1. What’s your story? Where are you from?
Hi, I’m Pieter Van Eenoge, an illustrator living and working in Bruges, Belgium. As a son of a military man, I spent my childhood in Cologne, Germany, where I played a lot with He-Man figurines, invented Nike basketball shoes on paper and tried to be the best skateboarder in the neighborhood. At age 14, my family and I moved back to Belgium. Then I met the loveliest girl in the world, attended art school to become a graphic designer and now I’m a full-time freelance illustrator with the loveliest wife, 2 adolescent sons and a mortgage.
2. Tell us about your aesthetic.
My work is walking on the thin line between bold and detailed, between geometric and painterly. Well, not a thin line really, but I just can’t/won’t choose between sharp simple shapes and loose brush strokes. So I make a combination. I guess it evolved from my interest in graphic design, or design in general and my love for the painted image.
3. What is your favourite medium and why?
When I graduated I was a follower of the ‘Klare Lijn’, the clear line aesthetic of Hergé, Yves Chaland, Joost Swarte and above all Ever Meulen. And instead of coloring digitally I did it with Ecoline at first and gouache later on. But then I crashed into the boundaries of my capabilities, left the comic driven style behind me and learned myself to paint by looking at the masters and other painting illustrators. And that is the medium I use ever since: acrylic on paper.
The thing is that when I finish an illustration I like to keep it in my hands, hang it on the wall, look at it, learn from it, see that there was hard work and effort put in it and most of all try to remember what went wrong and what went right. So I can do it better next time. And that is something I would miss when working digitally. I would probably learn nothing. Because it’s all gone at the end: the mistakes, the search for the right shape and composition, the layering of colors. And with acrylics all of those things stay visible and make an image come to life, give it that personal touch that I like so much in the work of other ‘analogue’ artists as well.
But yeah, working digital is probably faster 😉
4. What is your artistic process like?
I keep several notebooks in which I draw tiny sketches and write down quick ideas for future reference, but where I also make the roughs for commissioned work. These sketches are all the size of a postal stamp and sometimes so badly drawn I don’t even recognize them anymore.
Working on an illustration goes like this: trying to enlarge the initial sketch without losing the spontaneity of it, constructing a nice composition, coming up with different characters to inhabit the illustration. The most difficult part is where I have to look for colors, especially when the deadline is tight. Painting itself can go smoothly (cherish those days!) or can be a never-ending source of frustration. But in the end, when the finished piece looks exactly like I hoped, I’m the happiest person in the world.
5. Who and/or what inspires your work?
Everything beautiful and everything ugly and most of all the interaction between these 2.
6. What role does art play in your life? How does it change the way you view the world?
I see art as a tool to shape the world close around me. And than I use that world to shape my art.
7. Where did you study?
I went to Saint-Lucas School of Science and Arts in Ghent (now LUCA Ghent), Belgium, from 1995 to 1999. I wanted to become a graphic designer but graduated as an illustrator instead.
8. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Probably at the same place I am now: same wife, same kids, same house, same job. I’m exactly in the same place as I was 5 years ago, and I like it here a lot!
Of course, I hope to be a better illustrator than I am now, maybe publish a few more books, but I see this as a 40-year career and I already accomplished more professionally than I ever could dream of when I started, so if I can do the same thing for the next 20 years I consider myself very lucky.
9. What about in ten?
Pff, 10 years is so far away! We will probably live in a different world by then… One that frightens me a bit, but I’m also curious about the possibilities of the future. I’m sure the Corona crisis gave us a glimpse of things to come. I just hope me and my loved ones stay safe and sane.
10. What do you hope to achieve with your art?
First of all I see my art as a way to make a living, as a craft, and not as ‘arty art’. Of course, all illustrators, or at least most of them, have a unique way of translating an idea, message or feeling into something visual, but when it’s commissioned work I just hope to deliver the message with an appealing image, one that also puts a little smile on your face.
11. Now, tell us a little more about you as a person: what is your favourite food?
Chocolate! Okay, that’s more a treat than food, but in Belgium we’re spoiled when it comes to tasty chocolate.
12. Favourite book?
Building Stories, by Chris Ware. I have been a fan of Chris Ware since art school and he was also a big influence on my way of drawing in the early days. And we all loved the story of Jimmy Corrigan and absurd one-page-comics, but ‘Building Stories’ is something else. It’s actually not one book, but a box with 14 different publications, from booklets to papers and larger comic books. But what am I saying, everybody knows this, right?
13. Favourite genre of music?
I don’t really have a specific favorite genre. I like guitars but also synthesizers. I like acoustic drums but also the Roland tr-808. And I like simple pop songs as well as 20-minute prog rock symphonies. But there always has to be that ‘hook’, like when you’re not really listening to the radio but suddenly there’s that sound – could be the voice of the singer, or a short melody, or how the drums are recorded – and you look up and you think, hey, who is that? What is that?
But I have a few favorite bands that I never get tired of: 1970’s Genesis (and even 1980’s Genesis) – The Police around 1980-1981 (best live acts ever recorded in that period) – in the late 1990’s I was hooked to postrock and A Minor Forest and Trans Am were the bands I liked the most – in 2000 I saw My Morning Jacket at the Cactus Festival in Bruges and they completely blew me away, so much that I hated every other band that played later that day, and weekend… It made me a fan for life.
Nowadays I try to (re)discover new music as well as old classics, with the help of Spotify and YouTube.
14. What are your hobbies?
When I have a look at the things I did the most in the last 10 years besides working I have to say: renovating our house, watching movies, playing board games with gin-tonics (and laughing my tears out while doing so), hunting for vintage furniture, biking, hiking, camping,… I don’t know if these are actual hobbies, but I love doing it.
What I wish were my hobbies? Playing the drums again, but our neighbours are grateful I don’t. And now that my youngest son is skateboarding I sometimes imagine being that 44-year-old skateboarder at the skatepark popping ollies over benches. And then I break my wrist and can’t paint for 2 months…
15. If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
Carpenter, maybe? There’s something oddly satisfying in working with wood. I made quite a few pieces of furniture over the years and I keep getting better in it. Of course there’s the lack of a proper education and I still make stupid mistakes, but for now that’s nobody’s problem but mine 😉