Nathan Hackett: Analysing Play

Work / Illustrator

Nathan Hackett’s playful illustrations explore relationships between humans and their surroundings

British illustrator Nathan Hackett is a story weaver; writing playful narratives for the characters who inhabit the intricate buildings he creates. Illustrating since he was 11 years old — at first doodles in his maths books, then blow-pens won as a prize on the nineties hit TV show Art Attack and later studying illustration at Bournemouth College of Art, Nathan’s work powerfully and playfully sparks conversation on how we, as people, interact with our surroundings.

The characters Nathan illustrates are colourful, bold and full of humanity, “I try to be empathetic in my narratives.” Nathan explains. “I tend to explore my ideas by including smaller theatrical and quirky dioramas in an illustration that composed together feeds into the narrative as a whole.”

“The people in my illustrations are almost caricatures that presume and hint at deeper stories,” says Nathan. “I write a little so I naturally seek narratives even in non-sequential images.” The characters in Noise Complaint for example, span the human demographic, with a couple fighting next to their young child, boys playing loudly in a rock-band, two women doing DIY and someone putting out a fire — the characters are thoroughly human, relatable and despite Nathan’s high level of illustrative detail, leave space for the viewers own storytelling and interpretation.

Where Nathan’s illustrations really stand out, however, is in the intersection between people and places; the interaction been us as human beings and our surroundings. “I read some essays by George Perec called Species of Spaces and Other Pieces long ago,” Nathan tells us. “He is the most enduring inspiration that informs my work. Those essays were analysing space in ridiculous, playful detail in order to understand how places shape people.”

Though Nathan dedicates many a sleepless night to building his intricate work, play and comedy feature heavily, giving his illustrations a lightness and freedom which is infectious to the viewer. This is perhaps best illustrated in his delightfully light creation Analysing Play, which features a group of adults on scooters, wiggling through whirly plastic tunnels and jumping into ball pits.

On his artistic process, Nathan explains that it’s in his nature to “dabble purposefully with the confidence to make mistakes until you find yourself honing something rather than experimenting.” As for the meaning and motivation behind his work, Nathan enthuses: “Ultimately, I’m trying to compose an illustration that invites curiosity and encourages some exploration and reflection of the ideas at play,” and it’s clear to us he’s achieved this.


Nathan Hackett: Rented Lease


Nathan Hackett: Cops and Hackers


Nathan Hackett: Surviving the Administrative Revolution


Nathan Hackett: Apartment Intersection


Nathan Hackett: Commuting Underground


Nathan Hackett: Morning Workout


Nathan Hackett: Construction Zone


Nathan Hackett: Noise Complaint


Nathan Hackett: The Suffragettes