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[ITW] DXRKOW – Talking to an illustrator who is driven by the dark and mysterious, with tattoos and movies in the mix 11-19-2020 |  7 minutes


Every year, we invite five very different artists to create illustrations on the same theme.

This year we asked for their takes on the Ariane 5 and Ariane 6 launchers. Here, we talk to young French illustrator DXRKOW, about his creative process and the inspiration behind his work with ArianeGroup.

Self-portrait by DXRKOW

Where does your passion for drawing come from and how did you become an illustrator?

When I was very young I used to watch my father drawing, and I loved what he did. I’d always liked drawing myself but to start with I never imagined doing it as a job, and actually I began my studies in the sustainable development field! However, I soon felt the need to create and took up drawing again, and trained as a graphic designer. I then moved into 3D design, animation, and UX design (user experience) which allowed me to develop a wide range of skills.

What does your ‘pen-name’ DXRKOW mean?

I’m a great fan of the cinema, and I chose an alias from the Richard Kelly movie Donnie Darko. It’s basically a fantasy movie, set in a pretty dark world where imagination plays a key role. For me, it was a way to point to my own graphic universe and my desire to prick people’s imagination through the stories my drawings tell.

Tell us about your graphic style, which has more than an echo of tattoos.

My minimalist style, which is a bit like flat design, and my frequent use of black and white are of course inspired by tattoos. It’s a very rich art that I really admire. For several years, tattooing has been becoming increasingly popular, and many tattoo artists from different walks of life have become big names. The shape and style of my drawings above all are inspired by artists like Ross Nagle, who did my own tattoo.

What inspires you when you create new illustrations?

Animated films and cartoons are also a big source of inspiration. My style is definitely very different from the world of animation per se, but it really helps me to give my drawings life, because I can see how bodies move, the poses, morphology, positions. I watch a lot of dark ‘spooky’ movies, even horror movies. I like the mood they conjure up and I try to inject this into my designs.

This year you have created two illustrations for ArianeGroup. How did you set about this challenge?

The theme you gave me inspired me from the start as I’ve always been interested in astronomy. When I was young, I spent a lot of time stargazing. I remember how as a boy I used to dream about space and exploring the cosmos, and wanted to tap into that imagination which is still very much alive in the adult me. Space is a subject I enjoy working on because of its dark aesthetic, beautiful but frightening – like the mood of my drawings.

What did you aim for in these illustrations?

I chose to base my illustrations on the contrast between realism and fiction. On the one hand, my Ariane launchers have elements that are really inspired by the real Ariane 5 and Ariane 6, but at the same time they are set in a totally imaginary universe. I tried to make them represent principally the awe and the admiration you feel when you look at an Ariane rocket.

For more stark, dark DXRKOW pictures, check out Instagram @DXRKOW and visit our shop at where you can become the proud owner of an original work by DYRKOW and the other illustrators in our 2020 crew.