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!

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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.


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.

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.

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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!

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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