“I have been drawing since I was little. I wasn’t very attentive in class – like most creatives I know – so I would spend the time drawing in my notebooks instead. My parents ended up enrolling me in drawing classes to calm me down,” Strasbourg-based illustrator Hicham Amrani tells It’s Nice That. This instinctive creative energy Hicham describes clearly manifests itself in his busy, dynamic drawings. His latest project Svend & Xanax tells the humorous tale of Svend, the protagonist, who takes a strong Xanax only to be transported to a surreal, at times disorientating, world. Hicham even compares Svend to “the Joker in Batman” saying, “the more I drew, the darker the story became.”
Hicham’s illustrations are characterised by expert precision and an immaculate attention to detail. Recurring patterns and vibrant colours seem to be the comic’s driving force, transforming what might have been a conventional story into a psychedelic dreamscape. “I can’t really describe the aesthetic itself but I know why I have adopted that particular style. I left a lot of room for improvisation in Svend & Xanax because I know I have a tendency of repeating myself. I guess I decided to see it as an experiment. You can’t really see the direction of the story at first, but I made sure to listen to my instincts as the narrative progressed,” the illustrator explains. From bullet train journeys to chained convicts walking by pools of zombies, Hicham’s mind is a melting pot of visually rich ideas and unexpected images.
Svend & Xanax was drawn entirely by hand because of Hicham’s strong sense of creative intuition and ability to command complicated designs. Rather than mapping out character and plot developments, Hicham imagines the type of ambience he wishes to create and the emotions he wishes to evoke through his work. It is this that then leads his creative process. “I have an idea of the atmosphere before I know what the image will look like. I don’t sketch either. When I finish an image I tend to feel that things are where they should be. I find the process itself very evocative. These ideas couldn’t come about if I didn’t leave my self-conscious thoughts to one side. There is a part of us that tries to dictate what is good and bad. I ignore that part of my brain and try to be honest with my feelings.”
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