French illustrator Ludwick Hernandez initially studied fine arts at university as he thought he’d eventually become a painter, but little by little his passions turned towards illustration. “I didn’t grow up in a creative environment at all, my mother was a housekeeper and my father worked on construction sites,” Hernandez explains. “I remember when I was a child in the doctor’s waiting room I was fascinated by a poster for an anti-smoking campaign, it was a bird with human legs, shoes, who walked on a cigarette. Years later when I remembered this image I realised it was a Milton Glaser poster.”
Hernandez sees his aesthetic as constantly evolving, and he doesn’t stick to one specific style. For him, it’s recurring ideas that make his work personal. “When I look at my drawings after I’ve done them, I can’t help but notice that they often speak to my fears and my frustrations,” he says. “It’s very Freudian, very unconscious.”
In terms of inspiration, the illustrator says when he first started out he was fascinated by the work of Tomi Ungerer and Roland Topor. “Even though my drawings do not look like theirs at all, there is a strong idea in their work that’s like a punch in the face,” Hernandez says.
When working on a new image, his process starts in different ways, but a common thread is often a focus on the absurd or the silly. “Even though at the end of the day there is something deeper, I want there to be both absurdity and depth,” he says. Hernandez’s images feel like you’ve been plunged into a technicolour dream, as a fleshy character surfs on a shark holding a hairdryer in one drawing and a figure manages to lean into a painting while smoking in another.
Hernandez says he would like people to see elements of Monty Python mixed with a bit of David Lynch in his works. It’s the surprising combinations of characters in mundane situations performing unusual actions or accompanied by unexpected objects and animals that make them so compelling.
The illustrator is represented by Valerie Oualid agency and his portfolio is a mix of editorial commissions for a variety of French magazines and ongoing personal projects. The best part is that Hernandez manages to maintain the surrealism in both areas of his practice.
In the past, Hernandez used to stick to a fairly strict palette of just one to two colours, but these days he enjoys experimenting a bit more, with brilliant shades of pink, blue and green gracing his most recent works. “I try to use a little more colour and that can be led by painters that I like such as David Hockney, but also fashion magazines or album covers,” says Hernandez. “The inspiration comes from everywhere, but they are often bright colours.”
The way Hernandez creates his works has also shifted over the years. “I worked for a long time in felt-tip pen on paper and also a lot of linocut, which made me understand the importance of empty space,” he says. “Since discovering the iPad though, I have had a lot of fun with it. It’s very fluid, very immediate, and very playful.”