Interview: Robert Frank Hunter, Illustrator

The work of London-based illustrator and animator, Robert Frank Hunter, sits between two worlds. He uses traditional drawing and print techniques to create images which whisper of folklore, deep magic and lost religions; but his illustrations are no pastiche of the past. He uses striking colours and bold compositions to give his work an unmistakably contemporary edge. Old and new blend seamlessly in Hunter’s mesmerising creations.

Indeed, Hunter believes that colour and form is vital in helping your portfolio stand out. His advice to emerging illustrators is to use “bold colour choices and dramatic compositions”. The New Ghost (published in 2011 by Nobrow Press) is a brilliant example of this advice in his own work. It tells the story of an unlikely relationship that starts between astrologer and a spectral figure. Set entirely at night, Hunter makes wide use of navy and midnight blue, but strategically intersperses the nighttime gloom with shots of neon pink and bright yellow.

This traditional yet modern approach to picture-making is also echoed in the work of Ping Zhu, a Brooklyn-based illustrator whom Hunter particularly admires. Zhu “experiments with her work and seem to push herself to try new approaches to her work” whilst still remaining “so confident in traditional illustration techniques and [she] will produce original paintings for commercial projects which is something of a rarity these days.”

It is actually a manual process that is one of the best pieces of advice given to Hunter. He begins every project by drawing thumbnail sketches, which he finds a fast and easy way to start. After all, “starting is always the hardest part” – something I’m sure every illustrator can identify with.

Words by Beatrix Calow