TODAY WE ARE TALKING WITH ILLUSTRATOR DAGNA SZWAJA.
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What do you define yourself as?
I mainly describe myself as an illustrator.
What is your work about?
I usually work as an editorial illustrator, therefore I have to respond with my Illustrations to a topic. Even then I try to use it as a way to express myself emotionally and figure out my inner world a bit deeper. I started by making work for myself, so my first illustrations were essentially about me and my thoughts about life. Nowadays I need to discover a way to connect this approach with my professional work. Sometimes I find it easier, sometimes less. Still, I always search for a part of me that is emotionally related to the topic, so I can connect it with my thoughts. I try to act this way more and more so my work can be honest, even though it’s done for a client. You can find in my illustrations a lot of women figures. As a female myself, I like to explore the female world and womanhood in general. It creates some sort of bond with other females within me and it is a good symbol to express myself. Sometimes I work purely for exploring my style a bit deeper, sometimes I do things for fun or interesting composition. It depends on what I currently feel like or need.
What do you think is important in your work?
I am still exploring and developing, but I would say, I always like to find an inner reason for making something. As I said it’s not always easy, but sometimes I menage. The other, more superficial thing is the level of my illustrations. I always want to get it to a higher level so I am not stuck. Also, the womanhood topic that I mentioned before is a topic I like to come back to when I want to clear my mind a bit. I like to look into it sometimes, as it helps me to explore myself in the meantime. I guess I have to mention colors as well, I love to examine the world of colors and look for a perfect combination!
What are you working on now?
I just finished a long period of going from one Illustration work to another. Recently I have a little break and I will see what I will do in the future. I find these little periods of slowing down very important. It helps me find distance and menage my energy, prepare myself better for upcoming projects and rest so I can be still fully passionate about it. Slowly I am starting to have new ideas in my head and soon I will probably be back in my normal workflow.
Have you developed your own style?
In some ways yes, at least that’s what some people say. In my opinion, I am still searching and developing. I want it to be better, closer to what I find is a good Illustration. Maybe in the future, I would like my work to go in two directions: one more professional focused purely on illustrations and the other more artistic, maybe a little bit less illustrative. I would also like to try working with textile design/ illustrations for products. The connection between art and design was always fascinating for me and I feel good being somewhere in between and being able to explore both worlds.
What would you like to change in your attitude towards yourself in connection with your work?
I would like to criticize myself less and be less shy about what I do. It’s important to look at your work from a distance and see imperfections. The problem starts when you overly criticize yourself in the present moment that you are not yet there where you want to be. Somehow I understand it. I view my experience with illustration more like a journey than as a goal I want to achieve, but still, I get a bit shy when I am showing my work to other people.
How important is it for you to share your art/work with other people?
I find it very important because you can see other people’s reactions, it helps you grow. Also if there are positive responses it builds you up and gives you the energy to work further, even if it can be difficult at times. I am grateful for them, but also for the ones that are helping me understand what I still could improve, as sometimes it’s hard to find the distance from something you are doing.
How important is creating for you?
I guess it’s a need I always had. It comes to me naturally and I think it’s my natural path. I believe, as humans, we have this universal need to express ourselves. I meet a lot of people that are not connected to art in their professional lives but still they like to create something for themselves, draw, do music, anything. It’s a nice thing to notice.
How do you approach starting a new work?
It depends on what I am doing. If it’s about my personal work I usually go for some days with an idea in my head, till it grows so much I need to express it. When it comes to professional work for clients, I usually work with articles. I read them first and afterward, I am looking for something I can relate to and tell a story about. Meanwhile, I try to sneak in-between my experience or observations as well, at least a little. I do not always succeed, but sometimes I do. Then I sketch on paper. This part I find very important. If I will not work on it well, probably I will not be satisfied with a final illustration.
Do you make aesthetic work or meaningful work?
I try to do both, but I wouldn’t say I am there already. It still can be more beautiful and more meaningful. But it will come with time. I don’t want to rush it too much. We are all rushing too much already. I guess it’s just better to enjoy the process.
How do you want to use your work? (For example, you want to make people happy or solve problems with it.
First of all, I want to express myself, it helps me relate to other people too and gives a problem that I am approaching a more universal meaning. It helps me find the distance. I also feel good when someone is relating to my work. Maybe some people wouldn’t expect this sort of emotional approach to a simple illustration. But I guess that’s what creative work is all about, no matter what it is.
TODAY WE ARE TALKING WITH ILLUSTRATOR JULIA DUFOSSÉ
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As what do you define yourself?
I usually describe myself as an illustrator but I also really like the term graphic artist. While I embrace the profession of illustrator completely, I sometimes feel like I need to define myself in a way that represents the breadth of my work more fully. I’d like to be free to explore different realms of visual expression, whether that’s creating type or working with photographs. Illustrator usually describes a person who illustrates a text or concept. Sometimes, I make work that is not really conceptual but rather free of that kind of constraint (that’s the art part). At the same time, I believe this kind of work can express or complement messages within the commercial or editorial realm (that is the graphic part). Ultimately, I don’t think these nuances are obvious to most casual observers. These subtleties in self-definition matter mostly to the creator.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I get my inspiration from a large breadth of sources. A big source of inspiration for me are airbrush artists from the 70s, people like Michael English (one of my favorites), Charles E. White III, Peter Palombi, Peter Lloyd and Philip Castle. I also really admire the works of Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast (really anything that came out of their studio Pushpin). I also like to draw inspiration from fields outside of illustration, for example from the works of type designers like Alex Trochut, from the works of photographs or from painters like Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte and Max Ernst or from the light installations of James Turrell. Movies, music and books are also huge sources of inspiration in my life. In terms of understanding how to represent concepts visually, I’m very inspired by people like Armando Veve and Christoph Niemann. Some other contemporary artists I look up to are Robert Beatty (who really revived the lost tradition of airbrush art), River Cousin (real name Mikey Burey) and Aaron Lowell Denton.
How do you deal with art blocks?
I don’t always deal with art blocks that well. Sometimes, I just stop creating for a week and get back to it when I can’t take it anymore. But I have two techniques that have worked well for me occasionally. The first is to think of association between subjects or themes that seem at first gland unrelated (for example, architecture and fruits). It’s a technique loosely based on the work of the psychologist Edward De Bono whose studies showed that creativity comes not from an innate ability but from the capacity of people to think of new connections between subjects and get out of their usual way of thinking. The second technique is what I call “the medium switch) and it’s exactly what it sounds like -- you do work in a different medium. So if I’m used to sketching with paper and pencil, I might go use Procreate to sketch. Both of these techniques are just frameworks to fall back onto when things are rough but they don’t always work and sometimes I just need a break from work to get out of my own head, read and explore the city.
What are your favorite topics to make work about and why?
I’m fascinated by technology and its impact on humans. We form such intense and surreal relationships with technological artifacts. I find it immensely rewarding to look through old manuals or pictures of now defunct computing systems. It’s not so much the objects I find interesting but how humans talk about them and rationalize their uses. I also find music to be an inexhaustible source of ideas and inspiration. I don’t think there’s a topic that I’m not interested in making work about.
What stimulates you to make what you make?
The feeling of absolute bliss when things “click”. This usually happens well into a piece and after several painful rounds of refinements. It’s an addictive feeling and one that I’m always chasing.
I can tell that you love to work digital, but your art process seems to begin with a normal sketch. Could you tell me some more about the making process & about your love or preference for digital art?
I used to be terrified of having to draw in an analog manner. Lately, I’ve really loosened up and embraced whatever form of sketching my thinking requires. I usually do very rough sketches and write down notes and ideas on paper. Then I move onto the iPad Pro and Procreate to refine the sketches. It’s much easier and efficient to copy, modify and test compositions in Procreate and it helps me explore concepts more exhaustively.
Is there a specific time of the day when you love to create?
I’m not really a morning person. I take a while to get started and my brain isn’t usually prepped for intense creative thinking in the morning. But I can work on a piece that’s already started at any time because it’s a much more automatic form of work. Usually though, I do the bulk of my creative work after lunch.
Does your work comment on current social or political issues?
Sometimes, albeit rather indirectly or in an unexpected way. I’m not interested in straightforward narratives or commentary. But if I can find a clever way to reflect on current social and political issues, I’m always open to it.
How have you developed your career & is it a hard business to do so?
I’ve hedged the risks of starting out as a freelancer by taking part time jobs and saving as much money as I can. I’ve also tried to establish different sources of income besides commissions including teaching online courses and building a podcast on the side. I still rely quite heavily on my wife financially (she has a full time job and makes a more reliable income). I started my podcast, Illustration Hour, quite early on in my career to help me answer some questions I had about illustration and to help me connect with other creatives. It’s a lonely occupation to be illustrating at home alone every day. It really helps to communicate with other creatives and to exchange our process. In terms of actually getting commissions, you have to do 2 things: keep creating work to add to your portfolio and constantly (but politely) reach out to art directors and people you would like to work with. For that last process, I’ve developed a personal system for collecting contacts and recording my last interactions with them. It makes it much easier to actually cold email people.
Why does art matter to you?
There just isn’t any other way for me. I strive to create works that are beautiful and conceptually engaging. I don’t know how to live a life without that occupation.
Are you more of a aesthetically pleasing artist or do you care more about the meaning of the artwork?
Both! They’re both extremely important to me. I think beauty (or form) and meaning (or function) are interrelated and inseparable. Trying to separate them doesn’t do anyone any good.
TODAY WE ARE TALKING WITH ILLUSTRATOR LOTTE JACOBS.
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What do you define yourself as?
You could best define me as an Illustrator. I also like taking photos (especially with an analogue camera) so I might want to continue with that in the future as well.
How do you get the right workflow?
Ah what a nice question to start the interview with! Well, first of all I would like to say that I work best in the evening or at night. I can usually find peace and that's the time when I have the most inspiration.When everyone is sleeping and I can put on my lights and music. I think the night has a certain beauty that I can hardly detect in the afternoon. It is a mix of melancholy and romance. Delicious. In the evening I really have time for myself and you can see this in my work. It is very close to me. Some people read in bed and I draw or write just before bedtime. It helps me clear my mind. I turn on my nice lights (they give a warm / red light) and then I am in the mood to create. I often set up a French radio channel or a Spotify playlist. And oh yes, a red wine in advance also goes! At that moment I am completely off the radar and I enjoy everything. After an hour or two I am usually ready and I go to sleep.
What are you currently working on and what are you developing more and more?
Nowadays I am selling my designs. I go to the workshop of the art academy and then I'm going to screen print my designs on shirts, and tote bags things like that! It's a lot of fun because I always get help from my friends. All three of us have a lot of fun screen printing and creating our designs so I always find this very pleasant. I would also really like it if I could set up my own company with shirts, sweaters and bags. I currently have five new assignments that I am busy with. I also really like that people want to wear my designs and that it gives them joy. That gives me motivation to create even more. I am also currently writing a bit more and I'm also writing a column.
I wonder what inspires you and how you come up with your ideas?
I am inspired by the people around me. They give me new ideas. I often get inspired by events. It doesn't matter if they are big or small. When I experience fun things or less fun things. Rain always makes me a little melancholic. And a long hot shower also helps me to gain new insights. I also love to sing along with the Artic monkeys to get some new inspiration.
What is the purpose of your artwork?
With my work I mainly want to make people happy and let them simply just enjoy. I study Visual Communication at the art academy of Maastricht so I also think it's very important that people understand my work. It must be clearly legible. I still find this difficult. I sometimes find it too important to make it look aesthetically beautiful which makes me forget that my work also sometimes has to have meaning.
What is your family background and does this have a connection with the work you make?
My background is actually really nice. I have lovely parents who I often don't understand (and they don't understand me either) but they are there for me. My brother is much more technical than me. He was always super smart and super good at math. Not me. my mother encourages me, but sometimes I miss a little enthusiasm. Furthermore, they are both not creative so I am not sure who I got that from. Just like my curls. I don't have that from any of my family members either hahaha.
Does your personality return to your work?
Yes, you will see my personality back for a bit in my work. I am a very chaotic person and that is my artwork too. No clean lines or finished details. I think perfection is important but in other ways. I also prefer working analogue.
Do you also have favorite works by certain artists?
One of my favorite Illustrator is Kirsten Sims. She makes beautiful illustrations with the help of acrylic and watercolor. Especially her night scenery illustrations are very beautiful! I am a little bit jealous of her talent. Other well-known works are of course the sunflowers of Van Gogh. And I also love the kiss of the Austrian artist Gustav Klimt. I've never seen that in real life. I also went to the Bonnefantemuseum last year to see David Lynch's performance, which I found very impressive. It is not at all known, but it is super sick!
How important is it for you to share your art / work with other people?
As I get older I find it much more important to share my art with others because I want to earn my money with it. If I keep it to myself then nobody will see it. At the beginning and now I still find it difficult to share because my work can be personal. I find it difficult to be vulnerable. In the end I think that I will always keep working for myself and I am not sure if there is a career in store for me. I just know that I really like doing it for now and that's enough for me. If you want to follow my art, you can do this on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lot_and_chaos/ (@ Lot_And_chaos) , you can also follow my personal Instagram if you'd like that ,because my whole life is actually a work of art. https://www.instagram.com/lottelente/ (@lottelente)
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TODAY WE ARE TALKING WITH ILLUSTRATOR / GRAPHIC DESIGNER LUKA GEURTS.
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Do you define yourself as an illustrator or graphic designer?
Actually both, I try to mix an illustrative style with typography so that I don't have to define myself as a certain thing.
Graphic & illustrating are close together for me and that is another reason why I don't want to fall into a certain category. Yet I prefer to see myself illustrating as a hobby because I can really put my passion into it.
What is your work about?
That really differs per day, week, month. I do not have a specific topic that I am working on. I am in a phase where I want to experiment as much as possible, not only in style but also in attaching meaning to a work. In my younger years I attached very little value to meaning in my work. I was very precise about the fact that I wanted to make everything look as realistic as possible, there was no question of meaning. That has changed in the meantime, first of all I try to attach meaning to my work and try to make everything as unrealistic as possible because this is much more interesting for me at the moment. What used to be an image of so-called "perfection" is now something I approach in a completely different way.
Are you currently working on a specific work?
I am now very busy with making combinations of texts that are about feelings and thoughts in combination with illustrations. Not all pieces of text are meant to be poetic, I try to make my own visual language through the mix of the 2 elements above.
Do you think you have developed your own style?
No, not yet, but as I indicate in the question above , I am increasingly experimenting and considering what I want to show and what not.
The visual language of mixing illustrations with typography is not yet consistent enough to call it a style, at least that is what I think myself.
A total different topic for now.
Do you think being a woman influences your work as an illustrator?
I'm not constantly busy with that thought on my mind if I am being honest. But if you look at my work you can sure see that I draw a lot of women. I also draw men, but just a lot less. I always want to be able to see something of myself in my own work, and since I am a woman myself, I can use illustrations to show my uncertainties and feelings from that perspective.
So I draw my own experiences and struggles as a mirror image of myself because I am a woman, but if men also recognize themselves in this image, I think that's great.
You illustrate about very personal topics such as depression but also about things like body positivity. Do you do this to break taboo about the topics?
I must have the idea that I can raise matters that are taboo to talk about in a decent way without getting a heavy burden and people dropping out.
I would like to break through perfection to make people more tolerant.
In a sense, that is very feminist, certainly from the point of view of a woman.
Do you also see yourself as a feminist?
Yes, to a certain extent.
When it comes to equality between men and women, I certainly don't think it's a dirty word.
But I myself think that I don't exude 'feminism' in my work. I find it important but do not emphasize this in my work.
I see that you mainly work digitally, does this have a reason?
I find digital programs super nice to work with because I can experiment so much with their color palettes. The appearance of digital working is also much more appealing for me, so it mainly has to do with personal preference.
Do certain color palettes also have certain feelings / thoughts for you?
Experimenting with color can certainly indicate a certain vibe.
When I was not feeling well, I mainly wanted to make colorful work because I wanted to show the outside world that everything was fine. I was afraid to make works that had a "dark" vibe to avoid confrontations with myself.
So I used my illustrations as a mask. Now that I am doing well, I want to make works with dark colors that could possibly help other people who go through the same problems as "former" me.
Do you find it important to make work that is aesthetic?
Not just aesthetic. It is nice for myself and the viewer if it is aesthetic to look at but that is not priority number 1. I still want to send a message and that is what I will expand more and more in the future.
I am always looking for new experiments and looking at how I can give substance to an "aesthetic" picture.
I also think that art is very subjective and that everyone can give their own interpretation of my work.
Finally, I want to ask you what your own favorite work(s) is/are and why?
I have multiple favorite works because I have also incorporated multiple styles into my illustrations. But if I really have to choose, then I choose the most recent work / series that I am working on. It is what I have talked about before, really creating my own visual language through typography and illustrative work and thereby attaching a deeper meaning to it.