Joakim Drescher spends around a year and a half on the creation of a book. For the Copenhagen-based illustrator, the creation of books acts as a filter. “They are a place to put imagery from my dreams and imagination,” he tells It’s Nice That, “and a way for me to comment on things that I see and hear in a roundabout way.” With the upcoming release of two new books, Motel Universe 1 and its sequel, Motel Universe 2, it has been an especially busy time for the artist.
Though these works seem to resemble a comic book, Joakim doesn’t categorise the works fully in those realms. “I’ve been making zines and art for a long time: books made up of sequential images, writings and common themes.” Sometimes the stories have linear narratives and sometimes they are more abstract. Regardless of the output, Joakim’s work is always vibrant and detailed. He fills the pages with rich colour and imagery. Well-developed and often surreal characters make an appearance, framed by hypnotic backdrops that reflect the quirkiness of Joakim’s imaginary characters.
Motel Universe 1 consists of a staggering 110 pages filled with dynamic illustration, while its sequel possesses an even more impressive 180 pages of intricate drawings. Both publications are set in eponymous Motel Universe; “a greedy, seedy, unjust place” explains Joakim. The first volume follows “a race of slaves who are trophy hunted for their precious skin for the pleasure of the rich and famous.” The story features two antagonists, the first being the ghost of the Roman Emperor Caligula while the second is modelled on the real-life you know who – the all-too-familiar “real estate tycoon come world-developer, B. Flump”.
Alternatively, Motel Universe 2 picks up the “unfinished business from the first book” and introduces new characters along the way. There’s a bounty hunter named Clara Constellation and another world called Planet Pear that is close-to-home in its depiction of “docile, technology-worshipping, perpetual internet surfers”…who knows where Joakim found inspiration for Planet Pear’s inhabitants.
Because the illustrator works on these books over a course of a year or so, “there’s a lot of stuff that I absorb while making them”, he explains. Overheard conversations and movie tropes, in particular, find their way into the book’s contents, so the books become a “constant percolation” of Joakim’s surroundings at the time. Rather than planning the overarching story of the publications, he writes and illustrations the books as he goes along. Chopping and changing various sections by hand, Joakim literally throws parts out and adds other bits in until he’s happy with what he’s created and glues it all together.
Working predominantly with handmade techniques, Joakim’s work gives off an “analogue and imperfect” aesthetic that matches his energetic approach to illustrating. “I don’t use an eraser, or do much pre-planning, so if there are mistakes I try to go with them (and sometimes I use white-out) but usually, the mistakes turn into an integral part of the drawing.” Finally, he concludes our interview with a poignant remark. “I can’t remember who said this to me, but it was something about style being the camouflage of an artist’s weakness. So I use patterns and other froufrou for the most part of that reason.”
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