Rian Hughes’ Soho Dives, Soho Divas

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New burlesque book, Soho Dives, Soho Divas, arrives just in time to be the perfect burlesque Christmas gift.

Rian Hughes’ Soho Dives, Soho Divas

Soho Dives, Soho Divas is an eclectic collection of intimate portraits of London’s burlesque performers. It was created by graphic designer, illustrator and typographer Rian Hughes. Can you spot who’s who?!

We caught up with this multi-talented man to talk all about his beautiful new burlesque book. But first, you can get a teasing flick through of the upcoming release:

Rian Hughes Interview

Rian Hughes

How did you get involved in the burlesque scene? I was looking for a way to get away from working on the Mac and back to the old-school skills of drawing directly on paper, without the safety net of an ‘Undo’ button.

The burlesque life classes were perfect. Unlike the lumpen models I remember from art college, they have poise and grace. And vintage tasselly stuff too!

What was it that attracted you to this world? I love the vintage look. I collect old magazines and printed ephemera. One of my regular clients is The Chap magazine for whom I design covers, so burlesque is very appealing.

Do you have a favourite burlesque dancer or genre of the art-form? It’s a cliché, but Lili St. Cyr has that refined elegance. And a great wardrobe.

Rian Hughes

Then in general, please describe your style. Soho Dives, Soho Divas was a chance to experiment with many varied styles, all under the one theme.

I’m a great believer in not staying in one place stylistically but evolving, trying new directions and new media, seeing where they take you. Different commissions will have different needs. Illustrators and artists can become pigeonholed.

Having said that, broadly I think my work has a pop, graphic, stripped-down design sensibility. I am particularly interested in colour and composition, as I work as a graphic and logo designer too.

Who are your inspirations from an artistic viewpoint? And how have they influenced your work? There are so many people who have influenced my style in the past. This includes Serge Clerc, French master of Bande Dessinee; Ever Meulen and Chinese artist Benjamin, who has a fantastic sense of colour.

Soho Dives, Soho Divas allowed me to conduct so many different design and illustration experiments. It’s like a laboratory of the visual!

In it, design approaches that come from my work in music design and childrens’ book illustration run alongside sketches drawn directly from life. For example, I have mixed clean vector graphics, found collaged vintage type, smudged and rough scans from paper – nothing was off the table.

The book is printed in a variety of papers, matt and gloss. There’s a deluxe limited edition featuring silk moiré binding and gold embossing. Guaranteed to spice up any boudoir.  Maybe I’m like Toulouse Lautrec but with a computer. And taller.

What are you most proud of in all your work? Probably my most personal project is Cult-ure: Ideas can be Dangerous, which I wrote and designed. Cult-ure is an experiment in “authored design” – as far as I’m aware, it’s unique in that it’s written and designed by one person.

I’ve always been interested in the confluence of signs, symbols and narrative. This is one of the reasons I find the comic-strip form so interesting. Cult-ure is an exploration of how meaning is communicated via a culture: what certain colours, shapes and gestures, for example, might mean.

It’s hopefully jargon-free and draws on my experience as an artist and designer, so it comes from first hand experience at the coal-face of communication.

What does burlesque mean to you? Showmanship!

Soho Dives, Soho Divas Competition

And what’s even better, is that we have one in a set of four limited-edition prints inspired by Rian Hughes’ drawings of London’s burlesque scene to give away.

To stand a chance of winning, please tell us who is your favourite Burlesque Diva and why. Email your answer to burlexe@gmail.com. Good luck!

Rian Hughes

Check out burlesque book Banking on Burlesque plus a Victoria Sadler Interview.

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