Hakan Keles’ love for cartoons began with reading then crowned with the “Lilliputs” series. He delivers social events within the Turkish society, city life and atmosphere and the life of the ordinary man through the illustrations he draws and posts on social media for his followers.
As we go back in our generation tree as “humans” we can see that we have gone through several changes just like any other creature. We cannot dismiss the fact that these changes have affected our lives and re-built civilizations. Just as it is in the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc primarily belonging to Atlantians located in southern France from 25 thousand years back with cave art from 32 thousand years ago, humans have been known to deliver their problems and changes through art as they deliver their life to future generations. This form of art had been painted on walls in the past which has now “transformed” and is posted on social media as it continues to form the culture and urban life of masses. The “Lilliputs” series by Hakan Keles is noticed as it fills the unnoticed vacancies of the cities…

Could you talk about yourself please?
I was born in Sivas, but grew up in Istanbul. I graduated primary, middle and high schools in Istanbul. Then moved to Eskişehir in 2004 for university. I completed my Military Service after graduation and then worked in Istanbul for about eighteen months. I was working as an architect in a company, it was a fun job but I was already drawing back then. A while later my application at the University as scholar was accepted. So currently I’m a Research Associate at the Architecture Department of Eskisehir Osmangazi University and doing my PhD in Anatolian University.

How did you decide to become an architect? What were the factors that drew your interest?
To be honest I wasn’t interested at first and didn’t have much idea about being an architect. I actually wanted to study fine arts but with slight family persuasion I choose architecture. When I first started school it took me a while to get used to everything but in time I liked the architecture world. However the cultural degradation of the streets started to be even more obtrusive. The skyscrapers in the sky-line while crossing the Bosphorus started to become more disturbing since 3rd year at University.

Currently you are working on photography and illustration. When did you start this and how did you improve yourself?
I’ve been drawing cartoons since middle school. I worked in comic magazines when I was still a high school student and also at University. I started trying to imitate the cartoons in comic magazines at first. My cousin would bring the comic magazines from the doctor’s practice he worked for, that’s how I first encountered comics. When I first saw them I was shocked. I remember the first caricature I had ever seen it was Barzo by Mehmet Cagcag. I looked and studied it for a long time, I could draw but I had never tried drawing caricatures, because I didn’t know them. When you practice and draw constantly you get to a certain level. I must say architecture did increase my awareness. As I read, made researches, work on things more as I continued my education and started to think deeper, took a look in the street and the city differently. This has reflections in my work as you see that not everything we see is about physical appearence. We need cities that we can breathe in and live on the culture.

You started a project “Lilliputs” through illustrations on street photography and posted them on social media. How did you come up with this idea?
As a matter of fact this is not a project but an illustration series I started because I enjoyed doing them. Since the medium I shared was social media people started giving feed-back and that’s how it came to this point. It all started with an illustration I drew out-of-boredom as I was waiting for my girlfriend. It was a friend who named it influenced by “Gulliver’s Travels”…

There are many illustrations on  @haakankeles Instagram account. Is there a message you wish to relay with these illustrations? What inspires you?
Currently I’m sharing a series of  illustrations. I don’t know how long it will go on for. Each illustration has its content and story for me, but I don’t worry about sending messages at all. I’m generally inspired when I’m walking on the street. If there is good photograph I add the character on it. At some point I was really productive; my phone was always in my hand. I would always think about the illustration that could come up on the photo. I slowed down now I draw whenever I have time among regular struggles of life.

When you first started the Lilliputs series your illustrations were genderless. Currently we can see Veysel the Bard or the woman hanging the clothes. What’s the reason behind the change?
The reason for the genderless figure was that I focused the attention to the location, the physical height, width, vacancy etc. I was more concerned of the techniques. There are two buildings and there’s a void in between them which no-one had noticed, but when I had a character in the void people would notice it. My early illustrations were to give the feeling of the atmosphere and feeling of the street. It was independent of the occupant or the people around. I was trying to deliver the street’s atmosphere without judging if it was good or evil. Everyone noticed the Galata Tower and the Bosphorus Bridge but no-one noticed the narrow streets, that was the aim.  There is the reality of back alleys and neighborhoods, the lives of people who have been living there for 50-60 years are imprinted in the walls of buildings. There is certain reality and culture, identity name it how you will, but there is certain notion of belongingness. As soon as we impersonate it then it is visual. That is why if I’m visiting Veysel the Bard’s hometown then impersonate and reflect that, get his identity and memory visual through illustration , that’s a pleasure. Or the old lady who hangs clothes, we see her every day … These are cartoons of everyone’s lives we see these characters, walk past by them they are the real, sincere sides of the city…

So is there a future you visualize for this series?
My first target is to complete my PhD. Afterwards I want to collect the Lilliputs to publish in a book. Then I have other projects; comic books, animation etc…

What are some advices you’d like to give young people?
I don’t like to give advice. But as you grow older you see that the cliché we hear from our elders do come true. That is why, working is really important, giving all you have to a job you like is of great importance. One needs to see life from the positive and constructive aspect. We are in the digital era, make good use of devices but devices should not be the main aim. One needs to indigenize that life is not all about social media. Real life is outside…


  • English William Morris a vanguard for Art and Crafts movement worldwide was among some who earned illustrations its current identity, but in Turkey it was Ihap Hulusi Gorey.
  • Keles who attracts attention with the colorful illustration drawings he calls “Lilliputs” on his personal Instagram account, draws interest nationally and internationally.

“Actually I do have a comic magazine side. I used to work for comic magazines when I was in high school but when I started architecture school I became distant from that environment and started personal work. I completed trainings on 2D animation, illustration stories, and production of illustration work and continue to work on these. Once connected with architecture and location the work starts to find its own form.”

Lilliputs Everywhere
“I will continue to draw what I see and feel. In Gulliver’s travels humans were big but Lilliputs where small. In my story it is the opposite. I hope I can manage to create the feeling that all parts of all cities are valuable through the characters I draw.”

By: Dilara Gülşah Azaplar / Illustratıon: Hakan Keleş

*This article was  published in the  November– December issue of Marmara Life. 

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