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Fresh & hungry: HelloVon

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November 25 2010

Portrait of ruby player Juan Hernandez by HelloVon for Nike/GQ

HelloVon is a studio established by London-based illustrator Von, our next Fresh & Hungry subject.

CHRIS RUBINO: So I own a great number of pencils and none of them can do what yours do—should I complain, shop elsewhere, new brands? Your drawing skills are amazing. Was this something that you were aware of at a young age? Did you freak out your parents with that?

VON: [Laughs] Thanks! Drawing skills were not really something I was aware of until school as before then I was never in situation where the artwork was compared and marked against others. It was just the thing I always loved doing since I could hold a pencil which grew into a healthy-ish obsession and then, with a generous dose of luck, a career.

Although I don’t come from a creative background, my Dad really ignited something in me at a very young age—he kept a really old box of things from his youth in our attic and would bring it down to show me every now and again on my request. Amongst old love letters and gig posters I was totally mesmerised by these drawings he would have done when he was around the same age, classic Disney characters and from comics of the time. I thought it was such a cool thing to be able to do, like my Dad had some kind of secret super power! I owe a lot to my parents blind faith in my obsession with drawing as I wouldn’t be here without it. I can imagine it was a pretty scary ride for them at times.

‘Death and Music’ editorial illustration for Observer Music Monthly

They sounds real cool. If I had a child that could draw like you I would have been bringing in commissions for him at age 5. How devoted are you to the realm of commercial art? There isn’t a wrong answer here, I’m quite curious about the fine line dividing fine and commercial art and I enjoy hearing others thoughts on this, do you see yourself leaning one direction or maybe even perfectly balanced between the two?

I love both aspects of my work and have a lot of admiration for people who are firmly established in both or who made the transition from commercial to fine art—James Jean being a prime example. With regards to my commercial/gallery balance it’s a cyclical and symbiotic relationship. On one hand long periods of commercial work leave me desperately craving to get straight into more gallery work and, on the other hand, preparing for an exhibition—with long periods of intense effort and time poured into a solo show—it makes for a really nice change of pace to take on a few shorter, sharp commercial jobs. The balance will definitely shift over the next five years but right now I’m pretty happy where it is.

Personal work is critical to me as I’m never happy endlessly repeating myself which can so often happen in commercial art. It really gives you a playground with no boundaries in which to push your skills to the extreme and develop new processes, themes, interests, etc which will then filter back into commercial work and push that all up another notch and reposition you within the industry.

‘The Queen is Dead’ artwork for Beck’s Music Inspired campaign (left); Wallpaper magazine cover, October 2009 (right)

Personal work is critical… It really gives you a playground with no boundaries…which will then filter back into commercial work and push that all up another notch and reposition you within the industry.

Very cool, I truly consider that attitude the mindset of the best modern artists. I’m asking a consistent question to all of your peers, where are you headed next? What are you currently pursuing and/or what isn’t there yet that you’re interested in making happen?

Right now I’m really looking forward to winding down for Christmas as it’s been such a hectic year but at the same time I’m really excited about next year. There’s a few really nice group shows lined up already where I’ll be exhibiting alongside some of my favourite artists. Alongside those group exhibitions I’m also beginning to lay the foundations for a London solo show next year which I’m getting really excited about.

Alongside all that I’ll be working on new releases from my online store ShopVon and, with any luck, some exciting commercial projects. That’s the best thing about this job, next week you could be offered the biggest job or show of your career and you would have no warning. I love being kept on my toes—it really allows you never to rest on your laurels which can only ever be a great thing.

Most definitely, I hope that unexpected call comes your way next week! Thank you for your time Von.

To see more of Von’s work, visit

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Chris Rubino is a New York City-based artist/designer whose work has been exhibited in Europe, Japan, Hong Kong and the U.S. He likes to spend his vacations in the desert and has been in a number of motorcycle accidents. He would very much like to meet Lawrence Weiner one day. Visit his work at

Filed under: design

By Chris Rubino