1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
I’m Aniek Bartels, born and raised in a small town in the Netherlands called Blaricum. When I was young I was a freckled, quirky little girl with a bright blonde, palm tree-shaped ponytail on top of my head and you could always find me drawing in a corner somewhere. I was a pretty shy kid, but drawing gave me self-confidence. When adults asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up the answer was always the same: an illustrator! That answer never changed, and I’ve worked really hard to make it happen. I guess I’m ‘grown-up’ now, because I get to spend my days working from my little studio in Amsterdam as a full-time illustrator.
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
My illustrations are usually very bright and colorful. I believe our daily lives could use a lot more cheer and fun. That’s why I often add some rainbows and stars (and other things that give you happy vibes) and a healthy dose of humor to my work. I want my illustrations to make people smile.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
I think ecoline is the best invention ever. I love the way the colors blend with each other, how they form patterns and create new colors once the paint dries. It gives the illustration more dimension. But I always combine it with a pencil or another medium as well, because I’m a control freak and hate it when the ecoline goes to places I don’t want it to be. A pencil or pen can keep those free-spirited paints in check!
4. What is your artistic process like?
Usually when I start working on an assignment, ideas pop up in my head right away. To give all these ideas more shape and substance, I do a bit of research on the subject before I start sketching. I’m a pretty quick worker, probably because I’m always curious to see what the end result will look like, but also because I usually work for commercial clients with very short deadlines. You don’t always get to take all the time you’d like for an assignment. With short deadlines like these I don’t like to take risks and grab my trusty pencil & ink, mediums I’m comfortable with. Afterwards I add colors and edit the drawing digitally. But when I have more time I love to experiment with different materials to improve my style and keep developing my skills. The best assignments are the ones where you get to experiment, take risks, and have it turn out wonderfully.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
I can find my inspiration everywhere. But events in my daily life (like my love for ice cream or spending all my money on a brand new house) or the people and pets I love also have a great influence on my work. But I’m also often impressed and inspired by my fellow illustrators. I share my studio with five other artists and it is nice to learn from each other.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
Art makes me happy. But I also see it as my responsibility to use art to add something positive to the world.
7. Where did you study?
I have a Bachelor of Design in Illustration from the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. A school with a focus to help you find your unique style and how to apply that style to the ‘real world’.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years? Working in an agency?
What I love about my work is the variety of clients I work for. So I hope in five years I’ll still be doing that! And I would love to be represented by an Illustration agency that can help me find more diverse clients like that. Right now I’m working on a book that will be out in three months; it’s my first time making illustrations for an entire book, it’s thrilling and I’m really enjoying it. So more book illustrations in five years please!
9. What about in ten?
How cool would it be to go international? It’d be incredible to see my drawings in different countries and reach even more people!
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
I love it when I can positively inspire people to be more playful in their daily lives.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
All things vegetarian! I recently made some illustrations for Meatless District, a vegan restaurant in Amsterdam, and it’s now my all-time favorite place to go. They have this amazing Tempeh-Tofu burger- go get one if you’re ever in town!
12. Favourite book?
Definitely Around the World with Mouk with illustrations by Marc Boutavant. This book teaches children about the world in a playful way. And there are stickers inside!
13. Favourite genre of music?
I always think I was born in the wrong decade because I love 70’s music. When I’m alone in my studio I secretly dance to Fleetwood Mac. And you maybe wouldn’t expect this kind of music when you see me but I also love Black Sabbath. But I’m also into more ‘modern’ music. My latest favourite discovery was Whitney, a really cool band with a singing drummer.
14. What are your hobbies?
After a day of toil at my desk I need to move. I love to go out with my race bike. The town I live in is surrounded by nature so I can cycle some nice routes. A bit less peaceful but also something I love to do is kickboxing.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
I think I’d try to do something to help animals. Maybe a hedgehog rescuer. I lived with a hedgehog for four years, his name was Jip. He was my best friend.