• Who is Rutger?
I’m a 33 year old illustrator from Amsterdam, currently freelancing and making stuff for online and print.
I love to play around with graphic shapes, bold colours, dimensions and space.
• Can you tell us about how all this started?
The first things I drew and designed were letters. Getting really into skateboarding around the age of 13 I automatically hung out with other skaters and a couple of them were into graffiti. I was directly attracted by the expressive shapes and colours. One of the guys was teaching all the new kids the basics of graffiti; the anatomy of letters and how colouring worked. From that day I started drawing a lot of letters and was hooked on tagging.
It always was a hobby and some sort of thing i was just always doing during class; all my classmates’ books were doodled on by me.
When I finished high school, I first did an event-management course. During that time I realised I was more interested in concept development and designing the logos and flyers for the events. I just had way more pleasure in doing these things than in organising the event itself. That was a clear indication I needed to switch courses, so I decided to go to art school.
• You were doing graffiti back in the days if i m right, which led to lettering years later.
Can you tell us more, it seems typical for a mid 30’s male designer ;)
I think through graffiti, a lot of people get acquainted with design in a pretty approachable manner. When you are young you look for stuff to express yourself and graffiti is a perfect tool for that. At that age when you feel shit and want to express yourself you’re more likely to paint a wall illegally instead of designing a logo or chair.
When I grew up and some self consciousness kicked in, I realised that it’s not the most uplifting and positive activity to do; but by that time I was already addicted to drawing and colours so I found new ways to express myself. I realised that I could draw logos and design artwork and that it was very satisfying too. It could even pay the bills!
So in a way graffiti is the gateway activity to design.
• We like to say that every (painting) session has its story. What’s the best one of your stories? And the worst one?
If we talk about painting I really like the story where I painted a nice black/silver piece on a local building. When it got cleaned I did the exact same piece, but than twice the size. A total dick move, but considering I was a very angry teenager and I won’t do that kind of stuff anymore it’s a nice memory of how much I’ve grown. I guess this story is the best & worst in one..
• Your Recent 3d works, includes almost no typography, is it on purpose?
I really loved lettering and typography, but at some point, when I was doing more and more illustration commissions I realised that I loved to be able to have more elements and possibilities as just letters to tell a story.
If you make typographic pieces one element is already decided; you are going to use letters. If you leave that out, it gave me way more possibilities and a lot more creative freedom.
•Your style has evolved a lot during the last few years. What/who were your influences?
My biggest influence was the whole 3D hype. When I saw the 3D illustrated type I loved it so much that I started learning 3D too.
That caused me to further explore my style and what I loved.
• How do you usually start an illustration, and what is your process?
I always start with developing an idea; that can be really rough, I just sketch out some possible compositions for that specific idea and than it’s on.
I start modelling and I rather quickly start with colouring. I know that a lot of people doing 3D, model first and colour and texture later, but in my style I need to know what colours Im going to use; since they decide how much detail I need. My images are quite busy but pretty minimal at the same time; and Im always looking for the right balance between figurativeness and abstractness.
• What is your best project so far, the most exciting or the most memorable for you?
Concerning self initiated pieces I remember the boathouses were a lot of fun; I went out on the streets and photographed boathouses I liked and from those pictures I created my own boathouses. Also the Skateboarding series was so much fun to work on, I got really hooked to it.
In terms of commissions I recently did an illustration for the blog of ustwo, an amazing agency with great work, so that was an honour and just a lot of fun; I really like the editorial stuff more and more. I also remember last year where I made a big illustration for the year report of GS1, and I love that one as well; it has the prefect balance between abstractness and figurativeness; so the story is pretty obvious, but I only used very graphic and bold shapes.
• You recent series about the skateboards drew a lot of attention, did you expect it?
I did not expect it would blow up like that. But if I look back at it it makes sense. There was so much love and passion in it, I think that is the most important thing when working on illustrations. You have to feel the relation you have with the subject; and I almost feel the more love you got for the subject, the better an image resonates to the viewer.
For your career, what’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
You get asked for what you spend your time on. You don’t even need to put that stuff out, somehow the universe just gives you more of where you put your energy in. It has proven to be true to me a million times.
• What kind of projects are you most interested in? and who would you like to work with (also as a client)
It doesn’t really matter what kind of project it is; the most important thing for me is that I can make something I love. It’s important that the design I make doesn’t become a compromise between me and the client, but that the feedback makes the end result better; that way you get a nice collaboration. I heard some people say; I work WITH clients, not FOR clients. And I think that is exactly how it should be.
I don’t have specific clients I would like to work with, as long as I can make quality stuff that Im really proud of, its perfect. I think it is more interesting to make cool stuff for a bank than a hip sport / street wear brand. That being said, I did the stuff for the bank, so I would like to invite all hip clothing brands to give me their money in return for some illustrations.
• You recently did a project for the Chinese tech company, Meitu, can you tell us about the project and its challenges?
When I got invited for this project I was really psyched. Artist series are really cool to do because of the creative freedom you have. It's also really cool if a big brand gives an artist a platform. The other cool thing about this project was the canvas; not only the back of the phone would be designed by the artist, but the whole packaging as well.
The most challenging part was the timeframe; it needed to be designed within a week or 2, so that was pretty intense. But to be honest I enjoy working with tight deadlines, that way you have full focus on a project and you get really into it.
In terms of creation it was interesting to work with a Chinese company. At some point I was developing some icons that I wanted to include in the illustrations. I realised that stuff in Europe might have a different meaning than in China, or what would be clear to us, wouldn't make sense for the Chinese market. I really liked thinking a bit further, so ideas needed to be more bold, or it would take a little bit of extra research.
In the end it was a very intense project because of the range of deliverables, but I enjoyed it a lot. I'm very happy with the result and I hope to work more for the Chinese market in the future. The different culture is appealing, and the launch event of the artist series was crazy, it looked so big. Impressive what they set up in such a short notice!
• What should we wish you for the future?
Happiness and peace!
Illustration and design is nice and all, but merely a tool to get to the true meaning of life; being happy and peaceful.