Green Man festival art: Hedof discusses his wonderful character illustrations for the folk festival

Rick Berkelmans tells us about designing 60 characters and forests for them to parade through for this weekend's folk festival.

The Green Man festival in the Brecon Beacons is a regular source of inspiration as well as great music.

This year's identity features wonderfull charming illustrations by Rick Berkelmans – aka Hedof – following award-winning work from the likes of Sarah Mazetti in 2013 and Nous Vous last year. All three were commissioned by Alex Ostrowski from Lovers Agency, which designed and art directed the Green Man identities.

The character-led illustrations perfectly encapsulate their meeting of people and nature that permeats the Green Man Festival. As the festival kicks off today, I sat down with Rick to discover more about the project.

NB: Have you worked on many festival projects before?

RB: "I've worked on a few festival related projects – like banners, flags, posters and area designs – but never a complete identity. So that was pretty cool! Especially Green Man festival, which is already known for its great illustrated identities every year."

NB: How much stuff did you create for the festival?

RB: "Wow, I've created a lot of content – about 60 different characters based on different areas of the festival.

"[There's] one really long background illustration for the website's animated header so a parade of characters can march all day long (above). And 10 long background illustrations for each area (on the following pages).

"From there we used a lot of characters and separate elements from those backgrounds to create new illustrations like the poster, billboards, lanyard cover, festival programme and lots of social media images. It has been a pretty intense project. Luckily i had the best art direction by Alex – and his team also helped out with several smaller tasks between the project.

"After the initial illustrations, it became more of a collaboration to create all the other content for the festival."

NB: What was it about Green Man – and this year's event in particular – that you wanted to represent in your illustrations?

RB: "Green Man is always about nature, folklore and wild, surreal pagan creatures that mix with the festival audience and beautiful environment. Which i think i pretty unique and also really appealing to me as an image maker.

"In my illustration work, I always try to keep things a little off. There are so many great illustrators out there and for me a challenge to stand out is keeping my subjects and execution just a little bit weirder and harder for the viewer to experience so it makes a little more impact when you do. Green Man is kind of the same story and we just connected perfectly in this.

"So that is why I really dove into this great pagan world full of weird tales and creatures and try to translate this back into my visual style. I also have to mention the photo series of French photograper Charles Freger, whose photoseries Wilder Man documented various communities who dress up like mythical creatures to behave like animals. I was greatly inspired by these photos and costumes and this formed the base of the characters who formed the Green Man parade this year."

NB: The landscape seems as alive as characters. Was this done on purpose as a reflection of the vibe of the festival?

RB: "Of course, that is what Green Man is all about, A festive, green environment that is just as a big part of the festival than the music, drinks, food and people. So that is why i wanted to play with the boundaries of what would be a part of the parade and what would be a mountain or tree. In the end, you all celebrate together. Especially at this beautiful site in Wales."

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NB: Tell us a bit about the character design process.

RB: "After studying the Wilder Man photoseries, I started sketching my own characters and costumes. I really wanted to create a lot of variation: regular people had to party with a tree character and big giant leaf characters had to walk with little rabbit kids.

In the end I suggested about 80 characters to Alex and together we talked them over and narrowed them down to about five representing each of the 10 areas - and a few extra characters for the big Green Man parade on the website.

I then drew the final versions and started rendering them in Photoshop using the festival's colorscheme. For a few characters I also kept in mind they had to be animated for the parade."

NB: What's next for you?

RB: "Since Green Man, I've worked on a bunch of projects including a big mural for KLM airlines in Lisbon, projects for Facebook and Ikea, lots of editorial projects, and another big festival identity for OpenAir StGallen in Switzerland 2016.

At the moment, I am teaming up with an advertising agency and animation studio to rebrand a big online educational platform for teenagers. For this I also created an illustrated identity and we are now finishing up the animation to launch the new identity. After this, I'll start on the set design for a photo shoot for a really nice shoe brand's 2016 kids collection. Good stuff!"