TODAY WE ARE TALKING WITH VISUAL ARTIST MAARTJE STEEHOUWER / OATDEER.
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What do you define yourself as?

To say it a bit broader, I would call myself a visual artist. I find it difficult to place my work in 1 category. I am now mainly busy with illustrative work, but I am also very interested in design. I see this as the final touch of my illustrations, but also the literal design of clothing. There is a whole process behind it. Searching for the right piece of clothing, coming up with the image to put on it, the placement of the design and then the photography and finally the editing of the final work, which also involves graphic aspects. In addition to my illustrative work, I am also involved in photography and film.

What is your work about?

My work does not really have an ongoing subject. I often base my works on special things that I have seen in my dreams. So a kind of dream world is something that comes back in my work. I have periods that I can remember my dreams very clearly and then I usually write them down to find out possible meanings, even though I often dream about very strange images. It is as if my fantasy goes even freer. I often like to make real images of this in my illustrations.

What do you think is important in your work?

Aspects that are incorrect. This can be in certain combinations of shapes, colors or environments. I like it when artworks have something unreal, maybe even a sort of trippy effect. That is also something I would like tp continue this way of creating, making my images more and more bizarre.

Do you make aesthetic work or meaningful work? Or a mix of both?

My work is both aesthetically pleasing and meaningful to myself. I think aesthetics are very important because people are very visually oriented. I like the design aspects very much, such as the placement and use of colors in my work so that they display a beautiful image. If I like my work, it also gives me a good feeling and that motivates me to create more.

What encourages you to keep creating?

I think that drawing is something that I can use my creativity in very well. During periods when I did not feel good about myself, or when I am in a bad dip or depressed period, I notice that I am not concerned with much of my creativity. Once I start being creative again, my zest for life will come back a bit. Coming up with ideas outside of myself gives me the freedom to create my own world that I like. So it really is something that makes me feel like I am really completely myself, and it gives me energy to do other things. If I do not create, I will lose myself, and if I do, I will find myself back piece by piece.

Do you think you have developed your own drawing style? Because to me it seems like you have.

Sure. After years of drawing I have increasingly acquired my own recognizable style. I always drew everything from styles which I personally liked. I think this has made me grow closer and closer to myself and I have found my own way of drawing what has become a mix of everything that inspires me. I do notice that this style can also vary from time to time and with my changing interests. I am now at a point where I am very happy with what I am making and I want to expand it further, but I have  found a way of working in which I can express my creativity perfectly. I would therefore like it to stay this way.

How do you approach starting a new work?

I think the choice to start is the most important. Often my inspiration is hard to find. By listening to music and finding images on Pinterest for example, I quickly get inspiration to start something. I sometimes see photos of other works of art which have a certain shape and I take inspiration from them to make my own. I often work out concepts quite quickly, something comes to mind and when I'm enthusiastic about it, I can put it on paper in the way that I see it in my head. I was totally unable to do this years ago. I am therefore very happy that I am better able to portray images the way I see them in my mind, or else just go along with the process and see how it ends.

About the practical part of starting work:  I often look for inspiration on Pinterest, Instagram, in photos I have taken or images of my dreams etc. I have a fairly simple way of working. I make a sketch, which is often quite finished, and I trace this with a black fine liner / pen. I scan this and then add colors digitally to make it a complete work. Sometimes I also draw freehand without making a sketch.

I think your work tends to have something tangible (such as painting clothes and tattoo designs) in the sense of wanting to transfer your art to a body. Is this a conscious choice?

This is indeed a conscious choice. I really like it when my art can be made physically. In this way a literal part of myself also becomes part of another, let this be in the sense of an item of clothing or a more permanent way such as a tattoo.

 I wonder what the reason is that you started designing tattoos, is this something you have always wanted, or did you want to experiment more with your drawing style in general by practicing on bodies?

About two years ago I found a tattoo artist named Grace Neutral online. I found her way of thinking very free and this was very inspiring for me to become more openly myself. I have never been this interested in tattooing, although I often saw beautiful images passing by and I have always admired people who practice this art. A year ago, I had just had a bad mental period and after that I felt the urge to go deeper and to find myself, part of it was also to feel more like myself in my body. After coming up with a design and waiting a few months I got a tattoo of my own drawing. For me, this feels like a piece of myself that shows my period of growth well. I actually started thinking about the possibility that tattooing could also be a career for me. I started looking into this art much more. I am currently building up a portfolio and, in the meantime, I want to learn some tricks myself and follow a course to fully learn tattooing.

Which aspects of designing a tattoo differs from making your illustrations digitally / on paper?

I think it is different for me in the sense that I add less to my tattoo designs. In principle, the 1 image must stand strong on its own. It might also force me to look further with my images in how I can present them in terms of design. In my earlier illustrations I often drew people and recently many other natural forms such as animals and plants. I think that with tattoos your body forms the final picture, while with a normal illustration it must be able to stand on its own.

What is your future perspective in terms of the things you make? For example, what do you want to develop more in, and what would you consider interesting to test even more?

I would like to learn more about tattooing, so that I can also tattoo people and I am hoping this might become my job. I sometimes dream about having my own shop in the future. This could be a tattoo shop, a clothing store, studio, café or several or all of these ideas together. In any case, I know that I am really looking forward to seeing what the future will bring me and I know that I will certainly continue to create.

CHECKOUT HER INSTAGRAM 

https://www.instagram.com/oatdeer/