Meet Laurens and Chantal the illustration duo working under the moniker Loulou & Tummie. These two designers met each other at Art Academy and now work and live together in Tilburg, Netherlands. They spend their days building an ever expanding empire of colorful graphics and characters that can be found in magazines, books, advertisements, plush, paper toys, interiors, t-shirts and shoes. They love happy things, cartoons, comics and toys, the influence of which can be found in their vector illustrations. Read more about these two cheerful designers at the jump.
Q Hi LouLou and Tummie, give us a little background bio of yourself. Where you’re from, what is your formal education and how you got started in the field of digital art?
Hiya, we're illustrators working under the moniker Loulou & Tummie and live and work together in Tilburg, a small city in the Netherlands. We both studied graphic design in the nineties and after graduation, at the beginning of this century we went to Art Academy to study illustration (which is were we met.)
Q Are you friends or siblings? When did you decide to come together and start your illustration studio? How do you blend your skills and work together as a team?
We're boy and girlfriend (yes... Loulou is a boy). Soon after we both got our degree in Illustration we moved in with each other and started freelancing from our very small kitchen. After a while we rented a studio together to work from, both on our own projects and clients as two illustrators going by the names 'LouLou Illustration' and 'Tummie Design'. After a few years living and working together our styles slowly blended and of course we were always helping each other out with clients, ideas and designs. So, it was a logical step to officially join forces and work under one name... Loulou & Tummie. Tummie is great with a sewing machine and everything she touches turns into cuteness and Loulou tinkers with robots and loves monsters so we combine our skills and style. Besides that we really 'run' the studio together: do promotion, contact clients, come up with ideas and decide how to handle projects is almost always done together.
Q Could you describe a typical illustration from start to finish? How is the work distributed after you decide on the theme? Are there ever any (friendly) debates or arguments during the creative process?
When a project comes our way it's usually pretty clear what look and feel we will be heading for and who of us is going to pick it up. For instance, Tummie will most likely pick up jobs with lots of flowers and cute critters. Sometimes we just have to see who of us is the least busy at that moment... determining style, colors and ideas and such are mostly done together and whenever possible we will work on the illustration together too.
After the brief we always start off with a simple pencil sketch. We make a few quick scribbles to get the idea and a rough composition on paper. Not always but when necessary we rework a scribble into a bigger and clearer sketch. We scan the sketch and import it into Adobe Illustrator. From there we basically trace the sketch and give it some color on the go. Sometimes we change colors while working and other times we choose the colors first. While finalizing we often play around with the layout and make small adjustments to the design until we (and the client) are happy with it. That's all, there's not much to it really! 99% of the time we're on the same wavelength for what direction we want a project to go. We really share the same taste in many things so we hardly have any debates over projects.
Q Amongst your creations, which is the one that you consider your favorite or the one that you enjoyed working most and why?
It's hard to pick just one... most projects are fun! The projects where our work is turned into 3D objects are always special. One super fun project was just a few weeks ago. We designed a big plastic robot for Graphic Design Festival Breda and produced twelve of them, 2,5 meters high and placed them in a park in the city center as big white DIY toy statues. We then invited 11 other designers to customize them which turned out fantastic. Seeing our work becoming giant toys and then painting them together with people who we think make inspiring work was big fun!
Q What are you working on at the moment, any interesting or exciting projects? Do you have a dream project you would like to work on? If so, what would it be?
At the moment we're both working on projects we can't speak of yet... haha... sorry about that! One of those projects is really exciting, perhaps even more fun as the plastic robots. It has something to do with mobile phones and will be launched internationally, very soon. We really can't wait to show you all what it is so we'll be posting it on our website or flickr or twitter as soon as we can! (probably within two months from now).
We have been thinking about what our dream project would be but can't really think of any. We never figured we'd be doing this many fun and diverse projects when we started a few years ago so this feels like a dream come true actually! We pretty much live project by project... and luckily new and exciting things keep coming our way every now and then so we'd be very happy to continue like this. Perhaps one thing we would love to do is travel more and meet and work with people all over the world. Combining travel with illustration would be very nice.
Q Your illustrations are colorful with cute and happy characters, how did you come to develop this style? How does your individual style differ from each other?
There's not much to say about this... our style was never planned out or something, not sure how we got to what we do right now... it just kind of grew this way. While we studied in Art Academy we discovered vector illustration and it appealed to us more then using Photoshop or painter or the more traditional drawing styles. We like to have ultimate control over lines and colors and layout so Ai is perfect for that. We like happy things, always watched cartoons and read comic books and we both love toys so that probably influenced us a lot. Our styles are blending together more and more but there are some differences. Tummies work has a little bit more flow and cuteness and Loulou likes to stick to more graphic shapes and layouts.
Q I can see you also love creating Paper toys, tell us a little bit about that, how do you design them?
Loulou once created a paper toy for a school project and kept making them ever since. It's a cheap and simple way to create your own toys and it's fun to spread them over the world as free downloads. We start off with a small sketch, very rough. We draw the shapes as simple as possible because we do like designing but don't like building them! By keeping it simple we don't have to make loads of test models... we hate building a design more then once, haha!
When the sketch looks good enough we go straight to Illustrator and start making the flat design, we don't try anything first. When we think it will work we print it once and quickly build it with staples and tape, just to check if everything fits, all tabs are in the right place and if it looks as we expected. Usually we have just a few minor adjustments and then we can start giving it some color and draw all the details. When all pieces are finished and we are sure everything works we fit it all on a single piece of paper (sometimes more but we prefer one sheet). That's about it for the toy itself. But we're not finished yet... we love to make the layout of the plano toy look good too and try to integrate the building instructions in the design as well. Now the toy looks good when it rolls out of the printer as well as when cut out and glued together.
Q What attracts you most to illustration? Would you like to share with us your favorite illustrating or vectoring tip or technique? What tools and applications do you use most?
Drawing is a hobby so we enjoy illustrating a lot and being independent is great (so we can get up late). Every now and then we get new exciting projects to work on so we keep facing challenges. One day working on a small editorial and the next painting a mural or designing a robot, sewing plush dolls, crafting paper toys, draw for packaging or games or participating in an exhibition. And it's always exciting to see your own work printed in a book or magazine or see it animated on tv (but the latter doesn't happen very often).
Not sure what tip to give, what works best for us is starting with a good sketch. It can be a simple sketch but working from a (pencil) sketch makes sure we keep a natural flow in the lines and its much easier to give a character a natural pose too. Drawing straight in vector often tends to look a bit static. We use the pathfinder tools and the clipping mask a lot. We often draw lines and shapes with the pencil tool first (sometimes redraw a shape 10 or 20 times over until it's about right) and then fine tune it by playing around with the anchor points and handles. Oh, and a pen tablet is essential!
Q Who is your artistic role model? Are there any artists that inspire you? How do you recharge your creative batteries?
If we had to pick just one artist it might be Chris Ware, he has such amazing skills and patience! He has mastered writing, drawing, hand lettering, typography, graphic design, paper engineering and what not and everything is done with such perfection, even in the tiniest details. Just amazing! Besides him there's many artists that inspire us and all in a variety of styles and skills. We also keep getting inspiration from old books and posters, decorations and illustrations from the middle ages to book covers from the seventies or info graphics from recent years. The Internet is a big inspiration source, we spend a lot of time there. Looking at great work by another artists on websites like Flickr and Behance or scrolling through nice blogs about old books, motorcycles or other fun stuffs brings a lot of inspiration as well. Besides that, we also love strolling around cities, collect all sorts of toys and second hand retro stuff, vinyl records, old photo’s and such. So that probably keeps us going as well.
Q LouLou and Tummie, thanks for the interview. What advice would you like to give to aspiring designers and illustrators?
Thank you so much for asking us! We hope we gave some useful insight... or at least something enjoyable to read. The illustration community is great fun so get your work out there, make sure people see it, make friends and get in contact with other designers on social networks and portfolio sites like Flickr, Behance, Twitter or whichever you prefer. That really helped us a lot!