Guns, muscles and swords: Hugo Bilton’s joyous dive into ‘boyish’ things

Meet the Isle of Wight-born illustrator and his welcoming, super-macho figures.

13 November 2023


“An erratic sprinter of image making and sometimes, more recently, a sculptor?” London-based creative Hugo Bilton suggests when asked how to define his warm, eclectic practice. Here, his wonderfully naive, nostalgic mark-making playfully contrasts with joyously exaggerated, overtly masculine – often daft – action and fantasy-inspired scenes, inspired by the likes of Commando, Excalibur and 80s anime. “I’ve always been drawn to these ‘boyish’ things,” he continues, “guns, muscles, swords, the great outdoors, and Arnie punching through that punk’s torso in the first Terminator.”


Copyright © Hugo Bilton, 2023


Copyright © Hugo Bilton, 2023

In this cavalcade of inspirations, Hugo finds a unique, earnest voice, one made all the more distinct by its consistency across mediums and the prolific raw nature of his process. “Play in my work has always been important,” Hugo tells us, “so I like to create a lot quickly.” Continuing to reflect, Hugo notes, “the absurdity of bodybuilding and gym culture is something I’ve always been drawn to,” citing the 1977 docudrama Pumping Iron, as an enormous creative catalyst, finding himself “obsessing with their physique,” drawn to the “peculiar greatness of somewhat outdated masculine prowess.”

Hugo also recalls the security of the gym as an inspiring, safe space. “It doesn’t have to be a serious thing, as with anything there are extremes,” he continues, “the gym can be friendly, fun and not overly macho,” as well as somewhere to push yourself. “As long as you’re not being horrible to anyone and trying to be the best you can be,” Hugo suggests, “then the gym should be seen as a haven, everyone there trying to better themselves in some way,” providing him and others a sense of structure and serenity. “It won’t just help me,” he concludes, “but it allows me to help others around me by trying to be the best person I can!”

GalleryCopyright © Hugo Bilton, 2023

Hero Header

Copyright © Hugo Bilton, 2023

Share Article

About the Author

Harry Bennett

Hailing from the West Midlands, and having originally joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in March 2020, Harry is a freelance writer and designer – running his own independent practice, as well as being one-half of the Studio Ground Floor.

It's Nice That Newsletters

Fancy a bit of It's Nice That in your inbox? Sign up to our newsletters and we'll keep you in the loop with everything good going on in the creative world.