“I wanted to draw something not very aesthetically pleasing,” says London illustrator Thomas Hedger of his latest work—a series of vibrantly colored petrol stations. These still compositions are a departure from the tongue-in-cheek style that Hedger has become known for, and which high-profile clients like Urban Outfitters, the New York Times, Condé Nast, and Design Week regularly commission.

“I want the series to show that I like to work with precision and perception in drawing, and also to convey a sense of seriousness compared to other work.” Image makers can often become known for one thing, and are asked to repeat it for different clients—something we recently spoke about with illustrator Jonathan Calugi. When you reach a certain level of acclaim it’s hard not to get stuck in a box, so how do you mix things up and keep the medium interesting for you without driving your regular clients away?

For Hedger, the answer was to depict lonely petrol stations, the direct opposite of his characteristically jubilant and gregarious characters in motion. The bold lines and lively colors that make his work so tantalizing remain in these new works, but the pictures suggest that Hedger is capable of conveying an air of melancholy as well as joy. Most importantly, the drawings have helped the illustrator refine his approach to vector art.

Thomas Hedger, Petrol Station, 2016
Thomas Hedger, Petrol Station, 2016

“Buildings as a whole are something I’ve been working on this year, and the series branched off of that,” says Hedger. “I’m working on some images at the moment of car parks and rooftops that follow a similar theme.”

The colors of the work clash to create impact, allowing the architecture to strike out at the viewer. Icy blue and chilli-pepper red combine garishly, creating a feeling of dislocation. It’s not certain whether its winter or summer, and these stations seem devoid of time and place. “They’re all imagined,” Hedger confirms, “based on my idea of what a petrol station looks like.”