Lifelong passion for the cross-stroke – the illustrator Jan Hillen

As an "erftstricher" the illustrator in the old town of Kaster initially caused confusion

When he puts his public stopper in front of the door on Sundays in the main street 27, his house quickly fills up with art-enthusiastic excursionists, jan Hillen explains. For this type of running clientele, who both populated kitchen and exhibition space on the ground floor, he provided original drawings and reproductions in all possible sizes from posters to "postcards directly from the producer" in the "Atelier Jan Hillen" for sale. They are not expensive at all, by the way.

Finally "free-creating artist"

Since 2016, the father of four, Jan Hillen, has been living in the small house in the picturesque old town of Kasters, which is a popular destination for erft tourists.His advertising sticker for his Instagram page called "Erftstricher" on the letterbox initially caused some disruption in the neighborhood regarding the trade in the old house. His art "Strich für Strich an der Erft" is born, which is not to be overlooked, he smiles.

After early trips into the "alchemy of newspaper making" as a print maker and later in the electronic image processing of a Neuß printing house, he finally followed in the footsteps of his father, who had pursued his bread acquisition as a "free-creating artist".

Patience and spitting are needed when dealing with the ink pens.

If you look around on the ground floor of the renovated old building, you will experience in the pictures a true passion of the 52-year-old for the cross-stroke. It is the hatch that he unleashes red-ring ink pens that were once found on every sign table of an architect.Many of his favorite pens of different thicknesses are quite old, "you have to get them going first," Hillen says. Again and again he had brought them back to life, once dried up, literally with a lot of patience and spitting.

The ink pencils, a white sheet of drawing paper and a bright lamp above the kitchen table, he does not need more to shape his figures in atmospheric moods of light from different dense lysets. In doing so, he follows his "inner eye" while drawing.

An eye capable of throwing the usual everyday habits of perspective vision overboard, in favor of a different way of seeing, a visionary force for things between day and dream. There appear in a shady row of street lamps, where tendrils grow up – an impression of one of his many journeys into Brittany – strange human beings appear, a human werewolf seems to want to step on the viewer with an oversized enlarged trouser leg from the picture, and in the dazzling gout of a sea surge, the comb and head of a rooster suddenly emerges. Hillen calls the painting "water tap" without any pathos, knowing full well that he uses a surreal trick.

In any case, he likes to ask about the interpretation and meaning of words in this way, that it is a kind of game to which he surrenders.And he reinterprets terms such as "ice jump", "blood moon", draw the "national elf" or "shame". They are drawings that inadvertently amaze the viewer.

Or he deliberately plays with the specifications of the horror novel as with a whole series of ghosts and werewolf figures for the two books "Sagenhafte Geschichten", which he designed together with the graphic designer Helmut Coenen and the text author Monika Gitz.

He finds other motifs, including those that tell of eroticism in a technological world simultaneously as longing, threat and perversion, for the Düren science fiction magazine "Exodus".

With the first sketches of the comic book "Schwarzmarkt" in 1992, Jan Hillen has developed the crosshatch as one of the typical techniques of cartoonists and cartoonists into his own style. Three editions of the then alternative comic with drawings by Patty Rieve, Oli O. and Thomas Zydeck were printed, Hillen recalls.

As a reminder often harvested nose hulls

At the beginning of the 1990s, many people still had their noses ruffled by warnings about nuclear and environmental disasters, which were already figuratively formulated at the time, but also right-wing attitudes, Hillen knows. Warnings that would have hit the mark from today's perspective. At that time, the anti-Nazi cartoons would have made it all the way to the toilet walls of left-wing Hamburg trendy pubs as black-and-white stickers.

But it doesn't always have to be gloomy. There he presents the Bedburg lion as a cheerful, colorfully colored heraldic animal on the skateboard, a commissioned work for the castle city. Or it shows the work "The Little Green Owl from the Half-Timbered House", a painting book for children, created on behalf of the Children's Foundation Reading Forms.

Here you can still download five pages from the painting book, even if the deadline for the associated painting competition has already passed:

He also made trips to the colourful world of acrylic painting, photography and textiles with the art group of the "Elf im Glashaus", which has been without a permanent location since 2018 due to the reconstruction of the former Toom market. One of his works, made with acrylic and brushes from that time called "Martha Phahl", is still immortalized on one of the remaining pillars of the house.

Hillen's work on a pillar of the former Toommarkt is reminiscent of the exhibition space of the "Elf im Glashaus".

Did Jan Hillen have an idea of Corona? At the beginning of March, he painted in his sketchbook (see picture of the picture) an indistinct threat, a kind of monster that rises enormously above the sea horizon. Did he have anticipated the events of the Corona pandemic that were yet to come? He doesn't know, says the draughtsman.

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