As an avid collector of imagery since the age of 15, Rotterdam-based artist and illustrator Maaike Canne has a tremendous pool of inspiration to refer back to. At first, there were a lot of “dark images”, she jests, but now her archive is littered with architecture, interiors, design, paintings by old and new masters, or simply just colour combinations that she likes. “The collection keeps growing and it’s my go-to when I’m looking for a starting point.”
Having drawn for as long as she can remember, Maaike recalls having a “little red briefcase with printed ladybugs on it, filled with pencils and paper.” Her grandmother is also a painter, so as a child she adored visiting her at the studio and watching her work. Then, in her mid-teens, she got really into music and would take her Discman, CDs and her sketchbook everywhere, writing down the lyrics and drawing illustrations to the melodies. “I still have around ten sketchbooks from that time, and the earlier ones have quite a few Piet Parra-inspired drawings – he was very popular at the time in Holland.”
Maaike’s illustrations are based on fictitious scenes – like gas stations, malls, hotel-lobbies and motels. “I’ve noticed over the years that people are slowly disappearing from my work. This happened naturally, although they might come back, who knows.” She also finds inspiration from modernist and mid-century architecture, the Bauhaus movement, architects like Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, Le Corbusier and Luis Barragan. So with these influences at the ready and her image box at her side, Maaike begins her illustrative process: she starts by writing down ideas and sketching on paper – “this helps me to find a nice composition,” she says. “I don’t care about realistic perspectives, it’s one of the pros of illustration, you can do whatever you want!”
On the topic of doing “whatever you want”, Maaike has recently completed an illustration for Kiblind magazine. With a brief centred on the French city La Grande Motte for its Tourism in France issue, she was instantly drawn towards the Balladur-led architecture during her research. “When I saw this pyramid-shaped building with the orange blinds, I immediately loved it. It’s a great combination of the Mayan temples but with the flair of the 60s,” she says. “This building really reflects my interest in history, the mid-century and architecture.”
A further series sees her illustrate a personal project titled Japan’s Cultural Mystery – a fascinating body of work that stems from her interest in cultural differences. “I’ve always been interested in the way people live and behave based on geography, prosperity, beliefs and values,” she tells us. “Japan really caught my eye since it’s so different from me as a European.” From this, she created her first two works called Kodokushi, which translates to “lonely deaths” – a “heartbreaking” Japanese phenomenon of people dying alone and undiscovered for a long period of time. The series later gravitated towards different traditions, like going to “sentos” (communal baths), and the “tradition of gift giving” as well as “their interest in robotics combined with convenience, reflected in the egg vending machine illustration.”
As well as finishing a mural based on the Siege of Breda during the 80 Years’ War – the Dutch struggle for independence from the Spanish Crown – Maaike plans to build more large-scale, three-dimensional and textile-based pieces in the future. Her portfolio is filled with culturally rich and historically marked pieces – watch this space!