"Keep adding new art. Keep developing your style but don't be afraid to try something completely out of your comfort zone every now and then. This is what I do to further my artwork."
Artist Mathijs Vissers uses an array of different techniques to create his eclectic style. Working as a freelance designer and illustrator out of the Netherlands, Mathijs blends symbols of the uncanny and surrealism to create unique and stunning works.
For this week’s Featured Artist interview, we chatted with Mathijs about his creative process and his tips about selling artwork on Redbubble.
Be sure to stop by his shop to pick up products featuring his illustrations.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
Pretty much everywhere. That’s such a cliche thing to say, but it’s the truth. Sometimes when I read something it just clicks. Same with visual things. I do make sure I see a lot of things to force some inspiration though. I often start my day by browsing sites like Behance, check out new movie trailers, stuff like that, to get some creative juices flowing. Most of the time the things I see are not in line with anything I have planned to work on for that day, but it doesn’t matter. Seeing awesome stuff other people make gets me excited to work on cool things myself.
What’s your creative process like?
That differs a lot. It depends on the type of design I’m making, but most of the time I start with a tiny pencil sketch in my sketchbook. Really tiny and rough, just to get an idea of rough shapes and composition. Sometimes I refine the sketch some more, other times I start working digitally from there. When I make one of my typical illustrative designs, I go through roughly the same process every time. Rough sketch, refined sketch, final linework, coloring, finishing touches. Depending on the look I’m going for I either do the final steps in Illustrator or Photoshop.
When I want to go for something different, maybe something like the collage-type designs I do, I start with a feeling or a direction. From there I go through my collection of public domain images, look for suitable pictures, browse various public domain sites for some more images and start by throwing everything in a blank photoshop file. Then I pretty much go nuts from there. Often times there’s no real plan for these type of designs, I let the shapes and objects dictate what it’s going to look like as a whole.
What tips would you give to artists who want to sell more artwork on Redbubble?
Keep adding new art. And keep developing your style, but don’t be afraid to try something completely out of your comfort zone every now and then. This is what I do to further my artwork, I make a little side-step to move my work as a whole forward.
What has been your biggest creative insight, learning curve, or wake up call?
Don’t be afraid to share your experiments. “The Visionary” was a design I did as a purely experimental thing, I had this idea of a old-timey freakshow traveling circus in my head, and then an occult themed contest came along on another website. I combined the two and worked with these incredible old photographs I found, created something which I wasn’t sure if people would like it at all and it ended up winning the contest. That made me realize I should keep trying new things. Sometimes it’s a hit, sometimes it’s a miss, but you always pick up a thing or two in the process.
"...remember that it's okay if you see other people create more awesome work than you, it gives you something to strive for. "
How do you reconcile being an artist and following your passions with the more practical aspects life, like paying bills and surviving?
I try to balance working as a freelance illustrator / designer and creating art for online platforms like Redbubble. Last few weeks the balance shifted completely towards work-projects leaving me almost no time to create art, but the payments for these projects enable me to spend more time on art later on. Most of the freelance projects I do have a lot of creative freedom, so it’s no big deal of the balance shifts sometimes, creativity-wise. But it’s still a whole other ballpark, working for a client or working on personal projects.
What advice would you give to other artists just starting out?
Keep making stuff! Also remember that it’s okay if you see other people create more awesome work than you, it gives you something to strive for. Figure out how do they do it. What’s the reason it looks so good? That’s what I do. There’s so many incredible artists out there creating the most amazing pieces, I look at things and try to imagine how they did it, how they achieved a certain effect or color combination. Then I might try it, or it might just come in handy at a later time.
Another thing would be to try and go back to old work and see if you can improve it. Show yourself how much you have learned. What would you do differently now that you have more knowledge?
"It's the one thing that unifies my different works, I think; the weird and the odd. Some of the things are creepy-weird, others may be dumb-weird."
What’s your relationship with the uncanny, weird, or unusual imagery you use like?
It’s the one thing that unifies my different works, I think; the weird and the odd. Some of the things are creepy-weird, others may be dumb-weird. I’m not sure where it came from, but it might have something to do with my childhood. I’m the youngest of five kids, three sisters and one brother, so a lot of things I got exposed to, music/art/movie/book-wise, came from them. There were crazy cartoons like Ren & Stumpy, Cow & Chicken, movies like the Nightmare Before Christmas, and music like Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins. Art-wise, I realized I liked the strange things the best. People like Dali made things I wanted to make. As a kid I used to draw weird robots and creatures. They never really left my brain from that point on.
How did you develop your own unique hand drawn style?
Practice. I used to draw digitally with just my mouse, but ever since I got my Wacom a bunch of years back and started drawing with the Blob Brush tool in Illustrator my digital drawings improved a lot. Again, I look at a lot of things other people make and figure out what I can learn from it, how I can improve my style with that. But other than that, practice practice practice. You get more confident in the strokes you put on your digital canvas the more you draw, and that shows in your final artwork.
What are you excited about working on next?
The project I’m most excited about starting would be to create the artwork for a well known circus. We’re still in the negotiation phase, but just the idea of creating the artwork for a real big circus has something magical to me. I guess you could say it’s one of those art bucket-list things for me. Besides that, the last few days I created artwork for a 60-meter wide decor for a festival. Six towers, six huge banners, and a whole lot of crazy details. It was a real tight last-minute deadline but I’m quite proud of what I managed to pull off in the time I had. Can’t wait to see it in real life!