18-year-old Harry Hambley is from Cardiff, Wales, and has been drawing for a long, long time. He's gotten a lot of attention for his Instagram account, @ketnipz, and currently has over 150,000 followers.
His lighthearted comics feature a millennial pink, amorphous, androgynous, anthropomorphic bean, and his hand-drawn style and off-beat sense of humor calls to mind both artist David Shrigley and comic artist Matt Furie, better known as the creator of Pepe the Frog.
Ketnipz combines visual and word puns with a hand-drawn style that belies the depth of Hambley's drawing abilities. He hints at it in some comics, which feature hyper-real elements that allude to the versatility of his talent.
What started as a way to relieve his ennui has become something of a phenomenon, as his growing cadre of fans love his creation so much that some have gotten it tattooed on themselves.
We spoke to Hambley about how he got started out, some of the biggest influences in his style, and his burgeoning line of Ketnipz merchandise, which has riffed on the oft-referenced Thrasher logo, but has grown to include several of his most memorable comics.
How did you get into drawing comics? I've been drawing for ages. I used to draw super-realistic stuff and portraits. I got bored a year ago, and I was just like: "I'm just gonna do whatever I want." I started doing small comics and that kind of stuff. And now it's Ketnipz.
Did you have any influences? There's a bit of David Shrigley in your style. I love David Shrigley. David Shrigley is so cool. But I also watched loads of cartoons growing up. I still watch Adventure Time, Regular Show, and stuff like that. I love the colorfulness of it, and that kind of inspires me.
When did you start Ketnipz and where did the name come from? It was about a year ago. I had a similar name before. My old drawing account was called @catnipdraws, and I had that for like three years. But I like the sound of "catnip" as a name and that was taken, so I changed it a bit.
Where did the inspiration for the character come from? A bit of everything. You know Lemongrab from Adventure Time?
Of course. My really old stuff had more of a pointy-nosed style. I really took from that character, but then I kind of cute-d it up and tried to make it a bit nicer.
How would you describe the Ketnipz main character, is it a bean? Yeah, it's a bean. I don't know; it's kind of like an overly emotional bean.
Where does your sense of humor come from? I think more about the words before the joke, before the visuals. So I look at a phrase, something like, ”the bees' knees,” and think: What can I do with someone calling someone ”the bees' knees?” and I thought: ”What about having literal bees?” And I would just do something like that. It's not that complicated.
You have merch, and you reference brands like Thrasher magazine in your work. Are you fan of streetwear culture? Yeah, I love streetwear. I can't follow it—it's too quick—but I like stuff like that. I like Krooked and those kinds of brands. The Hundreds was pretty cool, but not so much now.
It's interesting you said Krooked, because Mark Gonzales is an artist in his own right, and there's some similarities in his cartoonish style. Was he an influence at all? A little bit, yeah. I mean, I really like that kind of style in a way, and that stuff that he did with Thrasher. I had that shirt and it was always in the back of mind, and I thought: ”Why can't I just make something fun like that?”
You were also featured in Instagram's newest campaign for Be Kind, which was about getting people to really be aware of what they are saying on the Internet. Kind of. It was just about having a way of spreading positivity. Even in, like, a small way, a little emoji or a sticker. It's just something and it was super cool. I had fun with it, it was nice.
As someone with a pretty large following, how often do you have to deal with trolls? I don't really mind if people aren't super down with it, that's fine. I know that there's a group of people out there. The comics are so lighthearted and don't really mean much, people can just indulge in them and take from that. I don't really care about people having a go.
You literally just posted a comic where you took ”HATE” and turned it to ”CREATE.” Was that in reaction to something? Yeah, I guess I just looked at the word ”hate” and was like: ”Oh, it's similar to create.” But also, I had some dude hating on my style, and he was messaging me. I was just like: ”You could do something way more productive with your time instead of just having a go because you're bored,” you know what I mean?
But on the other hand too, your work has impacted people to the point where they literally have gotten it tattooed. Yeah, that's kind of weird.
How many people that you know of have gotten tattoos of your character? It's into like, the tens. I get a lot of messages. But, it's cool, I don't really understand it. But it's nice gesture. And I think that the character can mean a lot to people. It's hard to see the appeal of what you make—for me, anyway.
There are a couple of reoccurring motifs in the comics, like dogs, cats, and avocados. Are these references from your own life? Do you have any pets? Yeah. I have two cats, and I like dogs. I wish I had a dog. But it's just things that I like I guess, and I don't think it completely reflects me. I think about what might appeal to someone, and then I riff off that. It's nice, lighthearted kind of stuff. I mean, who doesn't like a cat or a dog?
Every comic is self-contained, which I guess works with how a lot of people access media on the internet. Yeah. I think I did that without realizing. But everything is so quick, and I feel like if I tried to do a running story, I would lose a lot of people. It's hard to get people that invested; the culture these days is just fast consumption of the Internet mess.
Are you currently watching any animated series? Everything. I watch loads of Bob's Burgers, Rick and Morty is okay...What else did I watch recently? There was the new one on Netflix with Jayden Smith, what's that called?
Neo Yokio. Neo Yokio! I watched that. I was like: ”Oh, okay.”
What'd you think of it? It was cool, but I got the impression that Jayden didn't really want to be there. You know what I mean? I don't know if you watched it but...
I watched the whole series. Yeah. But there's a lot of cool stuff, I liked the pop culture in it. I liked the fashion stuff.
How do you interact with the Instagram comic community at large, and how do you think it differs from people creating on other platforms, like print? I kind of see Instagram as a newspaper that anyone can really put their stuff on. I like the whole Garfield thing—where you go to the back of a newspaper and there's a little comic, and it doesn't really mean much, but it's something that you can always go back to most days. I wanted to do something similar. I like online, because you can always just go online and find some kind of inspiration, or just something lighthearted.
What do you see happening in the future for Ketnipz? Are you planning on expanding the apparel line or pursuing a book? Both of those things. I just want to do whatever. I don't think it should be backed into a corner. I want to do the clothing side of things because I'm kind of interested in that, and my art looks quite appealing on a T-shirt, so I would like to go down that route. But then also, to have a comic book or some kind of longer series would be nice. We're doing a campaign in Mexico, and we've got another pop-up in LA soon, and then we're going to try for New York.
Now take a look at Instagram style god Gully Guy Leo's self-titled coloring book.