Through Moscow-based illustrator Anton Gudim’s eyes, Adam and Eve are cats. In the next panel, it’s revealed that the apple was a red ornament hanging tantalizingly from a Christmas tree, which they inevitably break. Exile.jpg is just one of many Gudim comics that play on the limits of the viewer’s perception in the first panel, and reveals the joke to be something much more unexpected in the next. They’re like little visual puns that might take a second to get, but hit you like a delightful surprise when you do.
Gudim works as an IT engineer by day, and picks up inspiration throughout the workday to draw his comics by night. The messages are playful yet sometimes depressingly dark, especially the ones about the mundanities of office life — but his comics are wholly original in a way that challenges readers to rethink the world around them. With an Instagram fanbase of over 650,000 followers and his first solo exhibition under his belt, his art is quickly making a name for itself with an instantly recognizable style. I reached out to Gudim to ask about his process and what inspires him.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
How would you describe your illustration style and humor?
I don’t believe I have one defined style, my illustrations are the result of influences from a variety of styles, comics, graphics, and absurdist humor. While drawing, I don’t concern myself with the style I’m doing it in, I just create something that seems interesting for me at this particular moment.
My favorite comics of yours are the ones where a 2D object is revealed to be something more in the next panel. Do you come up with these ideas as you’re drawing them?
I can recall only a couple of occasions when the idea came to me during the drawing process. Usually, I start drawing when I have a solid idea of how the plot will be.
Some of your comics offer a playful look at the world, while other comics can be pretty dark. Is there an overall tone or message you want to convey, or does it vary from comic to comic?
The main message is that the world around us is varied, and there will always be ways to find something both amusing and terrifying in it. I think some of my drawings could be compared to the fairy tales of a darker and crueler kind, that still manage to entertain their readers.
Your comics are often strictly visual, with no text or dialogue. Do you find that it’s easier to depict scenes without words?
Turning away from using text is strictly a matter of personal preference, as I enjoy communicating the ideas through images and actions. I observe that a lot of comics nowadays rely heavily on the text, corresponded by some amusing visuals to make it easier to digest. If subtracting all of the illustrations and leaving the text by itself doesn’t affect the meaning of the comic in any way, I would normally consider such illustrations redundant. The text and the visuals should be telling a story, in their own unique ways.
I see some of your comics are about office life, and you say on your Patreon that you take observations and notes in your spare time at work. Do you think that becoming a full-time artist will change your perspective on things?
Becoming a full-time artist would certainly change things. Working five days a week takes up a significant part of one’s life, and if you’d be able to fill that time with something else, it simply cannot leave you unaffected.
Who are some of your inspirations?
I get inspired by a lot that I see in my Instagram feed, as everyone that I’m subscribed to there is an influence on me in some way.
You recently had your first exhibition in Moscow. What was the process of putting together the exhibition like, and do you have plans to do more?
It wasn’t by any means easy or spotless. The barrier between being an artist on the internet and in real life still exists, which was the reason why many galleries didn’t want to give me a chance. But how it all turned out in the end was an overall positive experience, with its up- and downsides, which I intend to work on in the future. The plan is to keep on trying to arrange more exhibitions, not just within Russia but hopefully abroad as well.