We’re over the moon to have discovered Anton Van Hertbruggen. Whether illustrating adventures with giraffes in tents or star gazing in suburbia, Anton uses space beautifully, has a delicate line and the loveliest palette of blues. At only 22 the illustrator from Antwerp’s style is impressively assured.
He says he’s always searching for a utopian world for himself in his work and is happiest when visualising how things could have been in a certain time or place. To find out more, we asked Anton about his work and working habits. You can see his illustrations and works-in-progress and read his thoughtful answers below. Let’s hope he keeps cycling round Antwerp exploring ideas and collecting stories for a very, very long time.
Where do you work?
I still live with my parents, not far from Antwerp, so for the moment I work in my bedroom and in the attic, where I have a big comfortable space to work. The digital part happens in one room and everything else in the other. So I switch between these places and don’t have to sit on the same chair all day, which is good.
How does your working day start?
I always try to start as early as possible, which off course doesn’t always go exactly as planned. First I make myself some tea or coffee and put on some music. As long as I’m working there’s music playing – that’s a good thing about the job if you like listening to music… Then I look back at the work I made the day before. If I’m happy, I can see it again, and mostly that means I’m ok with it and I want to carry on immediately. But if I’m avoiding it, it means I don’t really like it.
Before I start working I tend to browse the library of pictures I’ve gathered on the internet because I’ve found them interesting for various reasons. This often takes longer than planned, but it often helps me to get in the right direction for some projects, give me new ideas or just gives me a boost to go and make something. The rest of the day I just keep on working as good as possible and try not to be distracted every five minutes. I’m not that good at sitting still for a long time…
How do you work and how has that changed?
As I haven’t been working that long it’s a bit difficult to answer this one, but I can already say that the time I spend on a piece is getting longer. Before I begin with a piece or project I spend a lot of time searching for documentation. For me that’s a very important part and I really like to do it. I’m not a big sketcher. I make only one or two bigger sketches for an illustration. Most of the time I have the full illustration in my head already when I start drawing. It changes a bit during the process, but the biggest part of it is there already.
I work half digital/half manual. First I make a pencil drawing, which get’s scanned in afterwards. Then I put the same pencil drawing on a light box and trace most of the shapes, especially the organic ones like clouds, trees, smoke, water, shadows… Then I paint these with black paint, fill them with charcoal, pencil – everything that gives me the structure I’m looking for. All these shapes get scanned in, changed to the right colour and put underneath the pencil drawing.
As I’m trying to push my technique further I notice that it’s beginning to be really time consuming. The amount of layers is increasing and it’s becoming a bit too technical sometimes as I try to make more dynamic and lively pieces. Some of the newer works aren’t meant to be made digitally. I think I’m on the verge of starting to paint them. It seems like a more honest technique for the work – also because I want them to be bigger. So there’s a long road ahead and I like it.
Where would we find you when you’re not at work?
Riding my bike on my way to my girlfriend or friends is something you could definitely catch me doing as I try to do as much as possible by bike or by foot. Besides that, walks and bike trips are the best way to find inspiration for me. Most of my works are made that way. When I’m not working I like to be outside and surrounded by my girlfriend or friends. I don’t like to be alone.
I don’t spend much time behind the television and if I do it’s mostly to watch BBC documentaries about animals and nature.
Would you intern for yourself?
Haha I wouldn’t know actually. I guess I would do but I would be constantly telling myself that I have to stop wasting time and concentrate more. The fact that we both wouldn’t be alone all day would be awesome although sitting in a room with another me each day would become a bit too much talking and less working. I would constantly disturb my intern because I just can’t keep my mouth shut.