1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
Hi, my name is Nik van Es and I’m a Dutch illustrator! I’m from a small village located in the so called „Groene Hart” (Green Heart) of The Netherlands. Growing up, there was not a lot of stuff going on but I never had any problems enjoying myself and I never felt bored or anything. I suppose I always had a really big imagination and a sort of fantasy world in my mind, where anything was possible.
I had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to do in life, which eventually resulted in me dropping out of school without any sort of degree and working full-time in a chicken factory. At a certain point I decided to study Graphic Design where I discovered illustration and for the first time in my life I liked something so much that I decided to stick with it. Eventually I went to study Illustration at the Higher School of Arts in Utrecht and moved there, so I’ve been living and working in Utrecht for some time now!
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
My aesthetic can be best described as a fun world made of bright, overlapped colors. I like to build my illustrations with a limited color palette and make (smart) use of the overlapped colors. It’s really challenging to make it work sometimes, almost like solving a hard puzzle, which is something that I really like. I’m inspired by printing techniques like risoprinting and screenprinting and specifically the part where the different color layers aren’t registered properly – I think this is visible in my work and I like to think that it gives my work some motion and movement. As of late my work has been getting a little bit more clean, mostly focusing on linework and solid shapes.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
I like using a combination of analogue and digital techniques! Even though the finished illustration always ends up being a digital file, I still like to to start everything by hand. I’ve tried drawing with a mouse / Wacom before but it just doesn’t feel the same. I guess working with real materials is much more exciting to me, for example I like having my favorite paper I work with, favorite pencils / markers with the exact thickness I prefer and so on. When I finish the linework I scan the illustration and from that point it becomes a digital file, I add some colors, mess with the composition a bit more and so on.
4. What is your artistic process like?
I’m not sure if I have one specific way of working! I like to switch things up once in a while to keep things interesting for myself. However, music is always a very important ingredient of my process. I like having a playlist on repeat and sometimes I like to repeat just once song, it’s kinda hypnotizing I guess haha. I rarely work without music. Another thing I did find out is that too much sketching isn’t good for my artistic process at all. Sketching always results into me trying to recreate the sketch in a proper way, which always comes out different than intended, lacking the spontaneity and movement of the original sketch. That’s why I’ve been trying out other ways of working lately, like just drawing a whole lot of stuff and making selections, warming up drawings and so on. The only other element of my artistic process which I can think of if my lightbox, it’s a great way to separate different color layers beforehand, redraw certain elements and so on.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
I’m inspired by music, dreams, The Internet™ and the work of other people – not only illustrators, but also painters and stuff like archeology. I think every form of design leads back to the same things which can inspire me: composition, shapes and use of color. Sometimes I take pictures of things I see on the street which colors I later reference in illustrations.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
It’s the single most important thing in my life. Like I said at question #1, when I discovered illustration it was like the first time for me that I really, really liked something. I’ve messed up a lot of stuff when I was younger and the more older I grew, the less I knew what to do in life. You can only imagine the happiness I felt when I finally found out something that I really like to do, which is why I’m still so obsessed with it nowadays. There’s not a day that goes by without art, either creating it, reading about it or watching other artists.
7. Where did you study?
I studied Illustration at the Higher School of Arts in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years? Working in an agency?
Between now and five years I’ll stop working a side-job and become an fulltime, established illustrator. The ideal situation would not only to be working for clients, but also on personal projects, releasing prints and zines and participating at exhibitions and so on. Working for an agency would definitely be a good way for me to get my name out there!
9. What about in ten?
In ten years I want to maintain and have the exact same hunger, passion and motivation to be a great illustrator.
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
Anything positive I suppose – like making people smile or give them positive vibes, something small like that would be great! But as far as personal achievements, making art is not only a way for me to express myself, but also a way of understanding myself and discovering my place in the world. I hope to achieve a big body of work too, I really feel like I’m in this for the long run and I hope I’m able to keep doing this for a long time.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
Oh man, I have so many. If I have to choose one I think my biggest love goes any kind of homemade soup, but now I think of it I love comfort food in general, stuff like pizza, shakshuka, dahl and so on.
12. Favourite book?
I don’t think I have a favorite book, but right now I’m rereading Nausea by Sartre and I’m really obsessed with a catalogue of Joan Miró his work.
13. Favourite genre of music?
I think rap music, but I also really enjoy soul, jazz and the more quiet stuff like ambient music.
14. What are your hobbies?
I like to work out in the gym to keep my body and mind in a good place. I’m a pretty hard worker and at a certain point my body started to hurt from sitting behind a desk too much, so I made a promise to myself that this hard working is only acceptable if I take good care of myself, mentally and physically. Besides that I like be with my beautiful girlfriend and see more of the world, about a month ago we visited Copenhagen which was such an inspiring city to me! Last but not least I really like to cook, it’s probably the best way for me to relax.
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
I’d probably do something food related! Food plays a really important role in my life and it’s been that way since I was really young. At home, so to speak, on Monday we’d already discuss what to eat on Tuesday and so on. My mother raised (and spoiled) me with great homemade cooking, working with fresh ingredients, growing her own herbs and all that stuff. I think food is a great way to bring people together and bring some happiness in the world – maybe that’s what I’m trying to achieve after all :-).