Hannah Buckman’s illustrations, with characters all out of proportion, often featuring multiple narratives happening within a larger frame, are instinctual and honest. A Camberwell College of Arts graduate, she depicts the world as she sees it, opening up about her joys and worries through fine-line work, a mixture of media and lavish use of colour.
Since we last spoke to the illustrator, she’s been busy honing her craft. After completing a design internship at Studio Moross, she’s now embracing the freelance life, a choice which is clearly working out. In just over a year, Hannah’s portfolio has expanded to include a cover of Time Out (London and Croatia), content for The British Library’s Windrush Series, an editorial illustration as part of gal-dem’s takeover of The Guardian’s Weekend magazine, a collaboration with Illustrated Tapes, and a short comic, printed on silk for a group exhibition titled EXO.
Despite solidifying her process and method (“starting out with hand-drawn drafts then finishing off on the computer”) in this time, she’s hesitant to verbalise what it is that makes her work so distinctive. “I’d rather leave it to other people to describe my stuff,” she remarks. “Recently though, my work was described as having a ‘scratchy, quirky quality’. I kind of like that.”
Instead of aesthetic qualities, it’s atmosphere and mood that Hannah identifies as a recurring theme in her work. “I draw a lot from my own experiences, whatever I’m interested in at the time. And I may or may not read quite a bit of self-help-y type stuff or go in on analysing feelings and behaviour,” she tells us. “Actually, I realise I tend to analyse feelings more than just feeling and moving through them (my moon in Virgo, I think).” In turn, her illustrations become an outlet to “make sense of things and uncover blind spots I may have”, she continues.
With her own experiences to draw on, female figures, particularly women of colour, are a predominant motif across her works. “To some extent, I think we are all products of our environment,” she says, referring to her desire to portray the experience of women of colour in her work. “I guess what I’m talking about is creating feelings of self-acceptance and belonging, worthiness in women of colour, by reflecting their image. I don’t know, sometimes I do feel like mere ‘representation’ misses the point a bit, because it’s still very on the surface and places value on exterior stuff rather than the interior.”
What makes Hannah’s work so convincing, however, is that she most definitely does place importance on the interior. By visualising her own feelings in such an authentic way, she is simply holding a mirror up to the world she knows, not just striving for “mere representation”. As a result, thanks to the fact that “many women writers and artists have helped me to realise it’s OK and enough to just be honest”, Hannah’s narrative-rich, everyday scenes are filled with truthfulness, in whatever form that may take. “I’m grateful for all the work that has helped me feel less alone and less afraid about speaking up and owning what’s mine,” she tells us. And we think it’s safe to say she’s now doing the same.
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