As many creatives of a certain age will know, carving out time between client work and family life to focus on a personal project is pretty impossible. It’s a feeling the illustrator Sebastian König knows all too well. While he recognises that personal work is vital to discover new avenues and means of expression, he also knows that the very act of choosing such work over paid commissions can lead to a very different kind of stress. So recently, to remedy such a rut, the illustrator simply began each working day with a short drawing exercise not bound by any rules, limitations or concepts.
Soon into the exercise, Sebastian realised that he was repeatedly drawing two things: human-like figures and everyday objects. “For both, I loved the moment in the sketch phase, when the ideas enter a new dimension by changing the usual perspective or adding a new layer to the visual concept so that a simple one-picture-story arises,” Sebastian says. Pretty quickly after this realisation, the name of the project (and later the zine) arose; ‘facts’ refers to the objects littered throughout, and ‘figures’ to the bodies wandering through the pages. For Sebastian, there was also something funny about taking a saying as mundane and corporate as Facts & Figures and applying it to a project that represents the opposite.
Sebastian’s work is recognisable for its artful simplicity, but as this specific personal exploration progressed he wanted to dial things back even further. While many of his previous projects take a pared-back, graphic approach to image making, they’re often bright with colour, like his book Jamming, which centred on the trials and tribulations of being stuck in a traffic jam. Instead, for Facts & Figures, Sebastian decided he would limit himself to one colour, without even allowing for a spot of shading.
This meant that Sebastian had to be more conscious when approaching each drawing, with every line, shape and curve now being intentional, and a key facet in demonstrating function and meaning. “By focusing on the shapes of the characters and objects I quickly realised I need to take a longer look at the inner forms of the illustrations,” Sebastian says. And when composing each drawing into his zine Sebastian wanted to create the feeling of his figures walking through the zine, but also a well composed collection of symbols that call for closer inspection.
Throughout the project Sebastian made an interesting observation – that the illustrations often mirrored his mental state. Some of the characters seem exhausted; like the figure with its facial features falling off, or the one with the “gluey, melting” face. Proving to be a useful means of self-reflection and introspection, when Sebastian realised his works had a negative tone he pushed himself to create something a little more positive, like Bubble Boy, a figure striding along while blowing a bubble shaped exactly like its own head, “this helped me to focus on the happy side of like in general”, Sebastian says.
On the whole, the process of creating such a personal zine reminded Sebastian of why he loves the work he does – creating new things and new ideas that no one can take away from him. “It’s like creating precious diamonds or in a more modern metaphor, I am mining my own intellectual crypto currency,” he says. So if you’re deliberating on starting that personal project, here’s your sign – even if it’s only for a few minutes at the start of each working day.
GallerySebastian König: Facts & Figures (Copyright © Sebastian König, 2023)
Sebastian König: Facts & Figures (Copyright © Sebastian König, 2023)
About the Author
Olivia (she/her) joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in November 2021 and soon became staff writer. A graduate of the University of Edinburgh with a degree in English literature and history, she’s particularly interested in photography, publications and type design.