In-depth interviews with the world's leading creatives

In-depth interviews with the world's leading creatives

Maciej Hajnrich

Feature interview
no. 2 / March 2011

Maciej Hajnrich, also known as Valp has been making creative industry tremor with a mixture of breathtakingly intricate illustrations since 2007. Such is depth and detail of his complex images, he gives a viewer the chance to immerse themselves further and embark on an exploration journey into the world of vibrant and colourful tales. He doesn’t cease to surprise, excite and inspire whilst pushing the envelope. Based in Polish town of Katowice, Maciej has now got international reach with portfolio bursting many weird and wonderful benchmark pieces for some of the biggest names in the world. He is, after all what he calls himself, a graphic illusionist.

Maciej Hajnrich has a passion for his chosen vocation – and what began as a hobby 15 years ago has grown into a fulfilling career. The self-taught artist takes his inspiration from the visuals in the world around him – from static to motion, ancient to contemporary – and uses a combination of photography manipulation and hand-drawn effects to make his ideas a reality. More info

You’re hailing now as a full time freelancer with growing roster of international clients. However, what was it like to make a switch and go solo, tearing away from full time employment and studio environment?

I wanted to go on my own, do projects of my selection by executing and expanding my skills and style. Some circumstances helped me with moving that direction and guided me to the point where I am right now. All the biggest and well recognised projects such as Pendulum’s Immersion album artwork or Priscilla Queen of the Desert illustration are proofs of doing my job right. That wouldn’t be possible if I was still working at a studio.

You’ve branded yourself as ‘graphic illusionist’. At what point did this term came about? Was it a piece of work that started the term or just overview of your work?

I came up with this title about year ago, it was a very spontaneous decision. I found that many people/clients used to say “do your tricks, Valp” and since I feel very comfortable with surreal, abstract or supernatural themes I thought this describes me way much better than “graphic designer” which is too common for such creative person as me ;). And I like how close ‘illusion’ lays to ‘illustration’ and ‘imagination’.  

You did an excellent job working with Pendulum, which seems to be rolling firmly into 2011. Do you feel there’s still a lot more to achieve on this campaign?

For sure! Since early 2009, every part of this campaign for Pendulum got a lot of exposure and obviously, my aim was to ensure this style can be used throughout various applications (web/print/albums etc). In fact I have many more ideas of pushing it even further as I believe there is still a lot more to be achieve in future with Pendulum.

Album campaigns for major labels are notoriously known for having too many inputs from too many people within the record label, the band, the manager and whoever else. Working on Immersion, in collaboration with Storm Thorgerson, how much creative freedom did you have?

It was pretty simple, really. Storm did all amazing photo work with models swimming and diving in real pool. Then he sent over a .psd and I did my job with graphics. Overall idea and art direction came from Rob Swire and guys from Pendulum. They knew exactly what they wanted to achieve with this cover but I had a lot of freedom with execution, picking up details such as whale or jellyfishes. I’m very happy to say guys simply trusted me and were open for all ideas - including cd label, vinyl and other artworks from Collectors Box.

These days, computers give people tools to achieve any results much quicker. Every new Adobe CS release is packed with new features. Do you feel we need all extra filters and buttons? On average how many new features do you use and how do they benefit your work? 

Well, yeah, new features makes your work easier and since they are reasonable then I’m up to see every new release of CS. Smart Objects, Quick Selection, Puppet Warp or Content-Aware Scale are great, don’t you think? The truth is that neither next super-duper button won’t make your artwork better and it’s all about you and your creativity.White Stripes didn’t need newest gear to get their music done so as far as you know what to do with your (newest) equipment to benefit your work then it’s all good.

What you do when you get hit by the inevitable creative block, what do you do? 

I’m focusing on something different, could be other project, other task on my to-do list or simply doing nothing. I believe in unconstrained and not forced creativeness, if there is time, for sure.

How important is the balance between commercial and personal work for you? 

It’s almost the same as work and life balance. I want to enjoy my work as I did at the beginning so I keep thinking about personal works and pushing them forward to get right balance. I had one year off the personal projects, which makes me feel less creative and motivated ever so yeah, this balance is very important for having fun from my work all the time.

How much importance on the message do you feel personal work needs to have? 

That depends on what you got to say. I like to hear what people see in my works, what are they feelings about specific image. So artistic expression in my personal artworks is unfettered by any particular message, not including broadening imagination and joy, for sure.

What do you feel is the most common mistake that you see other creative people make? 

Some guys follows trends too much or simply take other technique/style to get their works done. But hey.. those are not creatives, so all mistakes done by creatives are good to make them unique.

What is your opinion on people shamelessly ripping off others? Has it happened to you? 

Oh yeah, it happened to me several times. I can imagine people will follow or try to copy your style but those who simple use other artworks in their own, or even say they are authors… they shall burn in hell. I would catch them on my lasso and hang, use magic wand or simply erase them because there is no patch tool to heal their wasted souls.

Is there anything in your career that you wish you had done? 

I would like have to started my career earlier, maybe….

Do you have a coveted product, band or brand that you wish to work for one day? What is the one thing in the world that you wish you had designed?  

I’d love to do a few book covers, for authors like Cormac McCarthy or Stephen Kings’ new novel. Oh yeah!

What is your master plan for 2011 and beyond?   

Online store is my goal for 2011, hopefully first quarter. 

In-depth interviews with the world's leading creatives
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