January 4, 2017

We caught up with artist and graphic designer Marijke Buurlage about her colourful and exotic work. She talks us through her creative process, proudest moment and everything in between.

UO: When did you realise that you wanted to pursue illustration as a career?

To be honest, I never thought I was going to study art and be an illustrator until I was about 19 years old. After finishing high school, I had no idea what I wanted to study. I started studying Media and Entertainment Management but it never felt like the right subject for me. I only liked the classes where we got to create something. I was really struggling with making the right decision, until my mom gave me the idea to apply to art school. I always thought that art was interesting but I never thought my creations were good enough for art school. But I applied anyway and got in. Now, seven years later, I can say that this was one of the best decisions that I could have made. I worked really hard during art school and I significantly improved my work. After graduating I worked even harder to improve my work and get as many assignments as I could possibly get. And now I still seize every opportunity that allows me to show my work to the world.

UO: Where do you find inspiration?

I think what mostly inspires me is nature. All the colours, patterns and shapes that you can find in nature are so amazing and beautiful! I often feel the need to sketch when I am outside watching the animals and botanicals. These little doodles I make often reappear in my illustrations as decorative elements. My work often contains ornaments that are inspired by nature; I don’t think I could create anything that is really ‘me’ without these botanical decorations. Also, I am really inspired by children’s books from the fifties, sixties and seventies. I often go to second-hand stores to look through all the beautifully illustrated covers of these books for inspiration. I love the use of color and shapes in these picture books and the characters are always so adorable. My vintage children’s book collection is growing every week!

UO: What is your creative process like?

I always start with a rough sketch on the computer. After sketching I start looking for inspiration; on the internet, in books and outside. When I finally make up my mind about what I want to create exactly and how I am going to do this, I make a color palette that I am going to use (I don’t use more than seven different colors most of the time). When I start working on the final version of the illustration, I begin drawing all elements with a marker or a brush on paper. Everything I make is drawn by hand first and then colored and arranged digitally after. I’ve been working like this for two years now and I love it. It works so well for me.

UO: What time of day are you at your most productive?

Afternoon and evening! I always have some trouble getting started in the morning, but once I am in that ‘work-flow’ I can’t stop! This often results in forgetting to make dinner and only realizing around 10 in the evening I haven’t eaten anything. Such a bad habit!

UO: What has been your favourite project to work on so far in your career?

My favourite project is definitely the one I am working on right now, my very first picture book! It’s a huge project (64 pages fully illustrated) so I have been working on it for a few months already, but it never gets boring. The book is all about animals in their natural habitat, and shows the things they do all day: their ‘jobs’. Each spread shows a different habitat that is filled with animals leaping, diving, running and rolling through the pages. There are jungles, snow scenes, forests, deserts, oceans an skies. A dream project for sure! And it will be published by one of the most amazing picture book publishers in the UK, so I can’t be more excited.

UO: What is the best piece of advice you have been given, about art or otherwise?

To use and treasure my stubbornness, and not suppress it.

UO: Who are some of your favourite artists/ illustrators right now?

I really admire artists for having their own distinct style that is easily recognizable for everyone. There are a lot of illustrators out there that I follow on IG that inspire me every day! But also artists from the previous century inspire me: Kees van Dongen, Fiep Westendorp, Charley Harper, Henri Matisse, Roger Duvoisin, Alain Gree and Raoul Dufy.

UO: What motivates you?

I really love my job and I sometimes still can’t believe that I am making a living out of illustrating! Finishing artworks and being happy with the final result is what motivates me the most: I love that feeling of being able to be proud of my work! Best job in the world :)

UO: Do you have any advice for young freelancers?

I always tell art students to work on personal projects when you don’t have that many commissions yet. It’s the best way to build your portfolio, showcase your work and to develop a personal style as an artist! Use social media every day, make sure your work gets noticed. Also share works in progress, not only the final results. It’s very interesting for the world to see your entire process, it makes them respect the art you make even more!