Artist of the Month : Hilde Thomsen

December 1, 2022

Hilde Thomsen (1984) is an artist with focus on drawing art, an illustrator and a newspaper cartoonist. Thomsen has designed posters, books, reports, wine labels, cards and carried out editorial work. She is concerned with society and politics and likes to comment on current topics with a sharp and sarcastic streak. Thomsen's anthropomorphic animal figures portray animals with character and emotions, they spread joy and humor to the viewer. These cheerful and somewhat funny animals are characterized by a lush line and beautiful use of color, at the same time they can be read as comments on man's exploitation of nature and animals. She has had a wide range of clients, including Dagens Næringsliv, Cappelen Damm, VG Helg, Stavanger Aftenblad, Gatemagasinet Asfalt, Innovation Norge, Hele Rogaland Leser, Aker Solutions and many more. Thomsen lives and works from Stavanger.

TF: Hilde, can you tell us a bit about your artistic practice?  

HT: I draw in the old fashioned way, with a lot of ink and watercolour. I have worked freelance with drawing throughout my working life, which is 11 years. And now it has gone too far for me to do anything else. Until a few years ago, I answered that I worked as an illustrator if someone asked. Now I answer that I am an artist with focus on drawing, if anyone asks. I still work on editorial assignments for magazines and newspapers, but also make time for my own projects that do not necessarily need to have any concrete goal and meaning. I have also been drawing national farm animals for a while, which I make posters and calendars and the like and exhibit in my den, which I use as a studio. My work is threefold. One third editorial assignments, one third own projects and one third livestock. I have taken over the family farm, which is an hour from Stavanger, and I want to be able to answer, artist, draftsman and farmer, that question one day.

TF: Why do you draw? Tell us a little about your work process.

HT: I loved writing stories and poems at school, but was disappointed when the styles came back with a lot of red. I never got the gift of speech either. Nor did I become good at the piano. I have an innate urge to create and enormous imagination and drawing was something I mastered. So then it turned out like this.

I never recognized myself in the typical artist that I felt became too floating and unhelpful when I had to choose a school path in art. I was so happy when I discovered that it was possible to draw in newspapers and magazines! Illustrator, I thought was for me. I have done a lot of freelance work as a newspaper cartoonist. Started in Stavanger Aftenblad and has drawn a section for Morgenbladet and Dagens Næringsliv in recent years. Then I usually get a topic and a very short deadline. And I love that! It puts creativity under pressure and the drawing has a purpose. It's art AND useful!

When I get assignments like this, I have to spend a lot of time on research, then on sketches. I almost never deliver sketches to anyone other than myself anymore. It will be as it will be and time is precious. I draw on thick and smooth watercolor paper and use all the ink and pen and colored pencils and gouache I have at hand. I dry the image with a hairdryer and scan in often 6-8 bits on my A4 scanner. I clean up edges and contrasts in photoshop and send an email. Right on deadline. Never before. Never after. Also, I go into an internal breakdown between the time I have delivered the drawing and a desk sends an email back that the drawing has been received and everything is OK.

TF: Can you name any cartoonists/illustrators who inspire you?

HT: Vanessa Baird. Her pictures have an x-factor that cannot be explained in words. The old British illustrators have always inspired me technically. Cruickshank and Honoré Daumier I always return to and am inspired by.

TF: What themes concern you as an artist?

HT: Women's movement. I am concerned with the social structure we live in - Patriarchy. As an artist, I feel a kind of calling to help visualize what we live in. I haven't cracked the code, but I hope to contribute here.

Agriculture. I have almost completed drawing the list of the 49 national livestock breeds worthy of conservation. I wish I was a farmer, but I'm not very practical. I think cooking is one of the most beautiful and honest things you can do. I have therefore drawn a lot of animals and vegetables. It has been unconscious, but it is becoming very visible to me now that I have taken over a non-operating small farm and am filling the barn with drawings of animals instead of living ones. It's a bit tragicomic.

TF: What role does illustration play today?

HT: I think we will look back on this time as weird in illustration. It abounds in all kinds of visuals and therefore it becomes all the more difficult to see what is really good illustration. It is so important to have editors who are able to fish out those who deliver both good ideas together with good drawing. There is far too much out there that just looks like illustration but isn't. There is too much decoration and noise. Fully empty. And the world will be deceived. I am guilty of it myself.

It is really inspiring to see illustrations that everyone has access to because of the internet, which tell about and engage with, for example, the war in Ukraine. It is strong and can mean something in a larger context. We need newspapers that budget drawings in every day to get these drawings. It is not so vigorous in Norway in comparison with our neighboring countries. It does not generate cash money immediately. But times will probably turn when we realize that we have to build culture.

TF: What does it mean to draw for you in your work?

HT: Everything. The hand-drawn line is my entire brand and my work. I've delivered things that were drawn on the iPad and have more Photoshop shapes than hand-drawn lines. It feels completely wrong and I can't do it.

TF: Tell us a little about your work in Tegnerforbundet's sales department!  

HT: The most recent works are livestock worthy of conservation. Coastal goat, Norwegian dairy goat, trønder rabbit, wild sheep, Smålens goose and coot. The Norwegian Genetic Resource Center maintains a list of livestock breeds worthy of conservation and that is my template for this project. There are animals that have evolved to fit our landscape, but they have been outcompeted by breeds that are more economically profitable. The animals are less profitable, but often taste better and have fewer diseases and ailments. It becomes a kind of caricature of a breed-typical animal. Simple drawings. But still, I think that these animals say so much about us. And they have so much character!  

Pink. I was going to make a picture for my daughter, who was 4 years old at the time. It was supposed to be pink with unicorns. It started well, but when the buds appeared I knew that once again, it was tipping over into something living on the edge. Not in the children's room. I wouldn't call it dark, but it's not sweet either. It's a bit like handwriting and telephone drawing. Such a default line. Or default characters that always appear.


See available works by Hilde Thomsen in the online store.