Meet the creators: HAM the Illustrator
HAM the Illustrator is a creative who can't be boxed in with one distinct practice. Instead, contrary to what his moniker might suggest, HAM is several things: from a creative director to illustrator and music producer HAM’s talents are spread throughout many sectors of the creative industries. He’s even produced and written and illustrated an award-winning trap-opera adventure story in collaboration with The Royal Opera House. See what else HAM has to say about his incredible and varied career below!
How would you describe your creative practice?
In short, I’m a multi-disciplinary artist, creative director and music producer based in London. I originally began my practice as a simple graphic designer making logos for various small UK and African based businesses before moving into cover art for various musicians and record labels. Today I'd say I've spent the majority of my career working as a freelance commercial artist for many notable clients including Nike, Adidas, Warner Music, Atlantic Records, MTV, Highsnobiety, JOAT Music Group, and many others.
With that being said I’m probably best known for my project ‘Munkination’ which is an award-winning Afro-futuristic Trap-Opera adventure story I initially created when I was 15 years old and have been building in partnership with the Royal Opera House, Visualise and Think FIlm over the last 3 years. The project is centred around humanity and the present climate change crisis, following a fictional neo-primitive tribe on a mission to send a message back in time to save the planet.
How did you get into illustration?
You know the funny thing is I don't actually remember a time in my life without illustration, I’ve drawn almost every day for as long as I could hold a pen. As a child I’d always wanted to be able to make a living off my drawings but growing up in Africa doing anything creative or illustration focused seemed like an absolute pipe-dream so instead began doing freelance graphic design and logo work whilst doing a degree in Architecture at the University of Newcastle. It wasn’t until a couple of years after graduation that I’d won a scholarship to train in Los Angeles as a music producer and somehow found myself in a studio with a popular music producer out there who’d seen me hunched over at the back of the studio one evening sketching away. Surprised by my drawing abilities, he asked whether I’d be willing to create his artwork for his next release and thus began my first experience working as a cover artist which after years of grinding, networking and diversifying my illustration abilities eventually lead me to where I am today. Of course, there’s a lot more to it but that’s really where it all began professionally.
Are you working on any exciting projects at the moment?
With 2022 right around the corner there are so many exciting things happening at the moment. Over the last month, I’ve been getting involved in some really exciting new projects in the Metaverse and Web 3.0 space but unfortunately can’t really share much about them due to NDA’s and all that good stuff. With that being said though there is one which I’m by far the most excited about and that is of course Munkination.
What is your favourite thing about working in the creative industry?
That no two days are the same. As an immigrant, I think we are incredibly privileged to be able to live in a country with so many opportunities for young creatives to grow, network and develop their creative practices. I love exploring the diversity in opportunities this city has to offer, from networking, to brand collaborations and everything in between, the creative industry here truly allows us the chances to grow and develop our business, marketing and creative skills simultaneously.
What would you consider to be a career highlight?
Honestly, I’ve had a few incredible highlights throughout my career thus far so this is a really tough question to answer but one particularly notable highlight would be when Munkination first won the Royal Opera House’s Immersive Development Award and I was invited to participate in the CPH: LABS programme in Copenhagen. During that trip, we were required to partner with a creative technologist and attend an 8-day accelerator programme along with around 8 other teams from all over the world who’d been developing projects in the immersive technology, documentary and social impact space. During that time I learnt so much about immersive technologies specifically Augmented and Virtual Reality as well as the art of impact storytelling which all together completely shattered anything I’d ever thought about or even realised prior to that moment.
How would you describe your work?
My work reflects the intersections between multimedia storytelling and social impact and on a surface level, I'd say I’m a multidisciplinary creative who creates a bunch of cool things for various brands, record labels and companies around the world but on a slightly deeper level than that I care about the planet and the power creative arts can have on social impact so over the last 3 years I’ve grown obsessed with exploring the art of immersive storytelling across different platforms, be it illustration, creative direction, music production, Web 3.0, VR/AR and everything in between.
What bit of advice would you give to anyone starting out in illustration?
The biggest advice I have is to never allow anyone to dictate what you can or cannot do as a young creative. Throughout my career I’ve been continuously told to focus on just one pathway and drop the rest and whilst that is seemingly good advice and probably would have led to much quicker short term results it would have never served me in the long run. Contrary to popular opinions I think young creatives should never be afraid to explore and learn new things. I feel most comfortable, creative and productive when I don’t feel limited and can learn from and explore different skillsets and mediums. Whilst I could have never anticipated this at the beginning of my career I believe my diversity in skillsets is the exact virtue that has led to the successes I have today.
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