Creative Complexities with Rod Hunt
The BBC’s wildly popular car show ‘Top Gear’ started in 1977 and has become the most widely viewed non-fictional show in the world. In the show, that’s mostly centered around car reviews and the personalities of the hosts, an anonymous test driver known only as “The Stig” comes and goes as needed, his identity almost always hidden away. Illustrator Rod Hunt has worked with Top Gear on a series of ‘Where’s Stig’ illustrations, including a book published in 2009, that plays on the fandom of Top Gear and the fun of searchable illustrations. On display is Rod’s incredible ability to bring together dozens of elements into a single image, which is central to his style. In a piece entitled ‘You Never Know What You'll Get,’ a test for a confectionary campaign, Rod brought the curiosity of complexity into a cross section of the earth and imagined everything we could discover under a pristine lawn. He talks about his process:
“Adequate thinking time at the start of a project is vital, it’s good to have the head space to come up with little jokes and visual puns,” Rod says. “All this is worked out in my sketchbook and in the pencil rough. I still love, love working with a pencil and paper, I could never go over to 100% working digitally. At the rough stage I feel it gives me more energy and freedom to explore.”
As you can see in the development video for the ‘Where’s Stig?’ piece, when Rod starts translating the sketch into the final piece, it breathes in a way. As each element is completed and brought together into the final composition, pieces move around and shift based upon how they’re going to fit together best. It’s slight, but each of those shifts is important. “Everything starts with the pencil rough which I follow quite closely,” says Rod. “Using the pencil drawing as a guide I aim to block in the main structural elements in Adobe Illustrator as quickly as possible before moving on to the more detailed parts. As all the elements are created the composition can start to change, things move, can be scaled and edited. Overall the composition doesn’t usually change radically but I don’t need to be rigidly committed to the rough drawing. If a better solution comes up or the composition can be improved as I’m working I will change things.” When you work at the complexity of imagery that Rod works at, and juggle as many elements as he does, each one requires precise placement
Part of what makes Rod’s work so fun to look at is the space he makes for visual jokes. The intricacies draw you in initially, but part of the experience is chasing down new moments to discover. These two pieces are no exception. The ‘Top Gear: Motorsport Madness’ illustration offers fun along the way of trying to find Stig, but ‘You Never Know What You'll Get’ is packed with these visual jokes. “There are lots of little jokes to find, but two of my favorite ideas in the piece include the fox in his den with his trophy wall and the jihadist in the bathtub with his rubber ducky.” There’s always something fun to see wherever you look, but if you’re lucky you’re looking at something like a Rod Hunt illustration where there’s a laugh in every square inch.