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You’ll Want to Live in This Imaginary City

By Alana Massey

Somewhere between mid-twentieth-century storybooks and blueprints for future urban utopias lie the enchanted destinations of Patrick Hruby’s illustrations. Hruby uses Illustrator to explore and sketch before arriving at a fully formed idea of his creation's ultimate direction. His palettes and patterns breathe reason into otherwise magical dreamscapes, which are inspired by sources ranging from retro logo design to medieval Russian architecture. These influences were on display in a recent mural Hruby designed and painted for the Adobe Creative Jam in Los Angeles. (The event gathered the city’s visual design and motion design talents for a competition to create the most compelling presentation on a theme announced just hours before.)

“Choosing colors is always my favorite part. It’s like having dessert before dinner,” Hruby says of how he began work on the mural, selecting his seven-color palette in Adobe Illustrator CC before sketching out the imaginary city composed of the geometric shapes that are a signature of his illustrations. The rest, Hruby says, was an extension of his inclination to portray cityscapes. “It’s rarely a specific city,” he says. “It’s usually some sort of imaginary city.” Painting at a much larger scale than his usual images, Hruby chose to paint the mural methodically by applying a single color at a time, an approach made possible by his technique of flattening space and eliminating the need for blending and shadows. 

This time-lapse video shows Patrick Hurby creating a mural for the Adobe Creative Jam, Los Angeles.

Click the image above to see Hruby’s process from Illustrator to paints.

The fairytale quality of Hruby’s creations allow them to exist outside of particular times and places, freeing them from political and social undertones that carry weighty messages in the work of many illustrators today. Hruby has a profound respect for his peers who use illustration to communicate wrongs in the world, but he doesn’t feel called to send those messages in his work. “Wherever I see something that’s ugly in the world, I try to make something beautiful. I try to create things that are optimistic. I try to talk about what brings us all together," Hruby explains. His Creative Jam mural did just that when it served as the backdrop for a lively photo booth session.

You can see Hruby’s illustrations in all sorts of places, including Wired and The New York Times. While art in such publications is, in a way, disposable, Hruby says there’s “something liberating about being able to create something that is digested so quickly and then a chance to create something new the next time.” He believes that publications are more willing to take creative risks precisely because of the short shelf life of an article illustration. Still, he prefers to create “things that live with people,” recalling the formative role of books and objects in his childhood home. With that passion in mind, Hruby is shifting away from work confined to the borders of the page, expanding the reach of his peculiar kingdoms and further challenging ideas of what is possible in space and place.