Clemens

Habicht

My name is Clemens Habicht.

I studied illustration at the University of Technology, Sydney, under the inspiring wing of the always-fantastic Edwina White, who taught me that the secret to making interesting work is to live an interesting life. I apply the basics and theories of what I learned in my time at UTS everyday.

I’m most known for my colour jigsaw puzzles that are sold through the Design Museum in London, The MoMA Design Store in New York, and the Herman Miller store. If you Google my name, it’s always the puzzle that comes up first.

I often get asked about where my ideas come from. They are always there—just looking for a home. I used to be quite embarrassed by the strangeness of my thoughts; happily now I think it is to my advantage that I either don’t quite understand what is happening, or look at things from a slightly different perspective. My best projects are sparks of oddity, notes scribbled down on paper, and vague notions that are not yet solidified. I really love pitching on projects as it gives an opportunity for some of these thoughts to see the light of day.

Most of my work starts with a process of analysis. Once the right question is defined, the answer often presents itself as self-evident. I often start with words rather than visuals—I spend quite a bit of time writing, usually outside of the house with a strong espresso perched nearby. Then I draw and draw. I will get a ream of standard A4 copy paper and just draw without judgement and without stopping, and then go back over my stack of linework and select the drawings that sing. Finally I take these drawings into the final refined style by hand, and polish and tweak the scan digitally.

People are often surprised to learn that I am an illustrator, an artist, a director, and a designer. To me they all feel like the same thing; often to my own surprise the roles involve the same ideas. They are differ in practice, but together they all add up as one, and compliment and nourish each other.

Phil Minton - Dirty Song
Friendly Fires - Skeleton Boy
PVT Vertigo
PVT Homosapien

When creating my work, I ask myself if I am excited by it; if not then I need to find another way in. I often reframe a response in my head with the intro phrase, ‘wouldn’t it be cool to…’. This helps keep a sense of play, fun, and the unexpected; it helps me to avoid the pitfall of only ‘trying to please’, which can often lead to less imaginative results.

I grew up in Sydney, but I now live in Paris, where I am a director of Galerie Allen, a contemporary art gallery representing artists from around the world. I live between Paris and Australia but travel a lot, taking any opportunity (especially work-related) to go to places such as Vietnam, Romania, Borneo, Corsica, Ukraine, the Philippines … travel is one of those things that just opens me up to new things I didn’t even know I didn’t know.

Galerie Allen
Phillipines
NY
Borneo
Romania

I am best at solving things visually and images, like music, have power as a shared intuitive and emotional language that is direct and immediate. Illustration is a pure and gestural form of this—a simple pencil line can be the strongest thing I’ve said.

My work is all about playful gestures with a profound relationship between form and function. Every project is an opportunity to open a window to a new exploration and obsession and a potential creative epiphany that has that lovely feeling of simplicity and seems so obvious in hindsight.

The Presets Fall
Mike Mago The Show

I’m really excited to experiment more with taking simple line drawings into new technologies like virtual and augmented reality, because the simplicity of the line is in contrast to the complexity of the tech. This would catch people off-guard and make pieces more about the subject and the actual experience, rather than the method. The lines can expand into a three-dimensional space and become sculptural.

Recently I’ve been playing around with sewing—transforming three-dimensional forms into sewing patterns to see how I can bring collage ideas into textiles.

When I am sketching, I love getting the lines to work in the most truthful ways. I remember reading Tips on Writing by Hemingway—he describes the process of writing as an excruciating discipline of reduction and truth—I think a lot of that applies in a sketch. You have to ignore the familiar and concentrate on what is there. It is practicing this distillation that makes more complex projects stay the course.

The key to making interesting work is to lead an interesting life. This needs to be a conscious decision that affects every decision you make. Personal passion is a good litmus test—if I am fascinated by something, odds are someone else will be too—and if not, they will appreciate my genuine fascination.

Excerpts from ANIMA

One of the most formative experiences of my career was reading about Quentin Blake’s process. He illustrated my favourite books by Roald Dahl; I was always in awe of their confidently loose line (which I could never achieve; it just got worse the harder I tried). Then I read that the way he did it was to draw the same image over and over and over and then choose his favourite.

It is like being a photographer or filmmaker in that they take multiple images and do multiple takes, from which they select their favourite. I now apply this methodology to loose drawing which completely releases me from the pressure to get it right the first time. I act as both a creator and editor of the work.

I’m a strong believer in the power and importance of nature to inspire and nourish us; that we are small pieces of a larger system. My work often references nature and animals as a metaphor for our own experiences.

My studio is currently in Paris. It’s the best place to find amazing and surprising materials for collage; it’s also full of random surprises in everyday life that jolt me out of any sort of routine with their combination of chaos and elegance.

The highlight of my morning is that first coffee that gently disperses the fog of dreaminess. I spend a lot of time drinking coffee, because it excites my mind and I milk those brief rushes of motivation and hold onto that feeling of excitement to fuel my practice throughout the day.

My studio space is always refreshing itself like ocean tides; it’s marked by an ebb and flow of chaotic disorder and meticulously archived projects and objects that I hoard into labelled shoeboxes and folders. I start each new day with a refreshingly clean work table, and by the end of the day it looks like a bunch of toddlers had a party.

The best thing about working on commercial projects is the moment when the solution to the puzzle of the brief presents itself and everything falls neatly into place. I love having creative conversations with other people that can lead me down new paths I haven’t explored before.

Making of The Presets Fall

The things currently inspiring me the most are monkeys, colour juxtapositions, and visual distortions—I really loved going to Borneo and living in the jungle for a few months by the banks of the Kinabatangan river. I’ll always remember (between the days of filmmaking) relaxing with the monkeys that were all around and just watching them—they feel like unguarded versions of ourselves. The footage I took of them I then turned into a music video comparing the life of a Parisian dandy to the everyday activities of Proboscis monkeys.

Longue la nuit, Barbagallo Remixed

Here’s a recent music video I created for the always impressive Laurence Pike’s drum solo track, ‘Drum Chant’. I loved the collaboration and creative license granted by Laurence (and the trust he gave me to put him in a greenscreen suit); I’m proud that it demonstrates the simultaneous looseness and precision of which Laurence is capable, and that the end result feels like a myriad of pop screenprints in motion.

Laurence Pike - Drum Chant

Not long ago I went to Rome to do a fashion shoot and illustration commission for Maurizio Amadei. It was a chance to experiment with taking simple line drawings into a three-dimensional space using stereographic .gifs.

One of my favourite projects recently was being invited by the director of Sydney Dance Company, Rafael Bonachela, to work with him on a new dance performance, Anima. I installed myself in the dance rehearsal spaces and captured the dancer’s movement using a Kinect scanner as a motion-capture device. The project really challenged me creatively as well as made me step completely out of my comfort zone. The first time it was seen was in front of a sell out audience—it received a standing ovation which still gives me goosebumps.

ANIMA Studies in form

I was given total access to all areas of the Sydney Opera House for an entire evening when I was producing Flume’s ‘Some Minds’. We filmed at an impossible pace in the rehearsal spaces, the labyrinthian corridors, the concert halls … it was super exciting to just be given this beautiful iconic architectural world and have the surreal deadline of the rising sun when it had to reopen to the public.

Flume - Sound Minds

Here’s another piece I’m really proud of. It was created for one of my all-time favourite bands, Liars. We shot it on a shoestring budget—in the mangroves where my dad fishes and in his garage—and I baked a prosthetic version of the singer, Angus, as a decomposing corpse made out of bread. I’m so proud of how filmic it looks, the dread it represents, and (as a huge personal fan) that Angus liked it!

Liars - Staring at zero

One of the largest jobs I’ve ever done was a painting that spanned three levels of an underground carpark. The concept was ‘place’. The carpark is right on Bondi Beach and as you enter the ramps you travel either through the sand or under water, each level a new zone that intuitively reminds you of where you are.

Professional recognition is nice but it’s really just the icing on the cake of getting to make stuff that’s in the public eye, it’s not the goal. If you’re interested, some awards currently lining my trophy room include the Illustration Award for Creative Futures by Creative Review magazine, as well as badges from the Edinburgh Film Festival and the CamerImage Festival in Poland. My videos have been screened in the British Film Theatre, and I’ve lectured at the Bauhaus University in Weimar (plus, I did it in German).

Motor 'Din 10'

I've also had mentions in a few publications that I'm really proud of:

Creative Review, Yatzer, Baumeister Architektur-Magazin, The Design Files, The Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald, This Is Colossal, Boing Boing, as well as being featured in the MOMA store.

That’s me! If you want more, check out my full folio and Instagram. Got a brief? Contact me and the good folks at Jacky Winter.

With Jacky Winter you work directly with the artist alongside a hands-on producer—it’s a power-up for your artwork commission.

With Jacky Winter you work directly with the artist alongside a hands-on producer—it’s a power-up for your artwork commission.

With Jacky Winter you work directly with the artist alongside a hands-on producer—it’s a power-up for your artwork commission.