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The introvert expressionism of Pieter Van Eenoge

The introvert expressionism of Pieter Van Eenoge

Q: How did you discover your talent for drawing and illustration?
A: I remember once when I was a kid I saw a bodybuilder with brown curly hair on television at my grandparents’ house. Then I drew that bodybuilder on a small piece of paper and my grandfather said: “Hey, that looks exactly like the guy on television.” From that moment I knew there was at least one thing I was good at. I ended up studying graphic design at art school, but I discovered that I liked the drawing part more than looking for the right typeface. So, after struggling my way through the world of professional layout for a couple of years, I decided I wanted a happy life and became a full-time freelance illustrator. 

Q: What do you try to put in your work?
A: Effort. And at least three colours.

Q: Your work makes me think of German Expressionists such as George Grosz and Otto Dix. Are you influenced by their work? What are the other inspirations for your art?
A: Definitely. Especially George Grosz’s pen drawings. That’s a goldmine for illustrators, if you’re into that kind of stuff. But I like the Flemish Expressionists even more: Gust De Smet, Edgard Tytgat and Constant Permeke. Many Belgian illustrators are influenced by their work and those illustrators are also an influence on me. I also look a lot at graphic design, which makes some of my paintings maybe a bit overly compositional, with every detail needing to be in the right place. And then there is architecture, and design in general. Chairs and tables can really tie an illustration together, so I put many of those in my work.

Q: Looking at your works is a bit confusing. The colours and shapes are energetic and lively but there is always something dark or odd behind the scenes. Is it just a feeling? Is it your aim?
A: It’s an aim, for sure. You can’t have beauty without ugliness or good without evil. It’s like a pop song where they put a screeching distorted guitar in the middle. Or being invited to a nice dinner and served roadkill. But in my case I don’t want it to be disturbing, I just hope it puts a mild smile on the viewer’s face.

Q: What inspires you? At what time of day do you prefer to create?
A: Art and artist behaviour, masks and mascots, oppositions and misplacements, nature and brutalism... the world is now so visual, a constant stream of images is fired our way every day. And when I see something weird or beautiful or intriguing, it triggers an idea in my head, I make notes and one day that idea ends up in a painting.

Q: I know you have children. Does parenthood change your approach to your art? Are toys, children’s books, cartoons, a new interesting starting point?
A: It used to be some sort of influence when my children were little and I observed how they acted, their mannerisms and the way they told a story with details I could never come up with, or made drawings with no borders or restrictions. Now, they’re mainly interested in sports and gaming. I can’t do anything with that… 

Q:What does it mean combining your personality and your art with a client’s requests and needs? Is it easy, an incentive or something more complex? 
A: First of all, it’s important to remember that illustration is an applied art and that its main goal is to communicate what the client wants to communicate. Everything else is personal expression. Second, why does the client hire this particular illustrator? Because they think that this illustrator’s personal expression adds unique artistic value to the communication. So, it’s in everybody’s best interest that both parties respect each other’s wishes. 

Q: Choose three words to describe your style.
A: Introvert expressionism? (Only two – I’m modest with words.)


BIO
Pieter Van Eenoge is an award-winning Belgian illustrator. His work has a strong narrative character and he creates fantastic and surreal worlds in his images. Van Eenoge works for both commercial and editorial clients and his illustrations have appeared in the New Yorker, New York Times, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Zeit Magazin and Vrij Nederland, among others.
Born in Bruges, Belgium, in 1976, he spent his childhood in Cologne, Germany. He graduated from the Luca School of Arts, Sint-Lucas campus, in Ghent in 1999 and became an independent illustrator a year later. 
Van Eenoge now lives in Bruges with his wife, two sons and a cat.

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