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The Q&A: Hanna Barczyk

By Peggy Roalf   Monday March 21, 2016

Q: Originally from Germany, what are some of your favorite things about living and working in Canada?

A: I grew up in a small town called Bad Waldsee, situated in the south, close to the Alps. However my mother is Hungarian and my father is of Polish-East Prussian descent. When my twin sister and I were 13 years old we emigrated with our mother to Toronto, Canada, where I attended high school, then the Ontario College of Art and Design. I have been living between New York City and Toronto for the past two years. I love NYC for its energy, art scene and multitude of people. The city has a lot to offer, and I feel art is highly appreciated. I love to dance and there are places to go dancing every night, and NYC dances on 2. 

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between the art you create on paper versus in the computer? 

A: I keep a couple of different sketchbooks, one for personal use, one to sketch ideas for assignments very roughly, and I keep a smaller sketchbook for commutes on the train. I spend more time creating on paper versus the computer. I figure out my line work, which I use a calligraphy pen and India ink first, then I think about shapes and color before I scan everything in. Once I scan in the line work, I simply get straight to work digitally and add colors and shapes however needed. 


Q: What is the most important item in your studio? 

A: My most important item in the studio is a pencil and paper. 

Q: What do you like best about your workspace? Do you think it needs improvement, if so, what would you change? 

A: I love natural light, and my current studio has nice, big windows and a good wood floor. I often end up working on the floor. 

The best part is to have everything in one place. I used to move locations a lot, and it’s a distraction to run back and forth to print and scan at different locations. I enjoy having a steady work station now. Also, having access to an espresso machine is ideal. 

Q: How do you know when the art is finished? 

A: I know the art is finished when everything feels right and comfortable. If I feel a little bit awkward about the piece, I know there is still something to tweak, maybe the colors need to change, or I need to erase some lines. If I’m looking at an image, and there is a circular motion to keep the eye moving, it’s done.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child? What is the best book you’ve recently read? 

A: My favorite book as a child was Pippi Longstocking  (Pippi Langstrumpf) by Astrid Lindgren, Pippi is known for doing what she wants, is unpredictable,k and lives with a horse and a monkey. 

The book I recently read was The Stranger, by Albert Camus—an absurdist piece of fiction that take places in Algeria. I enjoy reading historical fiction, I like to learn about history, philosophy and culture through personal stories rather than non-fiction. One of the best books that started that curiosity was Dave Eggers’ novel, What is the What

Q: If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you choose? 

A: I would only work with black india ink. 

Q: If you could time travel to any era, any place, where would you go? 

A: Right here, right now. 

Q: What is preoccupying you at the moment? 

A: I recently finished three children’s books, so that was preoccupying me for a while. Now I’m preoccupied thinking about what project I could work on next, I’m thinking on how to get more challenging long-term projects. 


Q: What are some of your favorite places/books/blogs/websites for inspiration? 

A: I often look through past issues of American Illustration and The Society of Illustrators annuals as well as art books at the museums for inspiration. I love hanging out at bookstores and looking through books, from photography to fashion, fine art and design. I also browse vintage postage stamps, film posters and book covers online. And I often go to the MOMA and The Met. NYC has a lot of great shows and I attend new shows from contemporary artists but often find myself going back to the museums to look at old school artists such as Matisse, Kahlo, Munch, Gaugin and Picasso. 

Q: What was the [Thunderbolt] painting or drawing or film or otherwise that most affected your approach to art? 

A: There were a couple of situations that I remember in particular that have affected my approach to art. The first was when I was about 9 years old my mother took me to the museum in Budapest to see Picasso’s drawings and paintings. I remember feeling a sense of relief seeing his drawings. Simple line drawings, which were not based in realism but observation, gesture and emotion.Having great teachers at OCAD and meeting successful illustrators has showed me that it is possible to make a career with art. Seeing other illustrators work gave me a lot of hope to do the same. 

Q: What would be your last supper? 

A: Tapas sized portions of ceviche, tacos, arepas, hortobágyi palacsinta, guava cheesecake and zserbó with glass of red wine, espresso and sparkling water. 

Hanna Barczyk is a freelance illustrator who creates conceptual illustrations for major publications such as The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe and The Los Angeles Times, among others. She has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators, American Illustration, Creative Quarterly and 3x3 Magazine of Contemporary Illustration. She has also been the recipient of the Melville White Award, received Honorable Mention from 3x3 and has been the subject of a feature in Communication Arts Magazine.

Hanna was recently part of a group show from March 9-16 in Toronto called “Paper Trails” at the Black Cat ArtSpace Gallery. The theme is loosely based on the theme “Spring”. Curated by Glynnis Abell. 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hannabarczyk/ @hannabarczyk

Purple Rain Illustrators purplerainillustrators.com 

Behance: https://www.behance.net/hannaillustration

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hannabarczyk @hannabarczyk Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/johanna.barczyk

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