The illustrator known as 훗한나 or Hanna Something always knew she’d be a painter some day. There wasn’t a doubt in her mind that she’d become an artist, but when she graduated from high school and applied to art school, a spanner hit the works as she failed to get in. This didn’t stop her however, instead, the Seoul-based illustrator pursued an alternative route into the industry and started working as a storybook illustrator, which would become a career-defining moment.
With time, Hanna Something expanded her practice to include the likes of cartoons, editorial and one off prints. She started visiting book stores more often, drawing inspiration from the images and naturally, as she puts it, “these experiences became pivotal” moments in her first portfolio.
In Hangul, her name 훗한나 literally translates as Hoot Hanna. Hoot isn’t her actual surname, but a creative moniker of sorts. In Korean, it equates to “a chuckling sound,” she explains, “like a mocking smile sound” similar to “pffft” in English. Deliberately removing her inherited familial surname to “make it meaningless”, Hanna implies that a given surname is redundant and in turn, she is making her own name for herself.
Running us through her creative process, the very first thing Hanna does when making a new piece of work, is extract colours from an initial idea. Prior to drawing, she imagines what the illustration will detail and curates the colours on the canvas. “For me, mixing and making new colours are the most pleasurable thing that happens in the whole process,” she tells us. “I guess that’s why I hear from a lot of people that my drawings have beautiful colours.” Her ideas are borne from something as small as a single quote or story, and the aesthetic style develops from there. “I tend to reinvent myself and create something new to fit into the story or project I work on,” she explains. And in this way, there is a distinct difference in tonal quality between her cartoons and illustrations, for example.
With no homogenous drawing style, ultimately, it is Hanna’s hope “for people to feel the eternity of pasts and futures from the moment captured in my drawings.” It’s a desire expressed in her first graphic novel published last year Father Panda. The story began with Hanna’s childhood journal, a highly personal narrative which she was “thrilled to finally make happen.” Set in a dystopian near future where women are obligated to give birth by a certain age but there is not enough human sperm on offer, the comic tells the story of a government run “Replacement Father Program”. In turn, women are forced to give birth to animal human cross-breeds. One woman chooses to fertilise her egg with a male panda and goes on to make a family with him. This, as you can imagine, is how the story unravels in Father Panda, exploring how women are used as purely reproductive tools.
“Anyone who is living in the modern society knows what that feels like,” says Hanna, “to be treated as a cog in the machine and a produce that can be replaced anytime.” Having experienced this herself, the illustrator began to gather such experiences into a collection which went on to become Father Panda. Currently published only in Korean, Hanna hopes this comic detailing daily moments will be translated into English at some point. Elsewhere in her work, Hanna exercises her observant eye by documenting every day scenes with colour. Documenting quiet moments, her painterly works depict people mid-thought, caught in a memory or feeling. She finally goes on to say of these illustrations: “I want to draw a moment filled with colours and dimensions, just like a novel which consumes multiple pages to describe a brief moment.”
GalleryHanna Something (Copyright © Hanna Something 2020)
About the Author
Jyni became a staff writer in March 2019 having previously joined the team as an editorial assistant in August 2018. She graduated from The Glasgow School of Art with a degree in Communication Design in 2017 and her previous roles include Glasgow Women’s Library designer in residence and The Glasgow School of Art’s Graduate Illustrator.