by Ilana Kohn in New Illustration on Friday 15 August 2008

Illustrator Olaf Hajek’s work is amazing! We caught up with him recently and asked him about his artistic background: ‘I was already drawing and painting when I was young. At school, I visited an oil painting class where we were taught to paint with our fingers. This helped a lot to develop an artistic sense and a great feeling for colour, which I think is really important for my work. After school, I studied graphic design, and although illustration was not offered as a main point of the studies, I tried to draw as much as possible. After my diploma in Germany, I moved to Amsterdam, where I was painting, and copied my work and sent it to magazines. That’s how the whole thing started’.

How long have you been working as an illustrator?
‘I have worked now as an illustrator for around sixteen or seventeen years. My carreer started with a nice assignment for an award-winning German newspaper supplement. They first worked with me on a small job and then assigned me to do a lot of illustrations and a cover for three issues. After this job, I won a Art Directors Prize and got more clients and my first agent in Germany. A few years later I was going to New York to do appointments with magazines. This was a great experience. Art Directors loved the work and helped me to get more appointments. The best thing in that week was an assignment from the New Yorker and that I found my first American agent’.

How would you describe the your artistic process?
‘I started with a very expressive, darker palette, which was difficult for a lot of clients. I did not work for a lot of mainstream clients in the beginning, but started to change my style over the years in a more realistic and sometimes very colourful direction, without losing a certain naivity and folkloric touch. Which I really like’.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
‘I am a painter and I don’t work digitally. This is one of the biggest pleasures — to feel the paint, touch the surface, and work on it. I really enjoy this and, of course, the fact that I get to work international for so many different clients and get wonderful feedback is still a great gift. For a few years now, my work has been exhibited in shows and galleries, which of course is another big joy, too’.

When you find yourself in a creative slump, what do you do to try and get out of it?
‘If something is not working at all, I really just take a break and have a coffee, go to a bookstore or listen to music. Sometimes when there are busy times, I need to paint an illustration. But at the same time, I already have to develop an idea for other assignments. This sometimes can be a problem, but actually I rarely have longer creative slumps. The only thing I never will learn is that if there are more quiet times without calls and jobs, not to get insecure or in panic. Just relax and take the time to work on the next personal project!’

Any advice for young illustrators just getting started in the field?
‘Being an illustrator means not only to be able to draw, paint, collage or work on the computer, it also means to be able to create easy visual ideas for many different themes and clients, creating your own personal style (which is very important to survive on a longer scale) and, of course, to be able to sell yourself. So I think young illustrators should show their work around and really work hard on their own style’.

Favorite colour?
‘Every colour is beautiful’.

olaf hajek

olaf hajek