out?
Yes. Sometimes after a lot of work I need to reload. Travelling does that for me.
What is your working process when you start a new piece of work?
I create personalities for each character I work on. I begin sketching with crayon and then I continue with black ink. In the beginning I usually draw by hand first and then if I have a deadline I continue working on the computer. Of course it makes a difference if it is a drawing for a client or it is a personal drawing but a good picture takes at least two to three days to make.
How do you see the difference between commissioned work and ‘self inspired’ work?
The one thing inspires the other. That is why it is so good to have clients. It gives me the opportunity to get inspired by things I would not necessarily have come up with myself.
You do most of your work using black ink. What is it about black that you like?
Black is the coolest colour even if it is not a colour. If I could only choose one colour I would choose black! There are so many shades of black. Black does it all.