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Interview with Jelle Gijsberts

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Jelle Gijsberts is a illustrator, designer and animator born and raised in Dordrecht, the Netherlands. Since his graduation, he has been freelancing in the field of illustration and animation. He has illustrated a bunch of children's books, worked with clients like Chupa Chups and Unicef.

He makes some really adorable artworks that take you through many adventures and captivating stories. His fun, bright and colorful illustrations can easily win the heart of children and grown-ups alike and will put a smile on your face! So lets have a digital chat with Jelle Gijsberts!

1. Hello Jelle, how are you today? What are you working on currently, any interesting or exciting projects?

Hello! I'm doing great, thank you. Currently I'm working on a new short animated movie by Ka-Ching Cartoons called: "Kakkerlak: A Nuclear Opera." Like the subtitle already says, it's an opera about cockroaches who are trying to wipe out humanity using an atom bomb. As everyone knows, they are the only species that can survive the radiation.

My part is developing the visual style and look of the movie. Like in "The 3D- Machine," another short movie I worked on with Ka-Ching, the visuals must be very dark, dirty and dramatic. Something my normal work isn't, but that's why it's very challenging and interesting. Also, I can create a complete little universe, which I find one of the most fun things to do.

2. Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up? As a child were you always so good at illustrations or has it evolved over a period of time?

I was born and raised in Dordrecht, a city near Rotterdam, in the Netherlands. We, my parents, my little sister Jip and I, lived there in a very nice and neat neighborhood. And I can easily say that I had a fantastic childhood there. Last year I moved to Amersfoort, a city near Amsterdam, where I live with my girlfriend Siska and our two cats Pluk and Pluis.

I've been making drawings, paintings and illustrations as long as I can remember. Besides playing with Lego and Ninja Turtles or playing soccer with my friends when I was a kid, I used every opportunity to make a drawing: a book, a pencil or a piece of paper. Back then I never realized there were people doing it as a job. It was just what I loved doing most.

3. Of all the different mediums in art, what drew you to using computers to aid your creativity? What are your tools/programs of choice? Are you equally good in traditional media as well?

Besides my digital work I also draw and make paintings by hand on canvas or paper (when I have enough time). And I really think that should be the basis for every illustrator. But illustrating on a computer has two wonderful advantages. First of all, you've got a much larger range of possibilities, techniques and forms. You can make all kinds of combinations, logical or not, and because of that there are almost no borders.

I mainly work in Flash, Photoshop and Illustrator and try to use and combine these as much as possible. The second and for me the most important advantage, is: you don't have to plan and sketch and think everything through before you start. When you make a mistake you don't need to throw away your whole drawing, but you can I easily go back to a previous state with a few clicks. As a result, there is less frustration and much more freedom. And this way not only the sketching but also the making of an illustration becomes a creative process.

4. Could you give us the insight into your creative process from start to finish? Where do you find the materials to make the props and costumes for your characters and surroundings?

My illustrations mostly start off with a small doodle or sketch on paper. Based on that I make a rough color composition in Photoshop. Next, I import this color sketch into Illustrator where I turn it into vector art. Finally, I add all the shading, light effects and textures. This can be done in Photoshop, Flash or Illustrator, all depending on the type of media I'm working for. I love the crispness of vector and I like to combine that with the freedom you have in Photoshop. The fact that you can collapse your layers and keep your files very light is nice. When working in illustrator with all the gradients, blurs, transparencies and other effects my work demands, my files soon feel too heavy and a bit unmanageable. Besides keeping your files light, Photoshop is perfect for adding textures and photographs.

I use a lot of textures and photographs from the internet. Cgtextures.com is a very good and reliable resource for textures. Mayang.com/textures also has a big database with beautiful and useful pictures. But the best resource for me are my own photographs. Wherever I go I try to take a camera with me. During vacations, while my girlfriend is lounging by the pool, I sometimes spend days making photographs of doors, windows, and patterned tiles. Over the years I built a large - though quite unorganized - database.

5. Apart from fine details, your illustrations have this quality to attract a viewer and the main reason is the great use of colors. What is your technique for using colors, how do you go about choosing colors schemes for your illustrations?

It's actually something I don't really think about when illustrating. I just, well, pick the colors I like. But I think it's also experience. One of the wonderful things about digital illustration is that you can easily replace a color with another and quickly learn which colors work and which do not. Besides that, I think it's also a matter of using the basic principles of creating an image. If you want something to pop out in an illustration, use a complementary color (red on green for example). If you want harmony, use colors that are close to each other in the color circle. If you want more contrast, use dark against light colors.

6. What is your favorite vectoring tool, tip or technique?

Well, I recently discovered something in the new Adobe Illustrator CS4 that saves me tons of work. When you have two objects with the same color fill (no strokes), for example a circle and a square, that overlap each other and you want to merge them into one object (keeping just the outlines), you can now use the new blob brush tool. Just select the two overlapping objects, select the blob brush tool, click on the area where your objects overlap and then, magically, they'll turn into one object! I don't really know if this was available in previous versions of Illustrator, but at least I never found it. I also don't know if it is a well known trick!

7. You have been freelancing since your graduation, why do you choose to freelance rather than work at a big design firm?

One of the main reasons is the freedom I have as a freelancer, to decide which assignments I want to do or not. That doesn't mean I'm not open for a job at a big design firm. Because I also really like working with and learning from other creatives, something I often miss as a freelancer. But the design firm or studio must have something special to offer. Working with great artists, or the possibility to develop other skills than illustration, for example. The opportunities I had so far were, in my opinion, not special enough.

8. You seem to be not only talented but kind-hearted as well. Tell us about your project for Tekenclub (Drawing Club) how did the concept evolve and what made you interested in that project?

Gee, thank you for the nice compliments. Tekenclub is a project I started to show Dutch kids how wonderful and fun drawing actually can be, without all the silly restrictions parents and teachers give them at home or at school. Together with the characters Pen, Ink and Gom (= Dutch for eraser), the children embark on an unforgettable trip through online interactive worlds, and discover all aspects of making a picture.

I sometimes teach in primary schools, where I try to teach children how you can easily draw people or emotions, and show them that you don't need extremely good drawing skills to create a beautiful image. Afterwards, they always ask if there is a place where they can learn more about drawing, but strangely enough, there isn't one in the Netherlands. So that's how I got the idea to create one and thanks to the financial support of the Fiep Westendorp Foundation I'm able to realize it. We are still very busy developing it and the website will launch at the end of this year.

9. What do you like or dislike about being in the art and design industry?

There is practically nothing that I dislike about being in this industry. Making illustrations and creating little worlds is simply the most fun thing to do. And I think I'm really privileged that I can do this work.

10. If you could be one of the characters in your illustrations which one would you be? And why?

I think that would be Mila, the little bird from Reus Warbol. It must be fantastic to have wings and fly along the side of a giant.

11. What do you consider your major influences to be? What are you favorite sources of inspiration?

Like almost every Dutch (children's book) illustrator, I'm influenced by the wonderful illustrations of Fiep Westendorp. In Holland her work is very famous, but in the rest of the world not many people have heard of her. Google her name and you'll find some real gems, I think she's fantastic. Besides her work, the classic Walt Disney animation films are a huge source of inspiration, but definitely the (Super Mario) games of Nintendo as well.

12. Jelle, thanks for chatting with us on Vectortuts+. Any advice or tip you would like to give to upcoming illustrators?

Thank you for this interview, I'm honored to be on your website! The best advice I ever had and would like to pass on to upcoming illustrators is: try to learn from everything and everyone that crosses your path. But wether it's a big or a small decision you have to make, always do the things you love the most. Choose your own path and don't let anyone tell you what you're supposed to do. As far as I'm concerned, this forever remains the most fantastic thing you can do.

Jelle Gijsberts on Web

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