We simply adore the retro creations of Netherlands-based illustrator Esther Aarts. We caught up with her to find out more about her inspirations, techniques and why she flings herself around on trampolines in her spare time.
1. What feelings, subjects or concepts inspire you as an artist?
Living things, especially humans, and the way they express themselves through their posture and body language. More recently, I’m exploring how body language manifests itself through spoken language. So I enjoy playing with visceral words such as “wrung out” “schlepping” and “buoyed”.
2. Your illustrations are influenced by traditional printing techniques such as Mimeograph. Tell us a little bit about this technique.
Mimeograph is the technical predecessor of the (currently trendy) Risograph printing method.
I learned about it through local printing house Extrapool, who started working with this method in the 80s. It was a gritty technique considered obsolete at that point. Colours are limited, registration not tight. (The Riso is technically similar, although more advanced.) When designing for these machines one has to be flexible, yield to the whims of the contraption. I love the raw, colour intense, limited palette results.
Chilli peppers. Birds. Beer. An unpolluted environment. A fair society.
4. Which book illustrations have stayed with you from childhood/influenced you?
Dr Seuss in his more far-out books, such as “The Thinks You Can Think”.
It contains pages filled with imaginary worlds: mechanical doodahs with 5 headed animals strutting their stuff under a 3 mooned sky.
As a kid I saw these drawings and thought: “oh, so that’s allowed, then?” His work acted as a permission for my younger self to create from fantasy rather than reality (which wasn’t always encouraged in school).
Robert M. Pirsig famously wrote “Stuckness shouldn’t be avoided. It’s the psychic predecessor of all real understanding.” I try keeping that in mind whenever I’m stuck. It doesn’t help to get unstuck, but at least it’s a consoling idea to think the paradise of understanding is just around the corner.
Then, with royal helpings of coffee, I just grind through until the block has somehow vanished. If grinding through the block doesn’t work, then walking around the block usually does the trick.
6. What do you like to do when you’re not illustrating?
Apart from the usual (hanging out with friends and eating nice food), I like to unwind at the local trampoline park, practising somersaults or just jumping about, flinging limbs in all directions like a crazy person.
7. When are you happiest?
I’m generally happiest outdoors, in nature. Which reminds me to go outdoors more.
8. Are there any creative blogs you always keep an eye on?
I follow mostly newspapers and magazines, especially the ones that feature illustration often, like the NY Times, De Correspondent or Vrij Nederland.
9. You’re an avid podcast listener. What are your top 5 podcasts?
BBC world service documentaries are often great on niche topics. Recently I listened to 2 entire episodes about the history and linguistics of salt. I like BBC radio 4 podcasts in general. Another episode on my playlist last week explored the science and art of “Rock Paper Scissors”. Great stuff. Radio 3 Essay is another favourite. On the design side of things: Design Matters by Debbie Millman and YDMN.
10. Whatís your ultimate ambition as an illustrator?
Chloë Owens and Catherine Cobley