The illustrator hotlist 2018

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The world of illustration never stays still for long. Aside from new illustration trends and illustration tools shaping the industry, there’s always new talent arriving on the scene, disrupting the zeitgeist with innovative techniques and new perspectives. 

Sometimes it can be hard to keep up. So, whether you're looking for the best illustrators to hire, collaborate with or inspire you, we've gathered together the most exciting up-and-coming artists to whet your appetite. 

Some are young guns, fresh out of college; others are older hands whose work might have recently hit a sweet spot, or dovetailed with wider trends. Read on to find out (in no particular order), the hottest illustrators of 2018.

01. Tianju Duan

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In 2018, the idea of masculinity is changing, and it’s a theme beautifully represented in the work shown here by Tianju Duan. Originally from China and currently based in Copenhagen, Duan works as a freelance illustrator for clients worldwide, helped by the fact that he speaks English, Spanish and Chinese. He describes his style as “fun, colourful, sensual and emotional; I usually hand-draw shapes with markers and then colour them digitally.” 

He ended last year on a high note, having won a big commission from Marriott Hotels in November, and his plan for the coming year is to “just keep working, take part in a variety of projects, and enjoy it as much as I did in 2017.” 

“His recent collection of portraits, Boy Power!, celebrate male beauty, and he seems to critique the idea of a digital vector image via his use of colour and quivering linework,” enthuses Lizzie Finn, course leader in MA Illustration and Visual Media at London College of Communication, UAL, from which Duan graduated in 2015. He’s also won acclaim for his contribution to the 36 Days of Type project, which combines characters from the alphabet with famous celebrity images in a way that seems immediately iconic and familiar.

02. Nate Kitch

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Living in Winchester, UK and represented in North America by Marlena Agency, Nate Kitch is known for his striking editorial illustrations, which utilise collage techniques to represent stories with abstract yet impactful visuals. 

“I use scanning of textures, mark making, old photos, anything really,” he explains. “I used to hate drawing and really struggled with lines: that’s how I fell into collage, in order to escape drawing. But now I’m trying to tame the lion and bring it back into my work. I now actually quite like drawing!”

In the process, he’s become a favoured illustrator for magazines such as New Scientist, Harper’s Magazine, New Statesman, Esquire and GQ. But it’s newspaper work that pushes him the most. 

“I’m lucky enough to have worked with the Guardian every other week for about four years now, and that’s always exciting because you only get about five to six hours start to finish,” he says. “It’s both intense and exhilarating.”

03. Sara Andreasson 

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A Swedish illustrator now living and working in London, Sara Andreasson has a confident, distinctive and vibrant style that’s won her a long list of big-name clients, including Apple, Converse, Dolby, Lacoste, MTV, Nike, Samsung and Selfridges.

“Sara creates interesting editorial pieces and has a strong sense of style,” says Karen Jane, design director at Wieden+Kennedy London. “We particularly like the still-life illustrations and the personality of the work – it has a great sense of colour and impact.”

04. Giacomo Bagnara

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Giacomo Bagnara is an Italian illustrator with a background in architecture. Colourful, clean and organised around bold clear shapes, his distinctive work has won him a range of international clients including Sony, The New Yorker, Monocle, The New York Times, El País Semanal and Die Zeit. 

“I work 90 per cent digitally, although last year I rediscovered some painting and sketching techniques I hadn’t used in my commercial work,” says Bagnara, who’s represented by Synergy Art in London. In fact, it was a pretty good year in general, he sums up, involving “a lot of great projects and collaborations, new clients and my first solo show in Verona, the city where I live.” 

“Giacomo always finds smart and elegant solutions in his illustrations,” says member of 2017’s D&AD Crafts for Design jury, Andrea Chronopoulos. “His images are filled with the kind of small details that give each different element of the illustration its own, strong personality.”

05. Maldo

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Originally from Bratislava, Maldo – aka Martin Malacek – now lives in Prague, working for clients including Time Inc, Travel + Leisure, Surf Office and Festival de Cannes. Bold, simple and minimal, his style is defined by basic sketchy line-work, dotted half-tone patterns, stripped down mainly to black and white colours, and high contrast, often with a conceptual idea or using negative space. 

“Theme-wise, I like working with cool lifestyle brands; anything that’s connected to surfing, skate and urban culture,” Maldo explains. “I also love working with magazines.” 

06. Rosanna Tasker

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Rosanna Tasker is based in Bristol and has worked on a variety of commissions, including children’s books, editorial, branding, character design, murals, book jackets and album sleeves. Clients include The New York Times, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Wendy’s and The Scout Association.

Her style is a mixture of delicate line work and gentle textures; sometimes set off by calm, subtle hues, at other times juxtaposed with bold, punchy colours. “I often choose a limited palette of two or three colours, because I like the striking effect this can have on the composition,” she says. “I naturally tend to draw elongated figures and forms and love to use rich, handmade papers.”

There are two main elements to her approach. “The first stages of my work are created using natural media – my grandpa’s 0.5mm mechanical pencil for the line work, and gouache paints for colour – which are created as separate layers using a light box,” she explains. “The final stages involve scanning and composing in Photoshop.”

“Rosanna’s illustrations are full of elongated forms, natural settings, fascinating characters and subtle colour schemes,” says senior agent and associate director Juliette Lott at Illustration Web, which represents her. “Her artwork is alive with lines and textures, and has a naturally creative feel to it.”

07. Biff

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Biff, aka Philip Smith, is an illustrator, designer and art director living in London. Represented by Jelly London, he eschews taking himself too seriously, in both life and work, and his honest yet playful illustrations have won him a roster of international clients, including Wieden+Kennedy, Razorfish, Studio Moross, Print Club London and Wired. 

Of his process, he says: “Usually I’ll just go straight at it with a pencil and paper, roughing out how I envisage it in my head. The outlines and areas of black are then inked up with either fine liner, paint markers or brush and ink (depending on the piece or how brave I’m feeling). It’ll never come out exactly as planned, but I quite like that. The mistakes don’t look like mistakes because I’ve embraced them and allowed them to be part of the work.”

“As a type nerd, Biff’s work really stands out for me,” says Rick Banks, director of London design studio Face37. “You have to love his big, bold lettering.”

08. Chris Wormwell

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Christopher Wormell is an English print-maker, illustrator and children’s author. Born in 1955, he’s neither the youngest or newest face on our list, but his acclaimed storm-swept cover for Philip Pullman’s latest novel, La Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One – named Waterstones book of the year in 2017 – has meant he’s certainly of the moment. The project was one of his highlights of the past year, along with the launch of his own illustrated dinosaur book, Dinosaurium (Welcome to The Museum), published by Templar Publishing.

“My work is created largely using wood engraving and lino cut, or digital work derived from these two methods; or a mixture of the two,” he explains. 

To date, Wormell has published some 14 illustrated books and acted as illustrator on at least 18 more – and he continues to be busy. “Among other things. I have two exciting book projects on the go at the moment, and another really exciting book illustration job about to start,” he says. 

09. Petra Eriksson

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A Swedish illustrator and artist living in Barcelona, Petra Eriksson’s work is colourful, playful and infused with a charming simplicity. “I love working with really bold colours,” she says. “And I like to use patterns and negative space in a smart way, to create depth in the image even though most of the surfaces are completely flat.”

Last year saw her, amongst other things, working on Bygone Badass Broads, a book written by Mackenzi Lee and published by Abrams Books. “It’s about a bunch of hardcore women we should know about,” she explains. “The topic is very much up my alley and it was a very smooth and inspiring process. I also got to work with some of my dream companies and magazines like Pinterest, The New Yorker and Vice. Another big highlight was being signed by Handsome Frank after they saw my work on Instagram, which I’m extremely happy about.”

For Handsome Frank’s co-founder Jon Cockley, the feeling is mutual. “From the moment we announced we were representing Petra, we’ve had a phenomenal response and the enquiries haven’t stopped,” he says. “It’s hard to say what’s so special about her work, but her vibrant use of colour and incredible knack for creating joyous portraits feel like exactly what we need for 2018. It’s so uplifting and full of positive energy.”

10. Fionna Fernandes

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Based in her home city of Sydney, Australia, Fionna Fernandes draws distinctive portraits for clients in fashion, editorial and advertising. With a client list ranging from My Little Pony and Nickelodeon to Toyota and Fanta, her bright and colourful stylings have been much in demand of late. 

Combining digital and hand-generated marks, Fernandes uses an Artline pen for her line work, and acrylic paint to come up with the light-hearted patterns she often uses as backgrounds. Recently, she’s been experimenting with collaged backdrops and adding stickers to the compositions. 

Juliette Lott, associate director of Illustration Web, which represents her, describes her work as “playful, fun and energetic. Fernandes’ work usually features female models in fashion scenarios, but she’s just as adept at depicting men, and animals too. There’s a youthful flavour to her aesthetic, and she enjoys drawing attention to certain aspects of the female face – the eyes, lips and hair – using brighter colours and patterns. This gives her portraits a unique feel and some extra punch.”

11. Stacey Thomas

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There’s a childlike playfulness to the work of 2017 Brighton BA Illustration graduate Stacey Thomas that feels like a breath of fresh air in today’s fractured world. “My process combines traditional drawing, painting and model-making: lots of gouache paint, pencils, balsa wood and coloured paper,” she says. 

“There’s a confidence about her drawing, and some keen observations with her diary comics,” says course leader, Roderick Mills: “These are a great example of how illustrators can generate their own content alongside commercial commissions.” 

12. Andreea Dobrin Dinu

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Born and raised in Romania, Andreea Dobrin Dinu now works as an illustrator and graphic designer in her Hamburg studio Summerkid. Although nowadays her main focus is now illustration, she continues to develop her digital and print graphic design skills of 10 years and counting. 

Her cartoon-like illustrations are brimming with life and positivity, never fall into colour palette cliches, and often border on the surreal. Clients include the Süddeutsche Zeitung Familie (South German newspaper family), P Magazine, SUB25 Magazine and Art Safari 2017 Visuals, the yearly Bucharest art festival.

Andrej Kiszling, design director of Owl Illustration, which represents her, describes Dino as a “super up-and-coming talent, characteristic with vivid semi-abstract style, really quite something new and fresh.” 

13. Guillaume Kurkdjian

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French illustrator and animator Guillaume Kurkdjian won’t be a completely new face to regular Computer Arts readers. His cheeky, colourful and geometric work had long attracted the team’s attention, and last year we commissioned him to design a studio-themed September cover (issue 270). “I loved doing it,” he reflects. “It’s great to see your work printed and at a large scale, and it’s a very concrete way to explain your job to everyone.” 

2017 was good in other ways, too. “I worked on a lot of different types of projects, my style evolved and I learnt a lot of new skills,” he recalls. And this hasn’t gone unnoticed. “Demand for Guillaume’s work has increased significantly over recent months,” says Jon Cockley of Handsome Frank. “Clients love how he presents technology in fun and interesting ways. His talent for animation is also a factor, as we’re increasingly seeing demand for work to move and become interactive.”

14. Julian Glander

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An illustrator and animator based in New York, with clients including MIT, Giphy and Disney, Julian Glander describes his creations as “acid-pastel imagery; bloopy, blobby, purple work. I always like when people say they want to eat my images.” 

 “Julian’s humour is what sets him apart, along with his vibrant, RGB pastel colours: Gifastic!,” says Rick Banks, director of Face37 Ltd, while Lara Chan-Baker of Jacky Winter describes Glander’s work as “everything I love about this new wave of illustration: it’s vibrant, bizarre and deeply original.”

15. Brian Edward Miller

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Based in Colorado, Brian Edward Miller provides illustration services for editorial, commercial, advertising and picture books. “My style utilises lots of strong shapes, textures, and dynamic lighting to create what many describe as a ‘modern retro’ look,” he says. 

“I’m influenced by lots of ’40s and  ’50s commercial illustrators, landscape painters, and a lifetime of watching cartoons.” One of his biggest highlights in 2017 was moving to a new studio space, while this year he plans to combine client work with opening an online print shop.

16. Nancy Liang

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Flickering street lights, twinkling stars and wispy smoke are all familiar elements in the work of Sydney-based Nancy Liang. “I create dreamlike images of urban landscapes and sleepy scenes of Australian suburbia,” she says, describing how she illustrates by hand, crafts models with assorted papers, and then brings it all to life as GIFs. 

“Liang’s work is an endlessly enchanting blend of traditional techniques and digital tricks,” says Lara Chan-Baker of Jacky Winter, which represents her. 

17. Lucia Gaggiotti

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Based in London and Italy, Lucia Gaggiotti doesn’t believe she has a defined style. “I prefer to think of myself as versatile; to listen to the clients’ needs and adjust my style accordingly,” she says. If left to her own devices, though, she’ll usually end up crafting “something that’s joyful and full of optimism, with lots of soft, natural colours”. 

Gaggiotti’s clients include foodie brands such as Jamie Oliver, Carluccio’s and Costa, as well as educational companies including Walker Books, Templar Publishing and Educational Insights. 

18. Maldo

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Originally from Bratislava, Slovakia, Maldo - a self-described “illustrator and creative maverick” - now works globally out of Prague, Czech Republic. 

Maldo has honed his illustrative style over time, simplifying it and taking it back to basics; nowadays it’s characterised by simple, bold linework, a sketchy look, a limited colour palette, and often using negative space.

With clients including Time Inc, Travel + Leisure, Surf Office, and Festival de Cannes, he’s developed a nice line in designing for apparel brands and music labels, as well as editorial illustration and painting murals.

19. Célestin Krier

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Célestin Krier’s illustrations are certainly on the offbeat side of the spectrum when it comes to our hotlist: spidery lines, quirky shapes, clashing colours and other unusual approaches are the order of the day. But that doesn’t stop the Parisian being in demand. “We loved his work instantly,” enthuses Karen Jane, design director at Wieden+Kennedy London. “It has a super-vibrant feel and a playful energy that feels fresh.” 

Describing his style as “archaic yet contemporary”, Krier says he often draws directly within software such as Photoshop. His 2017 highlight was working with Berlin’s Yukiko studio on a project for Nike, and he particularly loves working with clients who are graphic designers, as he has a background in the field himself. 

“This is my visual culture, so we understand each other really well,” he explains. “Most of them are up for trying some experimental things, and that’s what I really love to do.”

20. Jesús Sotes

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Based in Pamplona, Spain, Jesús Sotés Vicente is a self-taught illustrator and graphic designer. His work makes strong use of shapes, the influence of folk traditions, and a love of foliage to create illustrations for editorial, advertising and book publishing that seem at once both familiar and original. It’s won him a string of commissions for book jackets, as well as big-name clients like British Airways and Hermes.

21. Tishk Barzanji

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London-based illustrator Tishk Barzanji’s slightly surreal architectural creations have been turning heads of late. He describes his mixed-media work as “a mixture of Modernism and Surrealism, but using the power of colour to create a narrative”.

His 2017 highlight was a commission for Wallpaper* magazine, while in 2018 he plans to take his work into three dimensions. “Last year, I was only just understanding and learning, to shape my ideas,” he says. “Now I’m going to put all that in to practice.”

Barzanji is represented by Jelly London in Europe and H+ Creative in the USA. “Tishk is someone we’ve had our eye on for a while,” says Jelly London’s head of illustration Nicki Field. “With a recent talk at Somerset House plus a show at Palm Vaults in Hackney, he’s gaining a lot of coverage and a real industry presence. I reckon he’s destined for great things.”

22. Giacomo Bagnara

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Giacomo Bagnara is an Italian illustrator who trained as an architect but ended up discovering a talent for editorial illustration, winning him clients such as Sony, The New Yorker, The New York Times, and Die Zeit. 

His work is simple enough to work well on digital and social platforms. But there’s an underlying intelligence and thoughtfulness to it too, raising it about the norm and lending an air of understated sophistication to the brands who harness it.

D&AD judge Andrea Chronopoulos says of Bagnara: “He always finds smart and elegant solutions in his illustrations. His images are essential but with small details that give a strong personality to all the elements.”

23. Cristina Daura

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Cristina Daura is an illustrator and comic artist based in Barcelona, Spain. Her work is balanced and symmetrical, but never boring; two-dimensional, yet nicely textured. Most immediately, it is defiantly bright, colourful and upbeat, and dominated by a trademark colour palette that makes her work instantly identifiable. 

As well as a flurry of regional magazines, brands and festivals, Daura has done editorial and commercial work for the likes of The New York Times, New York Times Sunday Review and Penguin Books. “Her work is rigorous but also playful, with surreal and impactful compositions full of recurring elements that define her personal style,” says Chronopoulos. 

24. Miren Asiain Lora

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Hailing from Pamplona, Spain, Miren Asiain Lora (aka Miaslö) has lived in Argentina for six years, but is heading back to her home country in 2018. She’s known for her fabulously detailed miniature environments and scenes that centre around the magic of everyday life; charming little moments crafted using gouache, acrylics and colour pencils. “I feel working by hand is more rewarding than working digitally,” says Lora. “I paint with the intention of creating sensations, atmospheres and new spaces.”

Lora’s work has been on show in several exhibitions in Spain, China, Japan, Italy, Argentina and Mexico; she’s created posters for musical and theatre projects, as well as Amnesty International, and she’s won a number of awards. “But she’s still quite a well-kept secret due to her low profile and quiet personality,” notes Linda Neilson, director of Galería Mar Dulce in Buenos Aires, which has exhibited Lora’s work in the past. “That said, she’s increasingly attracting attention, both for her personal work and her commercial illustrations.” 

25. Olivia Mathurin

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It’s common to find an illustrator who’s technically skilled yet produces little that’s new, engaging or original. That’s certainly NOT the case with Olivia Mathurin. 

The work of the London based illustrator, who graduated from the Royal College of Art this year with an MA in Visual Communication, doesn’t shy away from expressing a social and cultural political point of view. Giving a unique take on everyday city scenes, such as passengers on a bus or customers in a fast-food chicken takeaway, her work is social commentary at its most vibrant and challenging. 

26. Hani Abusamra

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Hani Abusamra is an illustrator and visual artist based in London who is inspired by science, print-making, comic books and skateboards. Much of his work takes serious topics and puts a quirky, colourful and pop culture-infused twist on them. 

“Hani’s work cleverly frames and layers pattern and iconic symbols with skilled figurative imagery creating seductive scenes, serious in content and pleasing to the eye,” says Lizzie Finn, course leader in MA Illustration & Visual Media at London College of Communication, UAL, which he recently completed. “His intricately constructed eight colour A0 screen print ‘They Were Allowed to Look Back (They Would Not be Turned to Stone) was a hit at the LCC postgraduate shows in December.”

27. Mr William Draw

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Mr William Draw is an ex-product designer turned fashion illustrator. Based in Chile, he was selected as part of 200 best illustrators in the world by Lurzer's Archive 2016/17. 

“My work is a blend of oniric and symbolic elements with a surrealist aura,” he says, “where I combine handmade and digital techniques to show a universe where fashion acquires different meanings.” 

There are common themes in his illustrations, such as silhouette cutouts and empty, circular heads. But while reductive art can be often austere and boring, his inspired use of colour, deep attachment to his subject and general sense of joie de vivre creates an inspired synergy that makes each piece different, fascinating and compelling.

28. Eran Hilleli 

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A graduate from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, Eran Hilleli is an artist, illustrator and animation director currently based in Tel Aviv. His work combines a sense of mythic fantasy with a minimalist approach to colour and shape that results in surprisingly breathtaking and emotionally engaging scenes. 

Inspired by folk tales, Japanese animation from the ’80s and early video game aesthetics, Hilleli’s simple style nonetheless leaves great space for interpretation, and the effect is to powerfully and unexpectedly draw in the viewer.

29. Decur

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Decur is an artist and illustrator from Santa Fe in Argentina whose children’s book-style art evoke times past while somehow remaining strikingly modern. The phrase “weird and wonderful” may be an overused one, but in this case it perfectly describes his quiet and whimsical style. 

“Decur’s fantastical world rendered in acrylics and watercolour has captured him a growing cult following both in Argentina and abroad, and an increasing amount of work in commercial illustration,” says Linda Neilson, director of Galería Mar Dulce, Buenos Aires.

30. Insa

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Innovative London-based illustrator Insa is best known for his animated graffiti, which he calls ‘GIF-ITI’. Essentially, he hand paints every frame of each animation full-scale, then creates GIFs from the results. 

“Originally this was just murals on walls, but I really enjoy exploring new ways of capturing this real-time work in a digital setting,” he says. Sam Summerskill of Bernstein & Andriulli, which represents him, is a huge fan. “Augmented reality plus large-scale murals, plus-large scale animated murals equals WIN,” he enthuses.

31. Mark Boardman

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Bristol-based illustrator Mark Boardman creates narrative, editorial and advertising work for a wide variety of clients including Variety, NPR and Universal Music. “I aim for a digital style that retains some of the elements I learned in traditional media, particularly oils,” he says. 

“Over the last few months, Mark’s style has become increasingly popular with our clients,” says Alice Wilkinson of Meiklejohn Illustration, which represents him. ”Mark’s use of colour and texture is a big hit and seems to be especially on trend this year.”

32. Rune Fisker

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Based in Copenhagen, Rune Fisker wears a lot of hats. As well as running his own animation company, Benny Box, alongside his brother Esben, he also works as an artist and illustrator on a mixture of commercial and personal projects. His illustrations are characterised by an abstract, surrealist style, which experiments with geometrics, line and tone. Characters with distorted proportions partake in scenes somewhere between fiction and reality. 

“If do black and white work, I use a steadier pigment liner on paper,” Fisker says, talking about his process. “Colour artwork, however, I do in either Photoshop with a Wacom board, or on an iPad Pro using the Apple Pencil and Procreate.”

Represented worldwide by Agent Pekka, his clients include The New Yorker, The New York Times, Wired, The Atlantic, The New York Observer and Cartoon Network. “I love his amazing perspectives,“ says Jozefien Van Beek of Oogst magazine in Antwerp, Belgium. “Quite simply, his work is mindblowing.”

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