Questioning Creatives


This article was written on 24 Feb 2014, and is filled under illustrators.

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Wijtze Valkema

I am a 30 year old illustrator from the Netherlands. I work from home in a small town up north where I live with my wife and two sons. I went to graphic design college after high school and picked a college with a focus on software knowledge (instead of the more creative thinking based programs) because I believe getting to know the tools is the best way to spend four years of studying. I figured the creative part was something I would develop during my career. I did two internships during the college, and after my graduation I was able to get an internship in Seattle, USA. Somewhere in between the internships I started getting some freelance work and naturally I became a freelancer after the US internship ended. I’ve worked a a graphic designer since but started focusing on illustration work more and more. Last year I quit a design collective to pursue illustration work on my own entirely.


When did you decide you wanted to be illustrator?
I never really did. Work came naturally (although starting very slow) so I never thought of applying for jobs, really.

Would you recommend studying at art school?
Depends on what you expect to be learning there. Depends on the school. Depends on the teachers. In my case, those 4 years were a pretty good educational experience.


How long was it before illustration became your primary form of income?
I have been a freelance graphic designer since 2007, but worked as a bike messenger part time during the first 2 years to make ends meet. It took another 2 years to have somewhat of a consistent workflow.

Could you describe your typical day?
My oldest son usually wakes me up at 7am and we make oatmeal for the 4 of us and have breakfast together. I’ll do some chores around the house and usually start up the computer at 9am. Depending on the type of projects and clients, the day usually starts with client contact, emails, planning. For some projects, there’s almost continuous communication with the client throughout the day, for other projects I just send in proposals via email at the end of the day. Working from home, we’re also able to lunch together at the house. The rest of the day consists of working, doing paperwork and acquisition or promotion.

What’s the best thing about being an illustrator?
When you start the day, there’s a blank sheet of paper (or blank computer screen) and when the day is over you’ve created something. That’s pretty magical.


What’s the worst thing about being an illustrator? 
Sometimes you work for people that have different taste and you end up delivering work that is not as beautiful as you wished it to be.

If you weren’t an illustrator, what would you be?
Bike messenger.

Any other tips you could share?
5 years of starting up is a pretty good rule of thumb to keep in mind. For an illustrator just starting, having a part time job is sometimes necessary to make a living, but also having a second designing skill can help too. Mine is graphic design, so I can take on brochure or layout work when the pay is good. You could think of getting to know animation, video editing, web design, photography etcetera to be able to take on more work. That way you can keep busy, to keep momentum, the best way to maintain a workflow. 



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