Illustrator Profile - Hanna Barczyk: "Dance has had a major influence on how I illustrate"

By Robert Newman   Thursday November 17, 2016

Hanna Barczyk is a Jersey City, NJ-based illustrator and artist. Barczyk’s sophisticated work is representative of her diverse background: She has a Hungarian mother, grew up in Germany, and went to school in Toronto, where she still lives part-time. Among her many cited influences are Polish and Cuban poster art; both are reflected in her stylish, colorful, and very smart poster-like conceptual illustrations.

Barczyk and her twin sister Franziska Barczyk will be exhibiting their artwork at Coldstream Fine Arts Gallery in Toronto, opening November 24.

I currently live and work in Jersey City, NJ so I can be close to NYC to attend business meetings and art/illustration events. I also live in a house with my boyfriend in downtown Toronto, Ontario.

My mother is from Hungary. Hungarian folk art and its floral patterns have had a direct influence on me. I also collected vintage Hungarian postage stamps when I was younger. I always enjoyed the simple graphic look of the stamp designs. I grew up in Germany with my father as an art historian. I was regularly introduced to the cultural history around us, from Bauhaus architecture and German Expressionism to European art from the Middle Ages/Renaissance and Baroque. These visual memories—the strength of German Expressionism, the minimal, elegant, Bauhaus lines, and the decorative, round, dynamic movements of Baroque—all continue to inspire my work today. I also had a very supportive older sister while growing up: Juliska. She has always been inspiring. She was the one who would spend time with my twin sister and I, drawing, talking, and coming up with mostly wacky ideas together.

In 1996 my mother, my twin sister and I emigrated to Toronto, Canada.

After graduating from the Ontario College of Art and Design (now OCAD U) with a bachelor of design, I co-founded a non-profit organization called “Images of Courage” with Beata Kruszynski to paint murals in at-risk neighborhoods in Toronto. Community murals were the end result. We received grants from the city and taught art classes at women’s shelters and painted two murals in at-risk neighborhoods in Toronto as well as one mural in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I also painted murals for private businesses such as a clothing store and dance studios. During the years from 2002-2013 I also worked in the film industry as a stand-in/actor/stunt/and body-double while teaching and performing salsa and tango. In 2013 I left for NYC to intern with Edel Rodriguez. By May 2014 I was working independently as an illustrator.

At both locations I work from home. I like having easy access to an espresso machine and a yoga mat—two things I need to get work done! In Toronto I have big windows and I love the natural light that shines throughout the house.

I use pencil for my sketches, and re-draw the approved sketch with pen and ink. I use a dipping fountain pen with different nibs, then scan the drawing and add hand-painted textures and color digitally.

During my internship in 2013 with Edel Rodriguez I met Rodrigo Honeywell from The New York Times at the American Illustration party, who gave me my first assignment for the Times’s Technology/Bits section. I think that marked the beginning of getting noticed as a working illustrator. I then started working and getting calls from other publications. Later on I worked frequently with art director Nathan Huang on the Times opinion page. This also brought another push forward that helped me get noticed. I also met my agent Ella Lupo at the Society of Illustrators and have been represented by Purple Rain Illustrators since January 2015. This marked an important moment in my career as well. In the summer of 2015 I was featured in the Communication Arts “Fresh” annual, which I felt was another big break that helped me get noticed.

My major influences have been German expressionism, Polish and Cuban poster art, Mexican murals, Picasso, Matisse, Kahlo. Other artists that have influenced me are Chris Ofili, Jacob Lawrence, Marcel Dzama, Margaret Kilgallen, and Push Pin Studios. One of my biggest influences outside of art has been dancing. I’ve danced ballet since I was young as well as danced, performed and taught salsa and Argentine tango. The movements, lines, expressions, and music have had a major influence on how I illustrate bodies and their expressions.

I’ve had the pleasure to meet with artist Shahzia Sikander in her studio. She is a Pakistani-American artist who paints miniature paintings but also creates large-scale installations and animations. Her work is cerebral and shows a deep understanding of human emotion all portrayed with symbols, animals, bodies, and historical elements with mixed media technique. I admire her dedication and patience to detailed pieces of work.

For creative inspiration I do yoga and dance. I feel that finding moments of peace is where there is time for creative inspiration to be experienced.

I love working on my own; there is no challenge.

I got a chance to create a book cover for Grand Central Publishing with art director Anne Twomey: I’m Still Here.

My dream assignment would be creating ongoing posters for the Lincoln Center.

Alexandra Zsigmond, Nathan Huang, Nathan Estepp, Ronn Campisi, Anne Twomey and Antonio De Luca. They all allow for freedom and creativity, which they know how to incorporate into an assignment.

Some illustrators that I admire, look at and respect are: Edel Rodriguez—I have been a fan of his work since college, and have admired the color combinations, textures, sense of passion and direct ideas he evokes in his work. Gary Taxali, Paul Dallas and Tavis Coburn, because they were my favorite teachers who taught me that illustration can be a fun career. They allowed for lots of experimentations and finding my own voice. I have been a fan of Anthony Russo’s work for his commercial illustrations but also admire his commitment to painting. Yuko Shimizu is inspiring and someone I respect. Christoph Niemann, for his sense of continuously bringing new visions. I also admire Raquel Aparicio and Gracia Lam for their meticulous techniques and the tender quality of their work. And finally, my twin sister Franziska Barczyk for her fun sense of interpreting the world.

Besides traditional illustration I have been working on an upcoming art show with my sister at Coldstream Fine Arts Gallery in Toronto. The opening night will be November 24, which will include paintings and ink drawings.

I’ve licensed my illustrations to Urban Outfitters for their home retail branch and have done advertising and product illustration for a number of beer and wine labels.

I think illustration can find a place in many different markets, so there is a chance to find alternative clients. I would like to have more exposure to advertising, fashion and film.

To stay current I also believe its important to be active in the world, reading newspapers, books, going to art events/shows and genuinely observing the world. I also think it’s important to keep up on current world events. Other ways I stay current include taking interest in other areas of art such as looking at films, photography, fashion and keeping a personal sketchbook to write notes and make sketches.

I regularly submit my work to competitions such as American Illustration and the Society of Illustrators. I regularly update my Instagram, Twitter and Facebook accounts with new work. I also go to meetings and request portfolio reviews. My agent, Ella Lupo, is on top of the business side when it comes to sending out postcards, e-mails to clients and connecting with new clients.

Work hard. Don’t spend money on a car or a house; invest it into a career first. I also believe it’s important to keep a sketchbook like a diary. First assignments are challenging and it’s great to look back at sketchbooks to get ideas for commercial work. My last piece of advice would be to become deeply curious about a subject that you care about and explore that. One of my friends once said to me, “if you want to be someone you’ve never been before you have to do the things you’ve never done before.”

See more Hanna Barczyk illustrations, new work and updates:
Hanna Barczyk website
Twitter: @hannabarczyk
Instagram: @hannabarczyk
Rep: Purple Rain Illustrators