The principals of Grandpeople aren’t only
illustrators. The Bergen, Norway–based three-man studio, consisting of
Magnus Helgesen, Magnus Voll Mathiassen, and Christian Strand Bergheim,
are designers who do a little bit of everything, including
pencil-and-paper illustration. “Our main focus is visual
communication through design,” says Mathiassen.
“Illustration is just one of many ways to create imagery to a
certain product or message.” Clients have repeatedly commissioned
these drawings. The studio has worked on photographer Zach Gold’s
art and fashion project, Playground, collaborated with fellow
Norwegian Kim Hiorthøy for Tokion, and created luscious
album covers for the dance music producer Skatebård. Their
illustrations have also appeared in magazines, such as Grafik and
Fabrik. The images often juxtapose hard angles and soft lines
with layers of color, creating a forest of pop-cultural references in
deep perspective. Mathiassen, whose answers below stand in for the group
as a whole, doesn’t deny the organic qualities of the work:
“The fascination and fear of nature have always been a part of
Norwegian and Scandinavian iconography, and Grandpeople is also a part
of this tradition.”
What person do you first remember
influencing you to draw? What do you like to draw most now?
older boy in our neighborhood used to make these amazing drawings of
American trucks, and I decided I wanted to learn how to do the same. I
later discovered he was tracing photographs of posters through the
paper! No wonder they looked so cool. Nowadays, it’s slightly more
abstract and obscure. The three of us in Grandpeople have very different
approaches to techniques and subject matter, but we often make
references to nature and pop culture. Sometimes it’s
representational and sometimes not. Sometimes, the drawings have
artistic ambitions, and sometimes it’s just for the hell of it.
What do you think you would be doing if you weren’t doing
Probably studying to become either (a) a pretty mediocre
academic, (b) an overly enthusiastic primary school teacher, or (c) a
What are some of the strangest jobs you’ve
I had a nice time cleaning up bloodstains, pieces of bone,
and fat in the department of surgery at the local hospital. Honest and
important work, lousy pay.
What do you like most about being an
It’s nice to be able to draw pictures
and create images with your hands and all, but to be constantly reminded
of your own limitations is pretty close to unbearable.
Is your work
specifically Norwegian in some way?
To a certain degree, yes.
The fascination and fear of nature have always been a part of Norwegian
and Scandinavian iconography, and Grandpeople is also a part of this
tradition. But the romanticized idea of highbrow “Scandinavian
Design” has little or no relevance to us. Our main influences come
from popular and subcultural movements.
Where would you like to see
your work most?
We have always enjoyed printed matter. And we
have nothing but respect and admiration for the fine trade of printing
What’s the number-one thing that gives you
energy and inspiration to keep making art?
Letters and e-mails
from people around the world are nice, and satisfied clients are also
important, but the number-one motivation is probably the satisfaction of
nailing a good idea with real, time-consuming craftsmanship.
have a motto or favorite quotation?
Seize the pay.