Nathan Hackett is a British illustrator and motion graphics artist with a fascination for architecture and the relationship its inhabitants have with city dwelling. Hackett is known for his laboured attention to detail, and builds intricate compositions that feature quirky mini-narratives of theatrical invention. Thoroughly scrutinising the complexities and ideas wrestled within each illustration, the resulting image encourages the viewer to investigate and reflect more deeply the subject at hand. Having curiosity at the forefront of his practice, Hackett creates a marriage of abstract ideas with the comfort of the familiar.
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Illustrating the future
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How do you define your identity? Do you identify with (or advocate for) any marginalised communities?
Rarely do I identify with anybody, and it’s important I think for me creatively to be an outsider looking in. Margins are surely the most interesting parts of life.
Where is home?
I’m in Manchester now and I’m finally learning where things are. It’s home if they’ll have me.
Describe your style in one sentence.
I wouldn’t like to be tied down to one sentence and I really try to avoid the word ‘style’.
If you caught me being my least difficult, I’d begrudgingly say I like to build scenes full of activity and I use humour as a tool to make my illustrations as optimistic, kind and accessible as possible.
What lights your soul on fire?
Coffee. I go to bed looking forward to coffee in the morning.
What themes do you enjoy exploring?
The language of cities. Curiosities of living. Kitchen sink dramas.
What techniques do you use?
I try to emphasise the craftsmanship of drawing in my practice so I do a lot of scribbling and writing either in pencil or digitally and gradually tinker away at the scribbles until it resembles something serviceable. There’s a lot of playing and, as bleak as it sounds, I think comfort is not good for me creatively so I try to make things relatively hard.
How much of yourself and your own story can we see in your work?
It’s inseparable I suppose. I’m a paradoxically shy extravert and I think that might lend itself to wanting to make an image that can either be explored fast or slowly.
I really like how illustration partners with someone, or something else. Empathy is more important than to see my own identity in my work but maybe it’s how I’ve been puzzling together the noise.
Is there an unmistakable thread in your creative work?
Many mistakes and was very laboured.
What do you want to be known for?
Like I look like I know what I’m doing; it would be the greatest lie ever told.
Which projects excite you most?
I like variety so anything new and challenging that gives me the chance to torture myself a little.
What is your dream gig?
I’d like to draw the whole world if it would sit still long enough.
Where, when and how do you best create?
Ideas strike in bed; walking the dog; in the shower. Anywhere inconvenient that makes me rush to my desk.
I have a habit of being so obsessed and absorbed with with what I’m doing and I want an illustration to be all-consuming, but then there is a reason creative types look out of windows a lot.
How has your style evolved since you started?
Artistically I think my practice has just broadened, but I still like to draw superheroes and buildings.
What do you find most challenging in your practice or in the industry?
Social media and the sanitised artifice. Or even showing myself at all is very difficult for me; it feels too much like pulling back the magicians curtain.
How has being an illustrator changed your life?
Time can be so greedy and vicious, but Illustrating has taught me you can work with time on something worthwhile and getting better at anything. I’ve happened to choose my life as an illustrator.
Who knows what the long, LONG hours I’ve spent illustrating could have been spent on instead? I could have been anything. I like to look at things I have never tried and think ‘I’d be quite good at that’ and that’s the beauty of never trying some things.
Name a tool you can’t live without!
Tell us about a project you worked on that was meaningful to you as an artist.
You never forget your first and I still can’t believe it. The art director was incredibly trusting.
What influences or inspires your art?
People watching and books. The writer Georges Perec played games to exhaust everything and it had a very lasting effect on me. You can learn to be interested in anything.
Stand up comedy is a big influence too. Not necessarily because of the haha’s but the unexpected turns of phrase and colourful talking. Certain comics I think have a working process that I can relate to.
What would you tell your younger self?
Adults are lying to you, they don’t know what they are doing so don’t worry about it.
Why do you think art speaks louder than words?
I’m not sure why there needs to be a contest between the two. I think they are happily married.