Last weekend I emailed Olaf Hajek with some questions which I desperately hoped he'd answer, though I honestly didn't expect to get a response as I imagined it'd be entirely likely he'd just be too busy.
Lo and behold though! I received a speedy reply from Mr. Hajek, answering all my questions! This absolutely made my month...
- You have mentioned in one or two previous interviews that you like to include folkloric elements within your paintings; do you have a favourite piece of folklore or a culture with whose folklore you identify / use repeatedly in your work?
I am very much intrigued by folkloric art, but its more the soul of it then a certain culture. I love the idea of primitive art as well as defined art like indian miniatures. I think it’s more the fact to combine the meticulous style with something more rough and loose. I love these antagonisms in the work and I am fascinated by the imperfection of beauty. I try to infuse my work with folkloristic naivety and freshness. I put all these experiences and inspirations like a collage together to create my work.
- When painting 'full' pieces such as your 'Flowerheads', do you plan out each element within the painting? Is each flower, bird, etc, planned before you start painting? Or do you decide on its exact placement and appearance as you're working?
I guess this depends all about the painting...if its a personal piece or for an assignment....but when I do a painting for myself, i have an idea about the direction, but believe in the art in progress and its surprises.
- Have you always worked in a completely analogue way? Was it a conscious decision to shun digital methods, or is it simply to preserve the integrity of the painting?
The painting process itself is the most important thing...to feel the material , to create a painting which is not easy to change..the colour will be the colour, the position will be the position...I think this is very important. I fell no need to work digitally.
- When painting do you listen to music / audio-books?
I love to listen to music. Like jazz and very eclectic music, a mix from folk to folklore, spanish, french and fado or brazilian tunes.
- In your interview with Gestalten you mentioned that flowers can be made your own, re-created. Do you often / ever collect second-hand imagery of flowers or real flowers to work from?
I do of course have a lot of source books with art, flowers and photos...they all very important sources of inspiration.
- Do you think you'd be as well known as you are, if you produced the same work, but using different materials and methods, i.e. collage, digital painting?
I don't know, but I am sure my work would have been different and will lost its soul.
- You were asked how much of your work you'd be willing to change, if a client asked you to, in your interview with Spraygraphic at Sprayblog.net. You said "I would never let the client change my style." Would you advise 'new' illustrators to stay true to their style too if asked to change it for a client?
It always depends on your style and your career.If you already found your own world and style, you should stay true to it...but it also depends on your standard and fame. In the beginning you must of course be able to make some compromises. But its always very important to develop a unique style to survive this business.
- Have you ever considered illustrating a children's book?
I was starting with a book for yoga for children, but the editor got away from the project..and till now I was to busy with doing exhibitions, which was more important for me.
- And finally, what is your opinion on illustration as an industry at the moment? Are there too many illustrators out there? Has it become too easy to call oneself an 'illustrator'? Or is it good that so many people are choosing Illustration as a career?
I think there a lot of illustrators out there indeed. Some very talented people and a lot of people who just call them self an illustrator and just copy other styles and use too much the digital tools. I sometimes miss a unique style or something which is really touching me...
But its always an up and down and there is of course a crisis in print, which will make it hard for a lot of young illustrators to start a successful career. But then again with all the new media, there will be a big change coming up in the business..I guess that animation will be more and more important.
What fab answers! I'm so thrilled to have received such an awesome response to questions which I specifically wanted to ask of Olaf Hajek. Big thanks to him!