Artist Ruud Hendriks joins us on Close-Up Culture to discuss his incredibly cute and heart-warming comicm, Hey Hey Momo.
Hello Ruud, welcome to Close-Up Culture. Can you tell us your earliest memories of creating art and what drew you to it?
Hi! It’s very nice of you to have me. I have been drawing and doodling for as long as I can remember. As a young boy growing up in the Netherlands I was super into Belgian comics like Asterix & Obelix, Tintin and Suske & Wiske (Willy & Wanda in the English versions I believe). I have always been drawn to wacky cartoony characters with a good dose of humour and stories that didn’t take themselves too seriously.
At some point I started copying drawings from these comics and also stills from TV shows and Nintendo games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, of which I also became a big fan in the early ’90s. First, I enjoyed using carbon paper to trace my favourite pictures and later I got a bit more confident and did loads of freehand drawings of my favourite Turtles (Donatello forever). As things progressed, I even made up my own little fan comics about them. I can’t remember much of the storylines, but I have no doubt they were very profound.
You have developed this wonderful style of wholesome comics. What led you to this style?
Well thank you! First and foremost I enjoy trying to make people smile, or even better, laugh! On top of that I always found myself attracted to drawings and characters that are incredibly simple, yet charming. I love characters that are so cute it’s almost absurd. Even better if it’s mixed with some weird humour. So naturally I have been drawing these sorts of characters myself, too. I used to draw in a vector style, putting smiley faces on very perfect geometric shapes.
However, in more recent years I learned there’s a whole lot of charm in imperfection that got lost, so I tried to embrace this idea and nowadays everything is drawn by hand and I don’t even try to make straight lines anymore. In fact, the more wobbly and crooked, the better!
Momo the dog and Forg the frog are two of the stars of your comics. Can you tell us about them and the inspiration for them?
Momo has been my online representation for a long time. It is basically me, if I was a small cartoon dog. I have been using versions of him since I started building an audience online. First it was just my logo and user icon on social media, now he stars in many of my comics and other things.
Forg was more of an accident. A while back I drew a sheet of silly frog doodles. A frog in a frog shaped car, a frog playing a banjo and that sort of thing. I posted them online and people really seemed to like the character, so I decided Momo could use a pal and who better than a little frog called Forg.
Your comics are so cute and soothing! What is your creative process for making them?
I started a text document on my phone of weird and strange thoughts that come into my mind on a daily basis. When conversations with my friends make me laugh, there’s a big chance I will put it on this document. It can just be a silly phrase or idea, nothing too fleshed out. When I open the doc on a later time and it still makes me laugh, I link it to some of my characters.
At that point I just put a very rough ballpoint pen doodle in my notebook. If I think it can work I whip out my iPad and copy this doodle as a digital sketch, trying to keep everything very simple and fun. From there on it’s just a matter of tracing it with my favourite brush and using myself compiled palette for the colouring. I’m a little bit obsessed with consistency so having just one brush and one palette for nearly everything I do makes me happy.
As a chronically online person, I found myself reading a lot of negativity and doom thinking on social media. The comics originated as my way of countering all the seriousness of politics, cruelty and other awful things in the world with some light-hearted jokes without deeper meanings or links to reality. This way hopefully people can forget about all the bad things in life even if it’s just for a single second in their days.
What are your ambitions and plans for the future?
At this point all I want to do is keep on growing my brand of comics and drawings. It’s my goal to make it my main source of income, which sadly at this point it is not. I still need to do illustration and design work for companies and projects to pay my bills. My ultimate dream is to make momo & forg comics daily and not worry about anything else. Imagine that! If you’d like to help me achieve this goal and you like my work, please consider subscribing to my Patreon or buying a fun shirt from my shop 😉