Catch Up: Narrative Treasures from Aart-Jan Venema

We featured Aart-Jan Venema’s illustrations and sketchbooks back in 2012. We were taken by his scene-building skills and way with ink and a brush. We revisit his portfolio and check out his increasingly strong work.

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Complex compositions with glorious amount of detail have been and continue to be a staple in the bountiful illustrations that Aart-Jan creates. Talking to us below, he beautifully describes all the narrative details as ‘rewards‘ for the viewer, little nuggets of interest lovingly left for the patient observer to find.

While these qualities remain, we really like the way in which he has been pushing the colour and the overall boldness in his work.

Aart-Jan talks to us about what he’s been up to since we last spoke, the kind of work he enjoys, and his current process.

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Since I graduated and was featured on Ape on the moon, I’ve been busy with learning the illustration business with trial and error. I’ve been organising exhibitions and publications, as well as doing a lot of different jobs for diverse clients.

Lately, I’ve been doing lots of editorial work for newspapers and magazines, and this is what I really want to do right now.

I really like the quick-turnover on those editorial jobs. it’s very productive, and still feels so rewarding to take a walk to the bookstore and buy the newspapers my work is in. I also enjoy working together with art directors, trying to make the most of an image.

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I also plan to make a picture book sometime soon, but first I’ve got to figure out some kind of story for that.

My work usually involves quite a lot of characters and objects, and (I hope) tends to be fun and playful. I like the image to be able to stand on itself and make the reader stick to it for a little while. I want to reward the viewer that takes some time for it, by giving him lots of things to discover.

Usually, I start my work by reading an article, and doing research on the subject. Finding image material that intrigues me. After that, I usually I make lots of sketches until I find something that works. Then I keep refining everything until I think it’s perfect.

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The next step is to place it on my lightbox, so I can totally focus on making marks, without having to think about composition.

For the execution of my illustrations I have roughly two techniques. The first is pretty straight-forward, painting. Some leveling in Photoshop aside, there’s not much digital work here. The other option is coloring the drawing in Photoshop, which I think is slightly more boring, but also a bit quicker and forgiving.

To keep it interesting I try to do little experiments inside images, which allow me to find new ways to draw things, I think it’s important to keep evolving and perfecting my style.

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aart-jan venema sketch 2

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© Aart-Jan Venema, 2015

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