Lander Strijbol, an illustrator with a love for nature and the mystic, talks about his creative journey and how along the way he learned to create stylized illustrations with shapes and textures.
Lander Strijbol is a Burges-based illustrator who has made a name for himself with his unique style of illustrations using shapes and textures. Nature’s beauty and diversity have always amazed him and its mysticism inspired him. Over the years he has experimented with many diverse forms of art ranging from music to pottery before finding his calling in art.
Do you remember a defining moment that led you into the creative world?
Lander Strijbol: I always loved being creative. Before illustration, I experimented with a variety of creative disciplines. Music was the first step into the creative world for me. In elementary school, I picked up how to play the guitar. Later, I developed a love for crafts and went to a school where we learned different crafts. After high school, I studied pottery and guitar building. Since creativity has always been a part of my life, it is difficult to identify a specific turning point.
However, I thought I wasn’t very good at drawing for a very long time. I felt it was too late to pursue a career in illustration because I was already in my twenties. I do recall that after reading a book by Shaun Tan, I decided I wanted to learn illustration. His work made me feel understood and I saw a lot of myself in it. His fictional universes had a profound effect on me. It helped me remember I always loved looking at images and wondering how they came to life. I used to visualize things in my head and draw to process or communicate my emotions. I had no idea that it was something I could do for a living.
Thanks to reading stories from other illustrators who started pursuing illustrations later in life I felt motivated to do the same.
What does your creative process look like?
Lander Strijbol: To get to a final image, I need to create a lot many images. If it’s a subject I haven’t studied previously, I start there. Next, I attempt to do it without using any references and attempt to stylize and simplify the subject. I experiment with various forms and look for lines or curves that I would like to work with. Typically, these preliminary sketches are made on paper. When I am done with different iterations I make a final sketch on paper or digitally.
The final sketch is digitally painted over. I use the selection tools a lot when I’m painting digitally. It feels more like sculpting for me. To create the final image, I use selections to create shapes and then add or remove portions. I block in shapes of color in this phase. When the colors are put into place I add textures by painting them in or by applying images I scanned in. I use conventional media scans of things like brush or ink strokes. I finish by painting the lighting and making some final adjustments.
Shapes and textures are central to your artwork, how did you develop this style?
Lander Strijbol: I had a lot of trouble with digital painting at first. I spent a lot of time creating my own brushes and scanning ink smudges or coffee spills onto paper to give my work a more authentic appearance since I wanted to mimic the appearance of traditional media.
I always love the texture. When I did pottery I loved the glazing process and explored different kinds of glazing. In woodworking, I loved selecting wood and choosing a piece of wood for its texture. I can spend a long time looking at textures in real life. Texture can tell a story.
My background in pottery has made me sensitive to shapes and accustomed to experimenting with various shapes for my pottery. I created a lot of ceramic designs on paper, and in a way, I’m still doing it, but now the subjects I can explore are far more diverse than just mugs and bowls.
Your illustrations are filled with natural elements filled with mystic, what inspires you to create them?
Lander Strijbol: As I kid I spent a lot of time playing in the garden and nature has always been a place for me to recharge. I feel a strong connection with nature. Nature’s diversity and beauty will always be a never-ending source of inspiration for me. It amazes me every time how rich the natural world is. The variety of hoverfly species and what makes them special, like the many designs on butterflies’ wings, for instance, is lovely.
What is your favorite and least favorite part of professional art?
Lander Strijbol: I love collaborating with other people. What I enjoy most about being a professional artist is the feedback and connections with other people. Working together to make something that brings value to other people is. Bookkeeping is my least favorite part. It’s important and necessary but it’s not something I enjoy doing.
How do you come up with the concept for your illustrations? What do you need to know, before you start putting the first lines on paper?
Lander Strijbol: I make my first lines as fast as possible. Even if it’s just a scribble. My concept comes from those scribbles. I like the input from my subconsciousness and making fast scribbles is a way for me to get this input.
Your artworks mainly consist of very earthy and soothing tones of colors, any specific reason behind it? Do you also wish to explore other palettes?
Lander Strijbol: The most important reason for choosing those colors is that I feel a stronger connection with those colors. While I sometimes experiment with other color schemes, I find that my personal work tends to lean much more toward the earthier, calming tones. It’s something that developed over time without being conscious about it
How important is drawing from life vs drawing from the imagination in your field?
Lander Strijbol: Drawing from life is a crucial part of my process. make an effort to do it every day. The artworks I make from my imagination come from the drawings I have done in life. Drawing from life is the input I need to make the drawings from my imagination.
When I struggle with drawing something from my imagination I take my time to draw it from life. Drawing from life is also something that’s allowing me to be within the moment and push the pause button from the fast tempo of our society.
Each of your illustrations is so unique, what is the 1 piece of your artwork you would like to be remembered for?
Lander Strijbol: This is a hard question because I like the idea of my work as one continuous dialogue where every work builds upon the previous ones.
There is one illustration that comes to mind and it’s not necessarily something that’s representative of the work I make but I would choose it for a different reason. When someone was going through a terrible time, I once created an artwork for them that assisted in the process. If there would be one piece I want to be remembered by, It would be a piece that had a meaningful impact on someone’s life.