"Making illustrations is more than drawing and someone who draws is not an illustrator. Through graphical means the illustrator creates an image that tells a story." Let there be clarity about the term ‘illustration’, for Sebastiaan Van Doninck is tired of the misconceptions concerning his profession. He calls himself an illustrator, he gives life drawing lessons, likes modern art and spends too much money on books, because his mind needs constant feeding.
Here we are, safe and dry in his apartment in the center of Antwerp: three people enjoying a glass of wine and biscuits, while outside the rain clatters against the window. "Thank God for heavy rain, cause this way I’m in complete tranquility. When it rains, I don’t feel that there’s something out there waiting for me, that I should go to a bar or have a coffee somewhere. The rain keeps me inside to do some sketching."
I love working for magazines. A title, a word or a few quotes are enough to tickle my brain. I also enjoy books, but I always have to have a certain freedom. When there are too many restrictions, I freeze. I'd love to do some more non-commissioned work, its been a while since I did that. I get far too many freelance assignments.
Teaching completes my job perfectly, because I get tremendous inspiration from my students. Giving a lot, means getting a lot in return just by looking and critically evaluating their work. The criticism directed towards the student also applies to me. This way I’m indirectly evaluating my own work. It’s great to see students who are ambitious, work hard and evolve.
The teaching job gives me the luxury to be very selective when it comes to clients. I don’t accept educative work anymore and the same applies to clients who tell me what to draw. I don't want to do mindless work.
When I’m drawing, I hear everything, I feel everything, but I don’t let anything distract me. I just work for hours at a stretch and I cannot sleep until it’s finished. I always have a clear picture of the final result in mind. With the computer I can have close control and I can work fast.
75% of the time I work digitally, with the laptop and the tablet. But sometimes I hate the computer and feel the need to work by hand, loosening everything up with paper and ink. But the digital mood always comes back. On holiday I work well manually. Then I take a big sketch book and go into the wild. I do this every year. This way I can work spontaneously, directly and quickly. Working by hand is considered a trend. The drawings are warmer, you have more contact with the materials and it feels natural. I am also a fan of heavy ink paint. I scan colored stains, puzzle them together on the computer and so I often create a collage, with minimal editing in Photoshop.
Animals are incredibly aesthetic. I take great pleasure in drawing them, I can be so free, frivolous and mobile in handling them. They are also interesting because of their symbolic and iconographic elements and I can project human characteristics on them. The animal kingdom speaks to my imagination on so many levels.
I get my inspiration from contemporary art. I love Cindy Sherman, Joseph Beuys and Francis Alÿs. The wow effect is little with illustrators, because they often focus on figurative work. The artists’ formal language is more free, it is more open to interpretation and that’s what I love about it. But I must say that my inspiration sources vary over time. I eagerly consume my inspirations sources and when I'm done with them, it's time for something new. My mind must be constantly fed. I’ve collected children's books from the 50s for a while, but now I'm done with it.
Yes, with unrealistic deadlines and unprofessional attitude in the sector. Some people think there has been an improvement over the years, but in my opinion the illustrator is still severely underpaid. People keep haggling on the price, but you don’t ask an electrician to adapt his bid, do you? I consider haggling as an insult, as if my work is not worth its price. Now I have an agent (Pazuzu Illustration Agency) which acts against this, so I can focus on the fun things: creating images.
If illustrators are underpaid, then who profits the most: publishers, agents, shops or magazines?
If children’s books consist of 80% drawings and you, as an illustrator, get only 5% of royalties per book, then there’s a big inequality. Furthermore a book has no chance to sell, it only gets 3 months of shop display.
The promotion is virtually zero. Authors and illustrators are supposed to do the promo themselves in order to sell their own books! I think this trend is really going too far. Releasing books in selfpublication or going digital are both interesting channels, but in the end how do you get the books distributed? It is the hardest step in the process.
Despite all difficulties in the sector, you remain enthusiastic and dream of big projects in the future.
I've always dreamed of the theater. I’ve made theater posters, but I would like to work on sets, puppets and costume designs too. Or working on viewing boxes for a gallery, which has been my dream for so long. But my schedule is packed. I don’t know when I would have the time to do it all!
Coffeeklatch is a creative chitchat, an original and personal way for Magali Elali and Bart Kiggen to go and look for inspiring personalities and intriguing stories. The online magazine showcases pictures and interviews with creative entrepreneurs in their homes, addressing various disciplines. Coffeeklatch stands for slow journalism using a fast medium. Read More
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