"There can only be ONE!"

A couple of months ago a dear old friend of mine passed away - all too soon. Art Director & man of the world Jørgen Hoiland. It's taken me a while to get my head around it, because he was a rare specimen of a man - and also one of my first companions venturing into the world of advertising.

Jørgen Hoiland was an old-school Art Director straight out of Mad Men. Suit & tie and always smoking a cigarette. We started working together as far back as 1996 I believe. So that makes it 19 years of fun and adventures that we shared - mainly in the disguise of a working relationship - because after all, who has time for mere play?

Since his passing, it made me think of all the crazy and hilarious experiences we had and also about some of the professional lessons I got from him. I have dug through the archives and found a number of projects that we developed together. Sorry about the low res scans - but it's all I have of this work - it was before the digital age on my behalf, and he had all the high res scans :

My first real big commission as an illustrator came from Lego, for whom I had done concept development for some time. Back in the day they would fly me in to their head quarters in Billund to present my artwork. When I was done, to pass time untill my return flight to Copenhagen, one of the Lego executives would walk me over to Legoland - open the gates and he'd say " I'll pick you up right here in 2 and a half hours. Walking around in Legoland ALL BY MYSELF for hours in the snow was a very strange experience that I'll never forget. Beautiful and surreal…

Anyway, one day I pitched an idea to an agency that I worked for freelance, they also had Lego as a client, I wanted to do a big Lego board game - They seemed into it and I quickly realized that there was no way I could do this on my own. So Jørgen and his son Joakim stepped in and together we made the Lego Explorer World Game. It eventually came out in several countries in Europe.

The craziest thing about this job was not all the late nights making the game a reality, it was the meetings with the Lego cooperation and the Ad agency pitching the various stages of our progress.
Back then we knew NOTHING about how to attend business meetings, so we just followed Jørgen's lead - meaning, we showed up in pinstriped suits and vests - pitched our project, drank two pots of black coffee and smoked 20 cigarettes in an hour and left…Haven't had meetings like that since...

                                                                     Trafic Poster:
This was fun for me to paint I remember. I used model photographs for the characters: Jørgen himself in front on his bike, one of his co workers on her bike to the left, Jørgen's assistant to the right and myself in the background walking and whistling. It was hilarious to see this hanging all over Copenhagen as huge posters.

Mermaid Festival:
Wow - 12 years ago now, we made this poster for an environment festival in Copenhagen.
Sometime after it came out I remember getting a call from Jørgen telling me to go to the airport - that I would get a huge surprise if I went to the arrivals hall. I remember actually going out just to see what he was talking about - Turned out there was a 10 meter (32 feet) HUGE backlit reproduction of this hanging on the wall. It blew my mind I remember, Though I wasn't really that proud of my artwork for this, seeing it so bombastic in it's size was a crazy experience.


We did an this for Suzuki and Jørgen gave me an actual car tire to draw and paint from. Yep - those were the days before Google image search - The damn thing was in my apartment for a week.

Inn Hotels:

At one point my dad was promoting a bunch of hotels and historic Inns around Denmark. Jørgen and I put this catalog together and I painted all 24 hotels in painstakingly detail. Sometime after I remember going to a reunion party for my high school in my old hometown - and my dad had made a deal with the hotel I stayed at - If they gave me a free suite, they would get the original painting of their hotel. 
And so it happened, I woke up very hung over after the reunion party, walked down to the reception the following morning and paid for my stay with a painting - how rockstar !  : )

Mr. Pop Gun:
Jørgen called one day and asked me if I wanted to do the cover design for a new popcorn label. I have always LOVED pop corn, so the thought of having "my own brand" was awesome. All I have left of the artwork for this is an early scan of the preliminary pencil sketch - and a pretty bad one too...
Anyhow, sometime after it came out, a huge box arrived at my studio (that I shared with 10 other professional freelance illustrators) and it was all pop corn! Free popcorn for a loooooong time : ) YES!

Lloyd Alexander:

I did the book covers for the danish version of Lloyd Alexander's adventure series - It was also made into a movie by Disney, I found out later. Jørgen did the design work involved. My first covers I think…

Event Catalog:

Even in the worst of experiences Jørgen managed to remain a positive calm throughout the whole mess.
The world of advertising has it's ups and downs and shady characters emerge as well. One time we ended up in a one year lawsuit against a client who ended up declaring bankruptcy just as we finished our job and they were supposed to pay us. It was just a horrible experience I recall - but ironically also quite funny in hindsight. After loosing around 75.000 D.kr ($13.000) and a whole year of lawyers going at each other, the client went for a settlement and after the lawyers got their share, Jørgen and I received a check each for  a staggering 150 D.kr ($26). I think we bought a bottle of whiskey for the money and called it a day.
Here is what I have left from that experience.

High Crime Board Game:

This was the final thing that I had the pleasure of working with Jørgen on, including Joakim once again, as the chief logistics guy. A very elaborate board game with gangsters, thugs, drug dealers, hit men and killer dames. So long in the making that the actual process of making it, has been perhaps the most fun we've ever had together. I hope that Joakim and I can find the time to put together the missing pieces and get this sucker on the road someday. 
Here are some of the many characters we came up with for the cards involved and four pen and ink drawings of mine showing the fab-four before Jørgen turned them into some pretty cool alternative dollar bills. 

The Cannonball KIng:

Last but not least, Jørgen was the Graphic Designer on the first children's book that I wrote & illustrated,
The Cannonball King. This book will always be special to me for many reasons and now that it's out in danish, english and korean, I hope that kids around the globe will get a kick out of it. 

There are many more stories I could show and tell about my years working with Jørgen, but I will stop here and say only this - you are truly missed.

Perhaps one last little thing that comes to mind was once, about 10 years ago or so, I remember lounging out in his big fat studio sofa, smoking cigarettes, sipping scotch whiskey and discussing ideas for a project we were working on. Jørgen, as always comfortably leaning back and taking in my rambling.
I'm going:  "Maybe we should do it this way, or maybe we should do it that way, or perhaps the key is to diffuse the message with the illustrations, or what do you think??" 
He looks at me for a while, Jørgen takes a big sip of whiskey and exhales a cloud of smoke. 
in a sigh he replies :"Thomas, why do you think so much? It's only work…" 

Yes indeed - I hear you dude.