Saskia Janssen, a freelance illustrator based in The Netherlands that goes under the guise of Studio Ski, admits that she didn’t always think she’d become an illustrator. “I was more into acting than drawing,” she recalls, later realising that she wasn’t all too great at telling a story on the stage and was in fact better at doing so on paper. So, rather than attending theatre school, she decided to study illustration at the art academy. Landing on her own style and aesthetic, it was this experience that enabled her to dabble in various techniques, from animation to graphic storytelling.
Working in her chosen medium, Saskia finds inspiration mostly from daily life – whether it’s offline or online, she likes to see how people interact with modern society. “The things that people do to entertain themselves and the fact that people always need to be entertain,” he says, pointing out how it’s this contrast between “artificiality and authenticity” that sparks her imagination. To get there, she will venture to shopping malls, particularly the ones with palm tree decorations, where she will watch people exercising behind the windows in the gym. “I love to go to stores and see how people are shopping for plants,” she adds on the matter of where she finds her influences.
Then, while drawing up her findings, she will end up covering her entire desk with acrylic markers, felt tips and finalisers. A messy process, indeed, but one that allows herself to experiment fully with all the materials available. “Sometimes I use myself as a model to find the perfect body position,” says Saskia “I make a photo and then use this as a reference.” She continues to explain how Stockphotos are also a good source for referencing, “and funny as well” – “I almost never sketch, what you see is what you get.”
Saskia’s work is observational and effortlessly funny. Utilising these moments from the everyday, she will seek out activities and events that make us truly human. For example, amidst the current pandemic, much of her work has navigated towards the theme of exercise, with scenes of YouTube home workouts playing key characters throughout. In others, there’s a queue of people greeting each other in their routinely morning visit to the store, while another sees a person dressed in a space suit holding groceries (loo roll included). For the latter, Saskia explains: “I was thinking about a solution to shop safely in this pandemic life. Spacesuits look very anonymous and I think this idea fits well with how people can feel in this world of social distancing.”
Additionally, Saskia pulls out an image of a girl taking 20 self-portraits. This is in fact a self-portrait of Saskia, “yes, that’s me”, and was produced after thinking about the things you can do when you’re bored and feeling alone. “Maybe I really should make these 20 self-portraits and put them on the fridge.”
Although seemingly joyous and in some ways mocking, it turns out that the illustrator’s work has a rather emotional response, too. She tells us how she often sells work in small local markets, and she will hear passersby laughing while taking a peek at her creations. “Most of the time, I also hear the word ‘cute’, but when they look a bit longer it also gives them a sad feeling. I like that my work is not only a joke or a cute picture, but it also has something melancholic about it.”
While the pandemic is the focus of much of her work at the moment, of course the current situation means that projects are put on hold for the time being. But this hasn’t stopped creatives from making work in their temporary lives of quarantine. Alongside continuing to work as a freelancer for various newspapers, Saskia plans to publish her own book one day, themed on something along the lines of “things I can draw” or “nice things you can do when you are alone and living in a pandemic.” Perhaps she’ll circle back to making short animations, which she used to enjoy during her art school years, or maybe she’ll even present a life drawing show on Instagram called How to draw a happy horse, “because I like drawing horses and I heard other illustrators find this difficult.”
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.