Live drawing for Cartoonbase

A while ago, I was commissioned by Cartoonbase to do a live-drawing during the opening-event of the new Gyproc factory. This meant having to draw on a huge canvas of Gyproc boards, on a stage, in front of about 300 people.

Normally this would be something that would scare me instantly: drawing in front of an audience, and not being able to correct the drawing with a gum or such either. But after a meeting with the nice people at Cartoonbase, I realized it wasn’t that scary as I thought in the beginning, and I decided to just go for it. And you know what; an unexpected thing happened while I was drawing at the event: I really enjoyed it!

So it is confirmed once again: it is good to leave your comfort-zone once in a while :-)

You can see some pictures of the live-drawing below.

KeyColours award ceremony and opening Kleurboel exhibition

On 22 september was the opening of the Kleurboel exhibition, and the award ceremony of the KeyColours picturebook competition.

I took part in the KeyColours competition with my picturebook Helme’s Grote Hoofd (Helmes Giant Head), along with 422 other illustrators all over the world, who submitted their picturebook. To my big surprise, my work did not only make it to the longlist of 44 illustrators, but it also made it to the shortlist of 6! This meant that my work would be included in the Kleurboel exhibition in the Stadsmus in Hasselt, and that I was one of the six finalists that could win a cash prize and publication by Clavis Uitgeverij.

The opening of the exhibition was on 22 september in the Stadsmus museum in Hasselt (Belgium), and the award ceremony took place a couple of hours later in the offices of Clavis Uitgeverij on the beautiful Herkenrode Abbey site. It was a great day on which I met a lot of nice and interesting people, and saw a lot of great illustrations. And then it was time to get a bit nervous for the award ceremony… Of course the publisher and the alderman of culture of the city of Hasselt kept the tension until the last minute. After the winner of the award: Eva Schirdewahn from Germany was announced, they also announced that Clavis Uitgeverij will also publish the other finalists, which was the first time in the history of the KeyColours award that they decided to do that. So I am over the moon that my book will be published!

A big congrats to the winner Eva Schirdewahn with her book Fido! And of course congratulations to all of the finalists:

  • Effie Lada from Greece (A Forgotten Sunday)

  • Sara Casilda Campos from Spain (Anna, va dormir dans ton lit)

  • Maria Fernandez de Cordova Miralles from Spain ( Bob’s Journey)

  • Eva Schirdewahn from Germany (Fido)

  • Manuel Sumberac from Croatia (The Red Bird)

  • Ellen Lambrichts (me) from Belgium (Helme’s Grote Hoofd)

So keep your eyes peeled when you are in a bookstore next summer :-)

If you want to visit the Kleurboel exhibition: you can still go visit the Stadsmus in Hasselt until 4 november. Do pop in if you are in the neighbourhood!

finalist of the KeyColours competition!

I am very glad to announce that my picturebook 'Helme's Grote Hoofd' not only made the longlist of the KeyColours picturebook competion, which means my work will be included in the exhibition, but I also am one of the six finalists of this important picturebook competion!

This competition is organized by the city of Hasselt, in association with Clavis Uitgeverij. It is a pretty well-known international competition which receives a lot of entries from illustrators throughout Europe, so I am very excited being one of the final six.

My work will be exhibited in the Kleurboel- exposition in the Stadsmus in Hasselt, from 22 september to 4 november. Of course, you are all invited to go take a lookC

helme cover klein naam.jpg

artwork for the doom-metalband My Lament

A while ago, I was asked to make artwork for the new single of the belgian doom-metalband My Lament. Now, when you take a look at my illustrations, you wouldn't really think of doom metal, and neither would I, actually.

But, knowing that this band isn't really your typical doom-metalband, and that they prefer a more poetical approach for their CD-covers, I really liked the challenge and accepted.

Here you can see the finished cover. I will shed some light on how it came about below.

ML cover met tekst.jpg

When they told me the title of their new single was 'Life will be the Death of Me', several things came to my mind. One of the images I thought of, was the cover of their CD 'Broken Leaf', which consisted of a beautiful photo of a leaf skeleton in fragile hues of grey. I somehow wanted to translate this image into new artwork that conveyed the same feeling. After some silent thinking and collective brainstorming, I came up with the idea of combining the subtle lines of a leaf skeleton with the solid shape of an animal, as if it was dissolving in full motion.

A humpback whale embodied this feeling, in my opinion. Looking at pictures of these epic animals always envokes strong feelings in me: on one hand, their size and the vast expanse of ancient darkness they live in scares me, and yet, looking at these massive animals has a tragic quality too; like watching the light of a star that is already extinct. They possess just the right combination of strenght and vulnerability.

I didn't have to think long about the technique I wanted to use as a base: black ink it would be. The dark sea just screamed for black ink, dying out on wet paper. And so I started sketching.

I experimented with black and red ink to make structures and backgrounds for the humpback whale. I sketched a lot of whales, to see what movement and shape would fit the image best, and would invoke the right feeling. Shapes and movement, as well as color, all work together in invoking a certain feeling, after all. It's a bit like body language: subtle things can have a big impact.

I decided on a couple of poses, and turned those sketches into cleaner ink linework illustrations. The next step was scanning all these elements. I chose the ink backgrounds with the nicest texture to use as base color for the whales and the linework, after which I started adding shadows and highlights and pulling the different elements together.

binnenkant klein naam.jpg

While working on my initial idea of the humpback whale that was gradually dissolved into a leaf skeleton, I loved the image itself, but I felt that this was a too literal approach to the title; too much like an illustration, if you get what I mean. After discussing this with the band, we agreed to leave out the leaf skeleton and to focus on the humpback whale instead. So I continued working on this until I had two images that clicked and had just the right ratio of darkness and light. Above and below you can see the two final pieces.

coverML klein naam.jpg

card for the Boekenkaravaan to thank volunteers

A while ago, I was asked by the Boekenkaravaan to illustrate a card that was going to be sent as a thank you card to their volunteers. The Boekenkaravaan is an organisation that aims to show underpriviledged children how wonderful books and reading can be, knowing that better language skills and a broader horizon can improve those children's chances on a better future.

To reach this goal, the Boekenkaravaan works with a lot of volunteers that go read books to children, sometimes in playgrounds, but mostly at the children's own home on a regular basis, thus building a lasting relationship with those families. Often these weekly reading dates become something the children really look forward to, so it goes without say that these volunteers really do a great job and deserve a heartfelt thank you every once and a while!

kaartje vrijwilligers klein ig naam.jpg

When I was asked to make an illustration for this card, I wanted to make an illustration that would really resonate with the volunteers, and would make them feel appreciated indeed. I asked myself what their biggest motivation would be to keep giving their time and dedication to this initiative every week, and I figured that the main reason would be making those children happy, of course.
What would give them more satisfaction than looking up from the book they are reading, and seeing the happy or attentive faces of the children in front of them? So I drew just that.

I made a lot of sketches of children's faces, to make sure they looked etnically diverse without focusing on their skintone too much. When drawing children of diverse backgrounds, I feel it is important that the children can identify with the characters as individuals; I wouldn't want the characters to look as stereotypes. After I had sketched a group of characters I liked, I made some sketches to obtain a composition that worked, and started working on the final illustration with those elements.

Below you can see a little gif that shows how I built up the final illustration. As you see, I worked more or less color by color, to make sure the colors are balanced throughout the image and look harmonious.

vrijwilligerskaartjecrop.gif

After I finished the illustration, the Boekenkaravaan had cards printed, that were sent to their volunteers. By now the cards have surely all arrived. I heard there was enthousiastic feedback from the volunteers when they found the card in their mailboxes, which meant a lot to me. It is always great to hear that my work made someone's day just that little bit better!

 The cards are being posted by the Boekenkaravaan. Photo by Eefje Raats.

The cards are being posted by the Boekenkaravaan. Photo by Eefje Raats.

boardgame about climate change

A while ago, I was commissioned to make a game of goose for de Boekenkaravaan, so today, I want to shed some light on how this boardgame came about.

The boardgame was intended to teach children a thing or two about climate change in a playful context, and to install the awareness that climate change has a direct influence on the entire planet and all its inhabitants. Of course this project immediately appealed to me, since climate change and sustainability are things I feel strongly about.

The people at de Boekenkaravaan wanted the game to have the structure of a game of goose (ganzenbord in Dutch), in which the pawns would race to be the first to arrive at the finish, and with special tiles on the board that would set you back or give you some advantage in the race. (I think we all played this game at least once in our lives, so I'm sure there is no need for me to explain the rules any further) They also wanted the pawns to be animals, but apart from these simple guidelines, I was free to fill in the blanks to my best judgement.

P2066304.jpg

I was paired up with Lynn Rongé who took care of the copy for this game. Together we decided early on that the animals would each represent a season, and that, while travelling the board, these animals would pass through the seasons as well. Picking out the animals who would symbolize the different seasons was easy: we chose a swallow to represent spring, a dolpin for summer, autumn would be symbolized by a hedgehog, and winter would be a polar bear. While playing, the animals would come across things that would have a direct impact on them due to climate change. Those tiles could set back some animals, but could leave others unaffected or could sometimes benefit them. So, on their journey, the animals would have to deal with early frost, early thaw, heatwaves, forest fires etc.

P2066305 copy.jpg

Now that the concept was clear, it was time for me to design the game. While this concept surely triggered my imagination, it was also clear to me that it posed some difficulties design-wise. For instance, the four animals we chose all lived in different elements: one lived in the sky, one in the sea, one on the ground, and one partly in the sea and on the ground, which raised some difficulties in designing a landscape in which all of these animals would be able to travel together. A second thing was that the board also had to show the passing of the seasons in some way, while still retaining a visual harmony.

At this point I hit my drawing board and started sketching. Initially I tried to keep the tiles of the different seasons somewhat separated, so I sketched a lot of different ways for the tiles to meander on the board, each season in their own corner, and I also sketched ideas for the background, in which the tiles led through the landscape of different continents, seen from above, but it instantly became clear that this approach would show way too many details that would lead the attention away from the game itself, and, although showing different habitats, it didn't really show the different seasons either. Also, the ideas in which the tiles followed somewhat intricate patterns with the seasons separated looked too hectic, especcially when the colors would be added. (At this point, I still tried out four color palettes to show the different seasons.)

Normally, I would show you the sketches I made here. But I have to admit that when I'm trying out a lot of different ideas on paper for my own eyes only, those sketches tend to look rather rudimentary, and although I might be able to read them perfectly, I doubt other people would make much of them... But I do promise to show sketches in my next blog post!

P2066312 copy.jpg

After I made all of these different sketches and saw what didn't work, I decided to go back to basics, and keep it simpler, balancing all of the elements to match each other. I decided to refrain from showing an intricate background landscape that featured different continents, and I also simplified the color palettes to show the seasons. Instead of four, clearly defined color palettes, I chose soft light blue hues for the colder times, that would gradually change to creamy orange hues for the warmer seasons. As for the tiles: in stead of the wilder, swirling routes the tiles took in some of the sketches, I now opted for a soft, boxy spiral to fit all of them. I also designed the animals with softly rounded, boxy lines, to make sure that they looked in harmony with the board itself. For the background I ended up with one grassy meadow, that would have a different appearance in each corner of the board, to represent the passing of the seasons.

I chose gouache to color the illustration, to give it an opaque and substancial look, and colored pencil to add details.

Below you can see the game as it looked in the newsletter, ready to be printed out, play and start a discussion with children.

I guess there is only one thing left for me to ask. Who wants to play? I call the hedgehog!

website ganzenbord 2.jpg

editorial illustration for the Covent Gardener

I have been meaning to blog more regularly about my work and process for a while now, but it was something I easily forgot. BUT! This time I took blogging into account when I made my planning for 2018, so I hope to be able to publish a little blogpost every two weeks on monday, starting with this one.

People regularly ask me what steps are involved in working with an illustrator, so my main goal for these blogposts is to give you some more insight into how I go about creating an illustration, from my tools to the different steps in the developing process, to shed some more light upon that subject. And, of course, if you are like me, it is just very nice to see process pictures.

I will also share some tutorials from time to time, and experiences that were important for me as an illustrator.

website covent gardenerRGB.jpg

Today I would like to show you a bit of my process for this illustration I was commisioned to do for the Covent Gardener magazine. I chose this project to be the first to write about, because I think the process used here will give you a pretty good idea of how working with me mostly will be.

When the lovely AD of Covent Gardener magazine, Jeannine Saba, contacted me about an illustration for the autumn issue of the magazine, we talked about the theme of the issue and what she needed the illustration to look like. She didn't have a very specific image in mind, but she liked it to include one or more of the well-known buildings in the London Covent Garden area, some autumn imagery, and since the theme of the issue was 'tattoos', I could work with that theme too. Apart from that, I was given artistic freedom.

With that in mind, I read through the text of the diary page, where my illustration would be placed, and underlined all the elements that could work in an illustration. This included the locations that were mentioned and some of the activities, like a Halloween-party on a boat on the Thames. I did some research of the buildings and locations mentioned, and because the timeline was rather narrow, I started sketching straight away. I wanted to provide three different approaches to the subject, so the three sketches I ended up coloring in and sending to Jeannine, was a rather classic illustration of Somerset House with an autumn feel, a more playful take on the Halloween-party on the Thames, and a stylish hipster with a tattoo of Somerset House on his arm and an autumn pattern on his vest.

My favorite of the three sketches, the bearded hipster, was chosen to complete.

At this stage, I usually offer a round of corrections in the sketch phase, which means you can still ask for anything to be changed when I show the first sketches, but no changes were asked, so I could go straight on to completing the final illustration.

Above you can see the quick sketches I made. You can see they don't look like finished work, but their main purpose is to show the composition of the elements in the illustration, and an idea of the color that will be used. You can more or less think of them as low-res previews of the final image.

After the sketch to work from is chosen, comes the time I park myself at my drawingboard and get serious with my pencils or other tools. After I complete the illustration and some coffees were consumed, I scan the image, and mostly do some minor cleaning up in photoshop.

And then this is how the finished illustration looked like, printed in the magazine, with text and lay-out added. It was a pleasure to work on this illustration, and we were both pretty pleased with the outcome, so this is a job with good memories attached for me :-)

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I hope you enjoyed reading this little article, and that it gave you some insight into my process. I will be writing about other projects too of course. Sometimes the 'making of' can vary somewhat, but the key elements are always lots of communication to make sure that we are on the same page (no pun intended), some research, and of course, lots of drawing.

 

If you have any requests about subjects you would like me to write about, please let me know! Would you like to see more process-images or video's, drawing tutorials, some insight into the life of an illustrator, or a post about the tools I use, I would be glad to hear it!

Sketch interview with Easle

A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to do an interview by Easle, an interesting platform for illustrators. But, unlike any other interview, there were no words involved. Completely true to our métier, the answer had to be sketched, which I of course thought was a great idea!

I received the questions, and I got to translate my answers into sketches. They even asked me to hand-letter the questions, so the endresult offered a really good feel of my illustrating style and the things that inspire me.

A great little video got made of the interview, which you can watch on Facebook here  or on Instagram here. Or you can just scroll down and see the questions and the answers here on your own pace.

I really enjoyed doing this, and of course, for that reason the 'sketches' I was supposed to do soon became more elaborate illustrations.

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 The first question...

The first question...

 ... and my answer. The likeness is uncanny.

... and my answer. The likeness is uncanny.

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 If my answer isn't completely clear: I live in Antwerp, which is the city where Rubens lived, and Belgium is of course well-known for Tin-Tin and our French fries (yes, they are Belgian in fact)

If my answer isn't completely clear: I live in Antwerp, which is the city where Rubens lived, and Belgium is of course well-known for Tin-Tin and our French fries (yes, they are Belgian in fact)

question 3 sketch interview.jpg
 What else?

What else?

question 4 sketch interview.jpg
 This was a difficult question to answer. Of course, I couldn't choose a book character, because they wouldn't be recognized. So I chose Frances McDormand in Fargo (the movie, not the series) which is one of the strongest female characters I know, without being sensational at all.

This was a difficult question to answer. Of course, I couldn't choose a book character, because they wouldn't be recognized. So I chose Frances McDormand in Fargo (the movie, not the series) which is one of the strongest female characters I know, without being sensational at all.

question 5 sketch interview.jpg
 I was a bit rebellious here, and answered autumn instead.

I was a bit rebellious here, and answered autumn instead.

question 6 sketch interview.jpg
 It was a busy week, but I do like it that way.

It was a busy week, but I do like it that way.

process for my writer portraits series

When deciding on what to do for a personal project, there usually are three things that I bear in mind: it has to be something that helps me finetune my illustration style and skills, it has to be something that I feel is missing, or not defined enough in my portfolio, but most importantly: I have to really have fun doing it.

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Pattern-making

Lately, I have made several repeating patterns in the good old paper-and-pencil way, and I found it more tactile than combining every element of the pattern in Photoshop, and I enjoyed doing it more, too. Before I tried this, I thought this way of making a pattern would be very complicated to do, but after having gotten the hang of it, I discovered some simple tricks that make it all so much easier!

That's why I decided to make a little tutorial of the process, and share these little tricks with you :-)

 The finished pattern

The finished pattern


First, decide what you want to turn into a repeating pattern. I wanted to draw a magnolia tree that day, so I started drawing a branch with those beautiful flowers in the middle of my paper, leaving blank space all around it to fill in later. After you have finished your 'base drawing' comes the hardest part of the process. yes, indeed, the hardest part is in the beginning already. Which is cutting right through your drawing. Twice, even :-) 

 Step one: draw something.

Step one: draw something.

With a sharp knife, make a horizontal cut right through the middle of your drawing. Tape them back together with the top and bottom side switched. Then make a vertical cut right through the middle, and tape your drawing back, with the left and the right side switched this time. You will then end up with your initial drawing in the corners of your paper, and a lot of blank space in the middle that you can start to fill in with new drawings, in my case, with more magnolias.

Why I called this the hardest part, is not only because it is slightly terrifying to cut straight through your drawing, but also because you have to do this meticulously if you want the repeat to work. In order for the repeat to work you have to start with a perfect rectangular piece of paper, and make cuts that are perfectly parrallel to the sides. If your cuts are crooked even in the slightest, you will end up with a pattern that doesn't fit perfectly when you turn it in a repeat in photoshop later, which will mean you end up with a lot of extra work to make it fit. I learned this the hard way, too. As you see when you look at the picture attentively, the cuts in the top don't align perfectly, so I had to do a lot of clone-stamping in photoshop afterwards...

 Step two: the first drawing is cut in four, and you can start filling in the blank space.

Step two: the first drawing is cut in four, and you can start filling in the blank space.

 Step three: the blank space is almost filled in.

Step three: the blank space is almost filled in.

At this stage you will probably end up with a drawing where most of the paper is filled in, but you will probably still have some white along the edges. So now here comes a great tip: use washi-tape to fix your drawing back together, so that you can unpeel the tape at this stage, and revert to the original shape of your drawing. This is a great way to be able to fill in the last blank parts of the paper, and also to be able to connect parts of your pattern. In my case, I was able to connect some branches of my tree, so that I would end up with flowy lines that really pulled the pattern together.

 Step four: the last adjustments to make sure everything fits right.

Step four: the last adjustments to make sure everything fits right.

Now your pattern is finished, and ready to be scanned and turned into a repeating pattern in photoshop. You can still tweak the colors a bit there if you feel like it, and maybe add a background, but the most part of the work (and the most enjoyable) is already done :-)

You can see my end result in the top of this blogpost. I hope my tips were helpful, and I wish you all lots of fun trying this out for yourself!

Coming soon!