Art & Photography

Exclusive Preview: Flight by artist Von

We talk to London-based artist Von about his new collection of prints, available to pre-order today

Established in 2006, HelloVon is the studio of London-based illustrator and artist Von. Blending traditional and digital mediums, Von’s work focuses on his interest in nature and popular culture to produce stunning illustrations that explore geometry and form.

As he talks us through his new series of fine art prints, Flight — some of which are shown exclusive here to Port — we find out how he negotiates the very different demands of commercial and artistic projects, his interest in the natural world and why for him there’s nothing more integral to a project’s artistic success than research.

“Birds seemed the obvious choice as they have such inherently beautiful structures”

How does Flight build upon your previous collection of prints, Animals?

Von: I first started what’s now become an ongoing series of drawings based on animals back in 2007, when I had my debut solo show at the Espeis Gallery in New York. Since then, it’s grown and appeared in a few different guises — for example as part of Trussardi’s A/W collection; Creative Review’s award winning Monograph series; in the  Migration exhibition which saw a flock of abstracted birds appear on a billboard first in London and then in New York the following month and culminating with my first Collector’s Edition Box Set which sold out.

Why did you choose birds this time around?

Von:After taking a year or so off to explore other interests with a portrait based series entitled Semblance, I really wanted to revisit the Animal series, this time round focussing on one particular breed. Birds seemed the obvious choice as they have such inherently beautiful structures. I did quite extensive image research as I wanted to focus on one approximate grouping of birds for this

project rather than randomly selecting them from all over the place.

Eventually I settled on the small European variety. During my research I struck up a conversation with a fantastic photographer called Charles Fleming who very kindly allowed me to use some shots from his folio as reference for the artwork. Finding the right reference is always difficult but once it’s finally in place, I can then begin to deconstruct and analyse the birds, taking away parts of the form, reconfiguring (and) reducing structure to pure geometry in places, and so on, to create the artwork that makes up the box set.

“I’ve totally refused commercial offers to license work form the Semblance series
or to recreate it for a brand. It’s important to know where or with whom to draw the line in that respect”

Can you talk us through the process you employ when creating your illustrations?

Von: All the work is drawn purely by hand, but it all begins with a good reference material. I know I’ve come across a good one when I can immediately see where I can take it — what to take away, how the geometry in the structure fits together, where distortion may work, etc. I suppose, taking the Flight box set as an example, it’s not a case of seeing a bird and trying to faithfully recreate that in pencil — it’s analysing, reducing, reconstructing an refining it. Within the final image you can see an equal fascination with the process of image making / drawing itself as you can with the content being portrayed.

How do the demands of a project like this contrast with those of a more “commercial” project? How do they feed from each other?

Von: I’ve always had two strands to my career — one, the commercial side with the HelloVon studio where I work for clients world wide such as Selfridges, the Paralympics, Time Magazine, etc.

The other is fine art, original pieces I exhibit in galleries or produce as special releases or limited editions through ShopVon.  I’ve had solo shows in New York and LA and have exhibited in group shows in both Europe and the US.

For the first few years these two strands were symbiotic to fluctuating degrees, one having a knock-on effect on the other whilst conversely being an enjoyable escape from the other, but in the past year or two I feel like they have begun to grow apart with ShopVon and the fine art side of my work becoming it’s own entity aesthetically.I guess the separation has been both been organic and something I’ve cultivated. The Animal series has occasionally been used in commercial situations but I’ve always been very picky over where. I’ve totally refused commercial offers to license work form the Semblance series or to recreate it for a brand. It’s important to know where or with whom to draw the line in that respect — I feel very passionately about the fine art side of my work and I love doing it.

Having said that my commercial schedule has been so busy over the past two years it’s not left me the time I need to put into doing a new solo exhibition (the last being 2009), but this is something I’m determined to avoid if I can next year. I have a lot of ideas I need to find the time to make real.

Flight is available to order from today