“It reminded me that inspiration can be anywhere”: two distant illustrators draw their quarantine experiences

Merging together their drawings, belongings and routines, Joost Stokhof and Marcus Oakley collaborate through a digital and analogue process to illustrate this strange time.

9 July 2020


Over the past couple of years, Dutch illustrator Joost Stokhof has followed his own little tradition of creating a zine filled with observations every time he travels. But, since Joost has nowhere to go at the moment, he decided to capture the current moment around him – and invite a friend, fellow illustrator Marcus Oakley, to join him in doing so.

After briefly meeting at Graffix Festival, Antwerp back in 2018, when Marcus received Joost’s invitation he was more than happy to collaborate, admitting that around the first few weeks of the pandemic, he was finding it very hard to be creative anyway: “Joost’s invite was really helpful to start drawing again and I was intrigued to see how our drawing would work together,” Marcus tells It’s Nice That.

Never working together before, Joost decided to reach out to another illustrator simply because of the imposed isolation lockdown had forced, and the zine would be a chance “to make a human connection despite all of this,” he tells us. Wanting to work with Marcus in particular due to a love for his black and white drawings, and the fact he felt their line work would merge well together, tonally Joost was also attracted to the “sense of humour and poetry” which runs through Marcus’ work. With factors admired on both sides, capturing the familiar around them, yet in this “strange and sad situation we had all ended up in,” began.

GalleryJoost Stokhof and Marcus Oakley: A Couple of Days in Quarantine

In terms of a brief, it appears the pair approached the project by looking at their belongings and home set-ups in a new light. For Joost he describes being “pretty much focused on small signs of life while looking out of the window of my tiny study at home,” he explains. Gazing out of this window, the framing offered a “scene” like quality to his view, where details such as a “waving curtain, a pigeon looking for food” each played a reassuring part in reminding the illustrator that “some aspects of life still went on as usual”. For Marcus it was more inside objects which piqued his interest, particularly utensils that he was now “constantly interacting with,” he says. “Often staring at the walls and all the plants and ornaments arranged around the home absorbing the slow mundanity of the daily rituals day after day, after day… It reminded me that inspiration can be anywhere and everywhere.”

The result is a zine where, on certain pages, it feels difficult to separate Marcus and Joost’s work – or maybe it’s just because the items they reference feel so similar to what we each see around us in this current new normal. Joost describes how this process has been a careful one, explaining he “was quite cautious with combining our drawings,” adding that, “I tried applying logic and was basically way too careful. When Marcus sent me the first set of illustrations where he combined our drawings he did so in a free and playful way, which made these drawings way more exciting.” Marcus adds that he simply “overlayed them together so the drawing would become one, compressing, crushing and squashing our lines together.”

Overall enjoying the digital collaborative aspect of “creating a kind of email/art/drawing/scanning/emailing/drawing/emailing and finally into printed matter,” the final zine, A Couple of Days in Quarantine, is a lovely example of how unlikely and unified collaborations can develop even when we’re separated.

GalleryJoost Stokhof and Marcus Oakley: A Couple of Days in Quarantine

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Joost Stokhof and Marcus Oakley: A Couple of Days in Quarantine

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About the Author

Lucy Bourton

Lucy (she/her) is the senior editor at Insights, a research-driven department with It's Nice That. Get in contact with her for potential Insights collaborations or to discuss Insights' fortnightly column, POV. Lucy has been a part of the team at It's Nice That since 2016, first joining as a staff writer after graduating from Chelsea College of Art with a degree in Graphic Design Communication.


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