Bernardo Henning

Meet the Argentinian artist who’s living his dream, balancing incredible studio work with an epic first solo show. Welcome, Bernardo Henning…

In what he calls the most hectic and exciting year of his career so far, we caught up with Bernardo Henning (a.k.a HolaMaybe), to find out why this year has been his best year yet, and how he got to where he is today. 

With incredible brands such as John Lewis, ESPN, Nike, Adidas, NIKE, Jordan, Netflix Starbucks, Kopparberg and KitKat adding to his legacy, it feels extra surreal to be talking to Bernando at a time where he’s being forced to slow down a little, due to an ankle injury he got playing football the week before. 

We could almost feel the frustration of his busy, multitasking nature being restricted with a huge boot on his foot. Bernado describes himself as a restless, anxious creative. He tells us: “To keep still is the worst that can happen to you. Keep moving. Keep doing something. If you stay still too long, you start overthinking and things will start to look bad.”

He’s someone who is always surrounded by sketchbooks and sheets of paper. With boxes full of huge piles of sketches. It was an incredible experience getting a unique insight into his workspace and his process, as well as getting to ask him about his passions, his background and his future plans too.

Welcome to HolaMaybe’s best year yet. We can’t wait to see what 2024 brings…

“To keep still is the worst that can happen to you. Keep moving.”

Does your print have a name?

I call this one ‘Bad Apple’. Showing that the imperfect or unexpected is beautiful, even when you feel like a mess on the inside.

Can you tell us a bit about what inspired it?

I was inspired by how my mind works and what’s inside my head. On the outside you might see a perfect apple but on the inside there's all this mess. And it can be a good mess! But this is actually what inspires my artwork – Not being so "perfect" but being this mixture of things, a wonderful combination of brush strokes, patterns, and random words. etc.

Did you always want to be an illustrator and how did you get into it? 

Always. It’s crazy but it was so clear what I wanted to do. All of my friends have always been creative, but some of them didn’t know what to do with their career, and I remember thinking: “how?!”. 

I was really young when I started illustrating, and even worked at a super cool agency while still studying in my first year. But if I wasn’t an illustrator then I really love sport, football especially, so I would have maybe pursued that. Or I’d have loved to have been a voiceover actor. I watch films with my two kids all the time and after watching certain animations so many times in a row, I think I could do that, haha.

Once I discovered graphic design I just knew that’s what I wanted to study. Musicians were one of my first clients – I started drawing gig posters for friends and local bands and it became my dream job because they would say: “you can do anything you want!”. I could use exciting typography that nobody would understand, and my work would influence decisions! My work was the difference between people going to see the band or not.

What has been your career highlight so far?

Probably when I started my graphic design agency (HolaBosque) with three colleagues, my friends and family, and my wife. 

It was during the pandemic lockdown that I went back to doing my own illustrations and finding my own style. I feel like I lost my style a little when I was working in graphic design, with strategy and communication, etc. So going back to illustration gave me back this feeling of how much I love to simply draw. 

For the first time, my solo career is currently at the same level as my graphic design career, and it makes me happier than ever. This is the moment. I really like what I do. And I know not everyone can do this, so I feel very grateful.

“I struggled to find my style until I was like 30. So I would just practise constantly, creating my own chaos.”

Your favourite moment is right now?

Absolutely. Anytime somebody contacts me because they like my work! Whenever a brand sends me a brief with my name on it and sayst: “I want to work with you” - I feel so good about myself and the effort I’ve put in so far. When it pays off. When it works. That’s my favourite moment every time.

I also love that this year I’ve been able to travel more than ever. I was in London, New York, Sydney, and Madrid. I met my agents this year, and I had my first solo show in Madrid this year!

How was your first solo show?

It was perfect! I have lots of friends living in Barcelona and Madrid. Lots of my friends moved there from Argentina, so I got to meet them all again at the opening of my show, it was so good to see them.

The show itself was so well curated and lots of people came down, it was a lot of fun! Crazy! And perfect.

Do you have a favourite project?

I love working with brands because it makes me try new things. They sometimes suggest certain brand colours, or I have to design for a specific product and it’s a lot of fun. 

But my favourite work is when I can be an artist. It becomes my escape. I have sketchbooks everywhere and paper all over, it’s not what I see as work, it’s an escape for me. I have to get out of the screen sometimes.

“I struggled to find my style until I was like 30. So I would just practise constantly, creating my own chaos.”

Do you have any advice for artists just starting out?

A lot of people ask me how I found my style and that advice is hard to give because I don’t think there’s one specific technique. I struggled to find my style until I was like 30. So I would just practise constantly, using other work I liked as inspiration, creating my own chaos.

Chaos can be so useful. Scribble. Make a mess. You can always take a mess and use it digitally in part of your work. Play with process. And also try to be patient. I, myself, am very anxious in terms of my work, I always have to be creating, always have to be thinking and moving. If something is in my mind I have to draw it fast. I get impatient and want to see how it will look. 

Keep trying everything. Then pile it together until you define what you like and how you do it.

Do you have a happy place? Or a memory you carry with you everywhere?

When I’m drawing, that’s a place for me, in my head. When I’m really focused and in the zone, I sometimes get flashes to old memories or specific memories that make no sense at all. It just happens when I’m drawing. For me, drawing is that place, that happy place that I escape to.

It happens in the Pixar movie Soul, when the main character plays the piano. His memories come back as he plays and the same thing happens to me when I draw or even when I play sports sometimes. 

The football pitch is where we become different people for a while. We can be the best of friends in real life, having a drink after the game, but on the pitch we are allowed to scream at each other, haha! It’s a place where we can switch off for a while.

What’s next for you?

I’m trying to do new things, expand my reach, expand my room, and not repeat myself too much. To keep working on new things and explore things like animation, that’s my next step.