Throughout the course of history, art has played a dual function — as a method of representation — to depict the world as it is, and as a form of escapism — to envision the world as it should be. For fans of the latter, there’s a reverie that takes place when going to a museum and experiencing a painting by an Impressionist, where one is cast back into 19th century France, as there is a turning back of time when peering at the fragments of a former Roman villa.
Heavily inspired by space, Turkish illustrator Princess Hıdır has been creating their own inner worlds as an escape from the uncertainty back on Earth. Born and based in Istanbul, their art is defined by phosphorescent lifeforms that undulate across a dark cosmic terrain that is devoid of human life.
“I enjoy creating an imaginative world and crafting a fantastical and dreamlike atmosphere detached from reality,” Hıdır tells us. “Colors, shapes and details hold great significance for me. I believe that each detail carries meaning.”
Aesthetically, her scenes are reminiscent to Nintendo’s popular Metroid franchise, only, Hıdır’s artwork, though brooding, still carries an inviting look and feel. Speaking with the artist and there’s an abundance of optimism in their spirit that certainly makes its way back into the final mark.
Music also serves as a big source of inspiration for Hıdır, as their textural compositions parallel the spacey beats they’ve created for producers, such as Ozoyo. For the latest Pen & Paper, Hypeart caught up with the emerging Turkish illustrator to understand their process and transport into the fantastic worlds they seek to create.
How did you first get started in art?
Since I was a child, drawing and singing have been some of my greatest joys. As I grew older, I couldn’t envision any other path for myself than art. I guess my first real step was getting into art high school and thereafter fine arts faculty. During this process, I had the opportunity to explore different aspects my practice, which eventually grew towards illustration, animation, and graphic design.
Were there particular illustrators that caught your eye that you wanted to emulate?
Certainly, as my tastes and preferences matured, they changed over time. There was a time when I aspired to be a concept artist and I remember recreating some artists’ works meticulously to learn their techniques. Then my attention shifted towards cartoons and experimental animations. Artists like Sophie Koko, Elenor Kopka, Felix Colgrave and fantastic3dcreation fascinated me.
In this recent period I find myself drawn to a slightly retro aesthetic, inspired by artists such as Roger Dean, Tuco Amalfi, and Johfra Bosschart. Of course, there are many other artists whom I never take my eyes off, including Yonk, Raman Djafari, Joseph Melhuish, Alex Kiesling, Kushet, Harry Ball and Jack Sachs.
“It’s a form of existence.”
Outside art, what else would you say notably inspired you in the past and today?
Besides art, one notable inspiration for me has always been the exploration of space. Since my childhood, the vastness and unreachability of the universe have sparked countless stories and ideas in my mind.
In recent years, nature and the incredibly evolving organisms that are an integral part of the cosmic ecosystem have become more intriguing to me. The complex habits, inventions, cultures, psychology, and sociology… that these organisms develop for themselves are incredibly inspiring.
Sci-fi films and documentaries also left a big impact on you. Which ones in particular?
Some of the standout ones include the Alien series, the Matrix series, La Planète Sauvage and Avatar. Apart from traditional sci-fi films, there’s also The Holy Mountain that has a distinct otherworldly feel to it, as if from outer space.
In terms of documentaries, I’ve found inspiration in the entire Cosmos series, as well as many of David Attenborough‘s remarkable documentaries that explore the wonders of nature. Additionally, the recent works by Melodysheep have been particularly captivating — blending scientific knowledge with creative storytelling.
London, Paris, Berlin and Milan are some of the big cities when it comes to European capitals of art. How would you describe the scene in Istanbul?
Istanbul is a melting pot of cultures and a treasure trove of history — making it a truly enchanting place for the arts.
However, the art scene in Istanbul is currently going through some rough patches. The social, political, and economic challenges that Turkey is facing have definitely taken a toll on the art community. The limitations on freedom of expression in the current environment pose difficulties for artists and cultural events.
Galleries and art venues that once buzzed with energy are feeling the pinch. Independent artists are struggling to find the resources and support they need. It’s a bit disheartening to see the true value and impact of art not always getting the recognition it deserves.
But you know, artists in Istanbul are a resilient bunch! They’re finding ways to make their voices heard, whether it’s through alternative spaces, unconventional exhibitions or daring events. And let’s not forget the power of the digital world! Artists are using online platforms to reach a wider audience, spreading their creativity far and wide.
“I believe that my aesthetic will continue to evolve along with the flow of life.”
How was the transition from agency work to freelance?
Initially, it was challenging. Having gained experience in graphic design and art direction while working in agencies, I gradually developed a strong desire for the freedom and creative control that freelance offers. The urge to pursue an independent career had been brewing within me for a while before I finally took the leap. Deciding to start from scratch was perhaps the most daunting part of the process.
After making the decision, I had to learn new skills such as finding my own clients, managing projects and generating income. However, once I left behind the intense working hours of agency life, I gained more freedom and space for creativity. I had more opportunities to develop my own style and explore other areas of interest. Looking back, I can confidently say that I am very happy with the decision I made.
Your art appears as if from another world. How did you develop this aesthetic and how would you describe your work?
In fact, what I do has become more than just work to me, it’s a form of existence. I believe it evolved into something personal, where fragments of my past and present life, things I’ve seen, heard, experienced and felt, all came together. Over time, this fusion led to the development of this aesthetic. Of course, consuming inspiring content along the way has played a role as well.
It has been a surreal journey. I believe that my aesthetic will continue to evolve along with the flow of life. For now, I enjoy creating an imaginative world and crafting a fantastical and dreamlike atmosphere detached from reality. Colors, shapes and details hold great significance for me. I believe that each detail carries meaning.
Walk us through your process, from start to finish.
Usually, before starting a project, I dive into research related to the concept of the project. This research phase can be quite extensive. I strive to gather inside information to come up with a strong concept and watch documentaries to explore how other artists have approached similar subjects.
For example, in a music-related project, the emotions evoked by the music play a significant role in shaping the visuals. Once a few ideas start forming in my mind, I begin sketching out rough drafts, which ultimately come to life digitally.
During the sketching process, I don’t set specific colors in my mind; it’s more enjoyable to make decisions about colors and textures as I go along. I typically use Photoshop and a drawing tablet to bring the artwork to completion. The time it takes to finish a piece can vary depending on the level of experimentation involved, but it usually takes about one to two weeks to bring a project to completion.
You’ve described your characters as “genderless.” Can you explain further?
Actually, it is widely known that we are advanced animals. Unfortunately, as human civilization evolved, social norms were developed that categorized us based on assigned genders. Like many creatures in nature, humans can express their gender in a non-normative way, not conforming strictly to the “male” and “female” binary gender categories. By presenting my characters as genderless, I aim to promote inclusivity and challenge the societal norms that categorize individuals based on their genders.
What are some projects we can look forward to for the rest of 2023? Beyond that?
This part truly excites me. Recently, I have received job offers from some companies that I’ve been dreaming of collaborating with, which I’m currently working on now. I also still work with Ozoyoyal, by creating the visuals for his album covers. There are other mediums that I am eager to explore and focus on. For instance, I have plans to create works using 3D and traditional methods. We will see together what unfolds and what new opportunities arise.
All artwork courtesy of Princess Hıdır.