Challenging The Analogue Potential Within The Realm Of The Digital
Growing up in a house designed by her father, it’s no surprise that Leonie became an illustrator obsessed with buildings and interiors. Originally a painter, she studied at the Academy of Arts, before squatting in Amsterdam, “painting without a heater wearing gloves.” The birth of her daughter was the catalyst for developing the style she practices today.
Her work is both minimal and modernist, taking influence from traditional printmaking. Working digitally she uses semi-transparent colour areas to create shades and tones by layering them with limited colours and the negative ‘white’ of the paper itself.”
Who influences you graphically?
Artists I greatly admire are Dutch illustrators Merijn Hos and Jordy van den Nieuwendijk. Their work is incomparable, but they both share that instantly recognizable trademark and it’s just always innovative and dynamic! They found the perfect balance between commercial work and personal projects and are being crazy successful while doing this.
What is your work process both in concept development and programs used?
I mainly work on the computer, using Photoshop and Illustrator. For me this is ideal. I’m afraid I’m rather meticulous and fussy but that fits really well when working digitally. But I realized six or seven years ago that I had to beware of my work becoming ‘soulless’. This illustration software is fueling my tendency to perfectionism, which can result in flawless but uninspiring work. I remembered what I used to like best about my paintings was the accumulation of ‘errors’ that remained visible through the various layers. I missed these sort of authentic accidents. I even started to revalue the misprints in screen printing; the smudges and the off-registered prints. From that moment I decided to ignore the delete button and started working in a more manual way. So, although still on the computer, my process nowadays comes quite close to actual painting or drawing or screenprinting. I use Photoshop’s eraser instead of simply deleting stuff. I slightly shift layers to reveil the build-up of the colors. When I need green I make sure I have a blue layer on top of a yellow layer. This new approach changed my entire process.
Another gamechanger was my recent discovery of SketchUp, which is a huge asset to me. It’s 3D modeling software which I use as a basis for practically all my drawings nowadays. It allows me to create structures that I previously couldn’t make or would take me ages. Unlike the other programs that I work with, I don’t feel I need to get this one completely mastered. I like my drawings to maintain a certain simplicity, I want to avoid them looking like architectural renderings.
My work process regarding concept development often depends on whether or not the job is commissioned. Previously, my main motivation was to clarify the articles’ underlying idea. Using a metaphorical translation of the subject. But gradually I got more interested in challenging myself to purely create a strong and independent image, one that would be able to exist beyond the article. I never do a lot of traditional sketching. When asked for roughs in advance I deliver either a really quick sketch or I immediately start the drawing and show them the process while working on it. I feel the final artwork benefits with not having too much of a preconceived plan. That way the end result will reveal more of the process.
Your images are rich in texture, what is the effect and purpose of this?
The intended effect is to suggest physical texture. After a few years of working merely with Illustrator I started missing the softness and tangibility that actual paper brings. It must have something to do with growing up with Dick Bruna’s books. Adding texture takes care of the hard edges and it also blends all the elements together.
How and to what extent does the commissioning of an image for a specific magazine impact the image itself?
There is a difference in approach when working in commission of, for example, a women’s magazine or a corporate magazine or a newpaper. I feel comfortable with subjects and clients in all shapes and sizes, obviously it’s what makes my job interesting. But at one point I decided to stop drawing people, and I’m pretty convinced that made me less suited for human-interest-journalism. However, it opened up a whole new, and even broader, market for me that I actually prefer anyway. It allowed me to deal more freely with topics, and experiment within the ongoing developing of my style. Still, working as an illustrator initially means your artwork is in service of the subject, so there is always that to keep in mind. And I do enjoy that framework, it keeps it challenging.”