Jan Buchczik’s portfolio communicates with viewers through simplicity. Without fail, an illustration by Jan will be drawn with just a looping black line that somehow communicates a multitude of feelings despite being drawn with one flat trademark tool.
As a result of this signature illustration style now synonymous with the Buchczik name, Jan’s drawings are able to tell a narrative, but it’s up to the viewer to work out what that narrative is in relation to themselves. This is largely due to the melancholia which always murmurs out of the illustrator’s work, whether it’s a dead-pan expression drawn through just the slightest smile, or a panicked look Jan somehow manages to communicate through two tiny dots for eyes.
For him, it’s an illustration aesthetic is a bit like a singleton looking for love, “you can’t find it,” he explains, “it finds you!”
The process of putting this from pen to paper starts conceptually for Jan, thinking of a drawing as consisting of two parts. “The ideas are the vocabulary, while the style is the grammar for those ideas,” he tells It’s Nice That. “They both need to lend themselves to each other and this collaborative effort set the tone, rhythm and volume of your own visual language… It’s kind of like how dogs often happen to look like their owner. Or is it the other way around?”
Jan’s conceptual approach to illustration has formed from this love of language as well as the particular humour he likes (most of the time his characters appear to look a little sorry for themselves), the melancholy he personally dwells in, his own mild temperament and “nosy observations” of his surroundings. These several components that make up his simplistic style are the illustrator’s attempt to portray multiple feelings contradicting themselves at once. “At best I’m hoping to communicate warmth to the viewer, spark a thought and give them guidelines for grasping the image. But, at the same time, leave enough space so that they can kind of make it their own,” he points out.
Although never directly commissioned to communicate mental health, the heavy feelings which appear to permeate his works mean Jan is a go-to-guy to illustrate a mood, personal or for a number of people. Nevertheless, in a recent piece of personal work, a book titled The One And The Many Jan explored that age old task of finding yourself and the worries caused by trying to become the person your personal expectations hopes you’ll be.
Developed after reading Gantenbein and Stiller by Mark Frisch, Jan wanted to create a book that communicated the idea Mark explored of, “finding yourself but at the same time showing the limitation in character that this act of pinning yourself down implicates,” explains Jan. “I think finding yourself can be a crucial part in accepting yourself as who you are. It doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t change, nor that all your problems and self-doubt will disappear, but it sure helps…All I know is that drawing helped me find myself, and be more at ease with myself.”
Over the past few years Jan has been creating his work as a freelance illustrator based in Frankfurt. With no 9-5 schedule to adhere to — and because he really loves his job (it did help him find himself after all) — his illustration work often infiltrates his personal life. “The everyday work of illustrators intwines with their personal life by default,” Jan explains. “Freelancing makes these lines even more fluid. No matter what you do, these will always be more fluid than other professions but it’s something you have to work on a daily basis.”
At times, like anyone, Jan finds himself falling into bad habits with freelancing and keeping his work life balance at an equilibrium. He personally finds not working from home is the best solution to many problems but if that’s not possible for you, “it might help to do fictional walk around the block,” he suggests. “This makes sure you don’t start work in your pyjamas.” Also noting the importance of making time for friends, especially while working on a bigger job “it helps to create smaller daily deadlines within the project. This way you get to call it a day when you are done with your daily tasks.”
Although freelance and very much his own boss, Jan does note that there’s more that the creative industry could do to better support practitioners. Although definitely seeing how it’s “more of an issue that society in general has to urgently work on,” creatives can engage in conversation to help things within their own circles. This could come from the high level creatives with Jan suggesting maybe the Association of Illustrators could offer advice, but on the ground singular creatives could work create a space “where people feel comfortable to talk about their struggle”.
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.