Recently…

It feels like the spring has flown by, and I haven’t really gotten around to sharing any of the things that I’ve drafted in my mind. So, here’s a list of some nice things that I’ve been wanting to tell about:

I spent a week and a half in Finland, visiting family and friends. During the vacation, I got to go for morning walks with my sister and my hairy nephew, who is the best dog in the world (I swear I’m not biased)! I also visited my grandma and ate her homemade blueberry pie, which is the tastiest thing ever (again, certainly not biased!). I caught up with friends, consumed tons of chocolate and laughed so much that I probably got a few new wrinkles of joy on my face. I went for lunch with my grandparents who live up North, read newspapers with them and admired the christmassy view outside their house – yup, it was -13℃ there!

While in Finland, I also discovered the work of illustrator Timo Mänttäri (above). The colour palettes in his postcards are my latest crush!

Illustration-wise, I got commissioned to draw another family portrait, which I really enjoyed creating! I would love to take on more personal portrait commissions, it’s been so nice to illustrate something a bit different like that for a change.Last week, we celebrated King’s Day, which is undoubtedly the best day of the year in the Netherlands. Our celebration contained more home-baked goodies than alcohol, as we spent the day strolling through the so called ‘free markets’, where people sell all kinds of things from self-made apple pie and pancakes to old clothes, books and whatnot. We also stuck with our annual King’s Day tradition by commissioning a young Dutch artist to make a portrait of us. This year our picture was painted by Roya Hes (see above), a very talented young painter who has a wonderful sense of colour!

And last but not least: I’ve been listening to a podcast called Creative Pep Talk a lot recently, so last Sunday I visited a bookshop to order the newly released Creative Pep Talk book. Can’t wait to read it!

That’s all for now, folks!

The fear of drawing people (and how to get over it)

Here’s a confession: I used to dread drawing people. Drawing animals was my thing, and the thought of human-like hands and faces made me cringe. Whenever I found myself in a situation where I needed to draw human characters, I would sneakily avoid the discomfort zone by drawing abstract figures that lacked faces and some other physical details. That worked quite well for fashion illustrations, but I knew that eventually I would have to take the bull by its horns.

After making a conscious decision to get over my insecurities, I asked myself where the fear of drawing  people was coming from. The answer was quite simple: my fears spurred merely from the lack of practice. I shied away from sketching people, because I had never properly trained myself in drawing them. That is why I always struggled with proportions and perspectives and would rarely be happy with my sketches. Of course, I never expected to be Da Vinci 2.0, but next to lacking the skills and knowledge of drawing human anatomy, I hadn’t developed my own unique style of drawing them either. I couldn’t draw people with realistic proportions and details, nor did I have my own style of drawing them…and that was more than enough to make me insecure.

Today things are very different. I draw human characters with zen-like joy and have left the fears behind me for good. Blimey, I have even been paid to draw custom portrait illustrations, which have become one of my favourite type of commissions!

Knowing that there might be other creatives out there trying to cope with their own insecurities, I decided to compile a small inspirational first aid kit on how to get started with overcoming your creative phobias. So here’s to you, fears: goodbye and good riddance!

Leave your comfort zone (comfortably)

Kindly force yourself to do the things you fear and challenge yourself to practice in a fun way. When I realized I desperately needed practice with drawing people, I decided to give a go at life drawing classes. However, as easels felt quite intimidating, I chose to approach the discomfort zone through my comfort zone and spent the first sessions drawing with my trusted ol’ pencil in my tiny sketchbook. It was a soft and comforting welcome to the fear zone.

Don’t worry about acing everything

Trying different styles and techniques is great practice, but you don’t have to become great at everything. Try water colour, inks, pencils and pens. Go for life drawing classes or try drawing manga. Experiment and don’t stress about creating only masterpieces. My life drawing sketches were never anatomically astonishing. However, I did my best even with the most challenging poses and dressed the naked models with colourful underwear to keep the process of practicing lighthearted and fun. Moral of the story: even if your sketches won’t end up hanging in a museum, each of them will help you improve.

Watch and learn

While avoiding comparing yourself to others, be open to learning from people around you – online and offline. Take part in drawing challenges (like #franuary initiated by Fran Meneses to practice animal drawing skills), watch tutorials, attend workshops, meet up with peers who can guide you or imitate styles and techniques you see on Instagram (Obvious side note: Imitating is good for practice, but copying is very, very uncool!). I created a private Pinterest board of inspiring examples of human characters drawn by other illustrators and used it as a base for experimenting with my own style. That was very helpful.

Give it your own twist & enough time

Next to studying human anatomy at life drawing classes, I spent plenty of time just doodling different kind of characters, playing around with their features. Would exaggerated proportions be my thing? Or funny noses and angular shapes? Perhaps cartoonish, boneless limbs? Sketch by sketch I got closer to the type of characters that what felt truly mine. Learning and developing a style that I now feel strong about took me years, so don’t worry about not reaching your goals over night – it’s a process.

Illustrated treasures: Mr. Tiger Goes Wild

Tadaa, it’s time to introduce the fourth book in my collection of inspiring children’s books: a book written and illustrated by Peter Brown (who has sort of become my illustration hero).


Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
Written and illustrated by Peter Brown

Badge of greatness for the expressive illustrations and visual storytelling


One day at a children’s book shop, a beautifully green cover caught my eye. My hand reached for it, and almost immediately after opening the book it became clear: I would need this title to be part of my children’s book collection!

Now that book is in my bookshelf, and it is called Mr. Tiger Goes Wild. It’s a story about a tiger, who gets bored with the conventional life in his conventional hometown, where he lives with animals, who embrace being proper. Mr. Tiger begins to express his wilder side and little by little builds up the courage to break free from the rules of convention. The wild behaviour of Mr. Tiger affects the entire town and eventually leads to everyone questioning the way they have been living. It’s a beautiful, uncomplicated story about being yourself and accepting others as they are.

Story-wise, the text has been kept straight-forward and minimal, making the book an ideal read even for small children. However, whilst the text is simple, the book offers plenty of variety when it comes to visual storytelling. Peter Brown has certainly stepped away from the conventional (pun intended!) text-between-images kind of layout that so often dominates children’s book design. Creative use of the gutter, playful speech bubbles and fully illustrated spreads with no text at all carry the plot in a visually strong manner, highlighting the turning points in the story.

The illustration style in the book is absolutely wonderful. I love the contrasting combination of geometrical shapes, straight lines and soft, organic paint textures. The book’s colour palette is also cleverly aligned to the different elements in the story; grey shades add to the feeling of convention, lush tones of green express the wilder side of things and the bright orange colour of Mr. Tiger sets him apart from the other characters. Brown has also done a great job at keeping the characters fairly simple whilst still managing to add life and a range of expressions on their faces.

All in all, Mr Tiger Goes Wild is an admirable example of how much design thinking and research there is behind a well illustrated story. I highly recommend watching this film clip of  Peter Brown himself sharing some of the process behind the book:

Author and Illustrator Peter Brown On His Process.