Mo Hassan’s solemn characters poke fun at his darker side

Mohamed Hassan’s work is at once emotive and compelling. Forlorn characters traverse cold, bland cityscapes, pulling out the last few breathes of nicotine from cheap cigarettes, long arms dangling just above the ground. They’re goonish characters, often solemn in expression as they adorn city walls, skateboards, sketchbooks or digital works.

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Through these cityscapes and the various canvasses that come with them, the works of the Cape Town based graphic designer and illustrator take their inspiration. In his younger days, Mo would attempt to recreate his favourite cartoon characters in a primary school art club before moving to graffiti writing as a primary artistic outlet.

“Being in the art club in primary school also made everything seem legit. At first my work wasn’t good enough for me to be in the club, but once I got in, I didn’t want to be in the club anymore,” he recalls. “Painting walls has influenced my illustration work a lot, with regards to the kind of lines I would use and how I would layer my colours and lines. At this point, I draw things that I would be able to paint onto the wall as is, so that my work can live on different mediums and canvases. It has taught me a lot about perspective and how to manipulate and use it to my advantage.”

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In terms of the tone of his work, Mo explains that tapping into the darker side of his personality results in many of his creations. “I don’t mean dark in a negative way, but it’s just a more real, less optimistic approach to life that I try to get across through the characters,” he explains. “It’s sometimes a means of expressing how situations or emotions affect me at the time, and more so a means to poke fun at that side of myself, and deal with it in a way that I can have fun with.”

Whether they’re frozen in a photograph, hovering through a foggy night, or lurking from the corners of a freshly painted concrete wall, Mo’s illustrations seem to have distinct lives of their own. See more of these characters below and check Mo’s work out on Instagram and Behance.

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