Playing in between the guidelines of commissions, Philip Lindeman invokes nostalgia in his latest work, Westergas

The Dutch illustrator creates an enormous visual identity for the cultural hub, Westergas.

30 January 2020

When we last spoke to Philip Lindeman last year, we indulged in the Dutch illustrator’s ability to hide tiny jokes for his viewers in his dense compositions. Since then, he’s worked on a number of editorial assignments, a welcome pleasure for Philip, who alternates between commissioned and personal work very happily. As his self-initiated work develops over time, he manages to pepper his learnings into his commercial work. Somehow tying the two together with keen themes or interests so each outcome feels like a new chapter to the story. Philip tells us of this unique way of working: “I really love to approach my work like this and it keeps me driven to keep making the next step.”

So when he was approached by the Amsterdam-based creative agency Staat, Philip saw a great opportunity to further this relationship between commercial and personal. He was asked to create a visual identity for the autumn/winter campaign of Westergas, a famous cultural terrain in Amsterdam known for its music, theatre and artistic events. Commissioned to make “a key visual” embodying its cozy atmosphere and breadth of activities, Philip decided to make, quite simply, an enormous image of all these things happening. The idea was for the illustration to not only function as a buzzing piece of art, but also as a major source of content. Philip adds, “you can endlessly crop out and use these pieces for a variety of expressions.”

The mammoth project allowed Philip to dive into a number of character designs from a bird’s eye perspective. Granted a free ticket to play around the vast amount of characters, the illustrator could explore a variety of spontaneous narratives and interactions between the tiny Westergas inhabitants. “When creating crowded scenes like this one,” continues Philip, “it helps me to do some brainstorm sessions to collect ingredients. I like to add nostalgic participants, celebrities, stereotypes from daily life, my friends and even tropical animals.”


Philip Lindeman: Westergas

As a result, in this extensive illustration of Philip’s handiwork, we can see all kinds of idiosyncratic details amongst the hubbub of activity. Mr Oizo, Scrooge McDuck, Tin Tin, Marge Simpson, Mia Wallace, It, Wilson (Tom Hanks’ volleyball) and Philip’s girlfriend all feature in the dense illustration. With this menagerie of characters in tow, for Philip, it was all about letting his creativity loose, embracing the happy accidents that occurred between the characters and the Dutch objects in the background. “Many stories and jokes arise in a spontaneous and playful way by having such accidental encounters,” adds Philip. “I think it’s super satisfying to anticipate and find unexpected solutions for your own actions in a process like this. You can play around as much as possible in between the guidelines and restrictions of a commissioned work.”

In this way, the Westergas illustration makes itself immediately accessible to viewers who recognise the funny little characters from their own walks of life. Most of the situations and characters feel familiar: the quiet couple who prefer to stand in silence while watching the action unfold from afar, the floppy haired busker lost in the riffs of his electric guitar, the eager little girl being pulled along by an overexcited dog. Philip wants his viewers to feel “a form of nostalgia” even if you’ve never even heard of Westergas before.

“A viewer can find it hard to tell what exactly it is that they’re so familiar with, but he or she just experiences a reflection from society,” says Philip. And in a similar vein, the same goes for him, the creator of these images. Even though he draws inspiration from the minutiae of every day life and all its goings-on, without even noticing it, his characters often do unexpected things, or behave in a certain manner which he hadn’t intended for them. “Sometimes I’m surprised by the characters that pass by myself, and that always makes me very enthusiastic and keen to keep playing with the process. So I hope for my viewers to experience this piece in a way that entertains them.”

GalleryPhilip Lindeman: Westergas

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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