Interview by: S. Hoek 04/07/2016
Bart Aalbers – http://bartaalbers.com/
• Why did you become an illustrator?
I did some graphic design assignments when I was 17/18 years oldm and I could not really draw well. I used to hang around with a lot of skaters and people in the punk / rock scene at that time. When I met Stefan Tijs, a friend of my brother, who designed and illustrated all CDs Startup Records. I found that when so ‘phat’ that I wanted to do that too. I could not skate very well, so I decided to draw a lot until I finally could design such a CD. I was hanging out much with many bands when I had to get my first CD design assignment. If I now look back on it was really botch, but then it was quite an achievement.
• You have one kind of style that you apply. Did that take you a long time or did it come naturally? Does this sometimes works to your disadvantage?
At first I was always just trying to copy Stefan Tijs a bit, he was my example. Of course, I have developed my own style since then. And I hope to continue to develop myself until my death. I’d go crazy if I had to repeat the same trick all the time like for instance Piet Parra. I always try to keep innovating. I think Tim Biskup is an interesting illustrator, because he has so much a personal development. I consider a style to be something like a sponge: you get everything with everyone, and then pick up, consciously or unconsciousl,y the nice things, and you proces this with other things of you and what you’ve seen. I love to incorporate nifty things in my work, which gives it a very personal touch to my way of working. I make fun of myself in that way. I do not want to get too serious. A style can always be copied, give a twist to it, that’s your own. It’s a trick + your imput. That imput of yourself, find your own thing. What do you want to do, what you can do, and what is inside you and you must work very hard.
A less recognizable style has its drawbacks, you are doing multiple tasks, but if you work in a variety of different styles, you can be easily replaceable.
• How do you deal with customers / finance etc?
Yes these jokes as I just mentioned, have caused some problems in my last job at McDonalds. It was an American festival and I had the legs of Kim Kardashian processed in one of my prints, and the word ‘Butts. When I delivered my work they asked if I could please omit the part of the buttocks of Kim Kardashian. After that they adjusted with a sharpie-tool “butts” to “bums” and printed my prints in grayscale. The agreements were not clear enough, or they just care less. I can not use it for my portfolio now. Those are nasty things, but it also says that you should always be careful with what happens to your work. I also made about 15 illustrations for a hardcover stories beam, and the arrangement was that if they spend it back in softcover, I’d get paid more. I had to find out for themselves that the beam was reissued, by buying it myself through Bol.com, because they did not reply on my email or my work was still in. You should always be careful and make sure the people you do business with or are completely honest. I always stay clean, but do say it like it is.
Nevertheless, I can well survive on what I do, I work for myself, in the studio, I’ve rented together with 3 other illustrators. In the beginning I had little my work, but that’s in 10 years (I’m 30) that went up considerably. I have said no to many underpaind assignments . Or to people who want you to work for free. I always stand firm in my price, unless I find it a really nice job. If you keep selling yourself for little money, you stay in the customer circle of clients who have little to no money. By asking more money you work yourself up higher. Do not listen to those exploiters who say the work you will do good for your portfolio at their free. Decline their offer and go do your own work, it gives you much more than a job poorly paid and you do not like. Then you also keep it fun for yourself. If you do not feel like it, that is also reflects in your work.
• What can you say about an illustrator in 2016?
The difference of the illustrator now and 50 years ago is that people now expect that the illustrator also thinks along. Illustrator are now much more dynamic than before. So add those nice details to which they had not asked for, believe it, then you are more interesting than any copy cat.
• Doi you have any tips that you can give as an illustrator?
What we as creative people can is quite special, as you are allowed to be proud of, and aks for money. And you can always bluff. Confidence is key. It has also helped me very much to separate the business I / personal ego. I used 90% illustrator. If my work was cunt, I was myself cunt. Now at home, I am Bart, and Bart on the studio is business. I think it is very nice to have a studio, with that I do not take my work home, and I’m extra productive in the studio.
If you’re negative about yourself, or not comfortable in your own skin, you go less to do your best, which makes it less fun for yourself. Then your “inner feeling” gets broken. If I did not sit well in my skin I can not see what is good or bad. It’s just so much to criticize my work as I badly is in my skin. It lacks a certain “Sjeu ‘and detail.
It is therefore important to separate yourself from illustrator. I’m still Bart and illustration is my profession.