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Work / Illustration

“I’ve just always liked drawing people”: Haley Tippmann on her observational illustrations

“The most exciting aspect of illustration, I think, is that there are so many different directions to take it,” states New York-born, Germany-based illustrator Haley Tippmann, “there are so many different perspectives and ways of drawing an idea or a feeling, that it feels limitless.” An observational drawer, Haley’s work sees her filling each frame with crowds of strangers, projecting narratives onto their mundane interactions, all in her signature, over exaggerated style.

Despite drawing all her life, Haley’s specific interest in illustration began while she was studying. When it came time to choose a major, she was toying between fine art and graphic design, eventually opting for the latter. “During that time, I felt like I was trying to conform into a realm I wasn’t quite meant for,” she tells It’s Nice That, “I missed the fine art aspects, but realised that the illustration side of design allowed me to draw and think more conceptually about my work.”

Now, she spends her time creating studies of human interactions, taking “a bunch of pictures in the city” or doing “quick pencil sketches in a cafe” to work from later down the line. Although producing commissions for the likes of The New York Times and Brigitte Magazine, these observational works make up Haley’s personal practice, and some of her favourite drawings. “Those are the best scenes since people are the most relaxed and natural. And, I love observational comedy. The most mundane situations can be funny and good inspiration,” she adds.

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Haley Tippmann

Taking these ordinary and everyday moments, Haley fabricates stories and scenarios. “I like illustratively giving a ‘face’ to what I see in my head when I read something, which is probably why I draw so many people in my free time,” she explains. “People watching is great, and it is fun for me to make up stories about strangers I see. I think these drawings are a visual way of writing down my stories and are some kind of an escape.”

While the moments Haley chooses to portray build a narrative around the daily lives of those who live in cities, it’s her depiction of bodies and faces which really make her work distinctive. “I draw a lot of people in various situations, such as sitting at a cafe or just walking in a crowd,” she explains of her process, “when I interpret these people, I try to imagine them through my lens.”

This lens sees coats and other garments enlarged to incorporate exaggerated folds, and faces with harsh highlights; toned-down eyes rendered as two black dots. Beyond their aesthetics, Haley’s characters harbour a direct, sometimes almost confrontational attitude, their gaze staring you down from inside the frame. From here the final touch is the illustrator’s use of earthy, pinkish tones, an element which adds softness and a welcoming feeling to her imagery, creating balance. “This has been my favourite personal work I’ve done so far,” Haley explains, “I have honestly been trying to understand why I like drawing these crowds – I am sure there is some deeper meaning to it, but I’ve just always liked drawing people.”

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Haley Tippmann

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Haley Tippmann

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Haley Tippmann