Montreal-based artist Hanna Barczyk has unpacked the idea of femininity in her new series of zodiac illustrations for German women’s magazine Freundin. We caught up with her to learn more about how they portray women as both powerful yet gentle.
Instantly recognisable thanks to her bold yet minimalist style, German-Hungarian artist Hanna Barczyk has previously created illustrations for the likes of The MoMA, The New York Times and the United Nations. In her latest series for German women’s magazine Freundin, she tackles the familiar signs of the zodiac and gives them a uniquely feminine spin.
The series is not the first time Hanna has worked with Freundin. Having already established a great working relationship with the magazine’s art director, Nina Banneyer, she was specially selected last October to create the annual 2024 horoscopes.
This time, the brief Hanna was commissioned with asked her to illustrate each zodiac sign with a sense of sensuality and spirituality, with an overall gentle and dreamy feel. It was also important for Hanna to distinguish each sign from the others by their temperament, characteristics and symbols. As the results show for themselves, she easily achieved this.
“Beyond that, I had the creative freedom to interpret the project in my style,” Hanna tells Creative Boom. “As my focus is primarily on illustrating women in a conceptual, emotional, and figurative capacity, it felt natural to place the female form at the centre of each illustration — portraying each character as powerful, yet gentle.”
Hanna’s speciality is transforming complex ideas into simple creative solutions, and it’s a skill she expertly deployed in this series. To communicate a sense of femininity in these illustrations, she relied on clever use of delicate lines, colours, and forms and deftly harnessed composition to create a narrative.
“The final art piece represents each zodiac sign as a unique personality, focusing on women,” she explains. “Horoscopes and the universe often come with a sense of mystery, and I wanted to capture this sense of mystery that indirectly encapsulates romance.”
To capture the personality of each astrological sign, Hanna researched the character traits associated with each one, drew multiple drafts, and then made an informed decision on which woman to illustrate using a combination of symbols and traits.
This approach proved fruitful, as even though she was well acquainted with a few specific signs, Hanna had to go further in-depth with others. Not that this sounded like an unwelcome prospect for the artist. “I’ve always wanted to illustrate a full horoscope!” she adds. “My passion is to create art that combines narrative, concept, and symbolism, focusing on women.”
Indeed, it sounds like Hanna’s own familiarity with the zodiac signs had an impact on the project. “As a Libra, I believe that I embody some of the traits associated with seeking harmony, balance, peace, and justice,” she says.
“These characteristics influence my internal creative approach, or moral compass, leading me to prioritise projects that are meaningful and emphasise connection and support to create a more compassionate and peaceful world.”
As well as her artwork for the Libra sign, Hanna is particularly proud of her illustrations for Gemini, Cancer, and Leo. “I prefer them for the use of colour and the way I composed the main figure on the page,” she concludes.