Wijtze Valkema Puzzling Pieces Together with a Focus on Design

Wijtze Valkema’s gives us a virtual tour of his stylish studio in the Netherlands as well as talking about his background in graphic design, his subsequent move to exclusively working with illustration, and how that informs his work today.

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It’s nice that Wijtze’s illustration style seems to have been something that evolved naturally through the way he worked as a designer. Approaching it the way he does with a heavy focus on the layouts and precise positioning of the pieces results in engaging, powerful images.

He talks about the transitions to illustration from design, about how he works, and has also provided a pretty fun visual tour of his studio that you can enjoy here.

Wijze also has an ongoing collaborative project with some of his favourite fellow illustrators called Drip for Drip, which is very much worth taking a look at.

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I am Wijtze Valkema, an illustrator working from home in Meppel, the Netherlands. I graduated in graphic design in 2005, after which I did a one-year internship at a small design firm in Seattle, USA. After that, I started a freelance career as a graphic designer.

My design work had a strong leaning towards illustration and over the years I developed an illustration style that I was comfortable with using commercially.

A couple of years ago, I decided to focus entirely on illustrating and actively pursue work in that field. Since that time, I’ve fine-tuned my style and it’s been very rewarding to see that almost all of my current work is editorial illustration.

I love the fast-paced, single-image world of editorial illustration and really like how my artwork both illustrates an article as well as tells a story of its own.

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Being educated as a graphic designer, my illustration style is very design based. I spend more time on getting the composition right than on actually drawing the thing. I believe the composition comes first—shapes, colors and lines follow.

Because I usually work with a restricted palette—three or four colors—it can be a puzzle to decide what color goes where, which colors can and cannot touch each other.

I can spend a lot of time trying to puzzle elements together just to get the rhythm of the composition right.

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Although my work is made digitally, I always start off sketching with pencil and paper. It’s a necessary step to quickly test out ideas, get the weak stuff out of the way and focus on a good image.

Sometimes the digital vectors need a little bit of life at which point I choose to print out parts of the illustration and scan them back in to have a bit of off-registration, little spots of dust and ink, basically anything imperfect that happens when ink touches paper.

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My studio is a comfortable, inspiring room at ground-level of our city home, where I have a standup desk for computer work and a large table for sketching, meeting, and working sitting down. I also have a couch for reading and a little post office corner where I package and ship shop orders.

I work on a 13″ laptop. I like how it pushes my compositions into a more compact shape, not getting lost in the details too much.

I also like to take my laptop from my standup desk to my table, or even on a train when I need to leave the studio for meetings. I use a small Wacom tablet for mouse movements just because the feeling of holding a pen is nice.

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One of the things that comes with the job of being an editorial illustrator is that you have to be ready to create at all times. There’s no budget to wait for the right moment to be inspired, you have to hit the ground running.

I keep my creativity up by walks through town, thrift shop visits and riding my bike as well as checking out fellow artists on Instagram and re-reading my old comic and children books.

Although I’m comfortable with my style, I am also trying out new techniques and I am looking forward to see what my style looks like in a couple years.

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© Wijtze Valkema, 2016

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