Enormously talented Mark Verhaagen. He is a freelance illustrator and animator from The Netherlands. His somewhat bizarre artwork, has an interesting, playful and imaginative style. Some of his clients: MTV Networks, Amsterdam Historical Museum, the Bacardi Company, Digital Creative Arts Magazine, among others. Let’s ask him some questions so we can get to know him better:
TP: How and why did you begin illustrating?
Mark Verhaagen: I’ve always liked drawing. When in high school, I decided to make it my job. If you have to choose a profession to do for so many years to come, you’d better choose something you like. Illustration wasn’t my first choice. I also liked fashion design, architecture, graphic design, as long as it was creative. I decided to do illustration because it was really about drawing and making pictures. That’s what I felt I did best.
I moved to Rotterdam to study illustration at the Willem de Kooning Academy. After I graduated, I started working freelance.
TP: What do you like best, most fulfilling part about being an
Mark Verhaagen: There are several things that I like. Of course it’s great to make a living out of what you love to do, and to see your work being published or broadcasted. But what I also like is the development in my work. I’m really into animation right now, and although I haven’t done much of it yet, I’m trying to focus on that mostly.
Also collaborating with fellow artists and designers is great. There are so many creative people whose work I like, and by collaborating you are able to try new things and both get your work to another level.
TP: Your artwork is gorgeous. What inspires you to create your artwork?
Mark Verhaagen: Well thank you very mucho. I do have some things I like for inspiration: retro images, toy robots, oldskool animation movies, design books, arty farty movies, and so on. You can find some of these elements in my work. I’m trying to do my own thing, to have my own style. I like working at night, when all is quiet. I just put on some music to get in the right mood, like some Barry White tunes 😉 And then usually the images start popping up all by themselves.
TP: What medium do you work in? What kind of software do you use?
Mark Verhaagen: These days almost all my work is digital. I start working in Adobe Illustrator, and do details and color correction in Photoshop. For animation I use After Effects. I’d like to do some more traditional techniques again some time though. I did a lot of painting and mixed media while in art school, and I miss that sometimes. Mixing traditional techniques with digital work would be interesting as well; I’d like to try those things in the near future.
TP: Tell us about your latest work. What are you working on now?
Mark Verhaagen: Right now I’m working on some editorial illustrations, and some collaborations: the Metal Man project by Dope Pope (http://www.metalmanproject.com/) and I’m doing a short movie for the Grab Bag project by Ethan Bodnar (http://www.grabbagbook.com/).
In my spare time I’m trying to improve my animation skills as much as possible. At the moment I’m animating some of my characters.
TP: Who is your favorite character that you have ever illustrated?
Mark Verhaagen: I think my monkey character was a big success. It was just an experiment to paint fur in Photoshop. I worked on it a couple of hours, and there it was. The fur became an element of my personal style. The flying robots I also like, although the design is a couple of years old. It was also from that period that I started developing my style. Also the little white marshmellow man is kinda cute, and is a returning character. I should come up with a name for it. ‘White marshmellow man’ just doesn’t sound that cute. Or maybe it does. Haha.
TP: Do you remember the very first thing you ever drew?
Mark Verhaagen: I remember while being in kindergarten, me and my friend always drew these war scenes. He started drawing an army at the right side of the paper; I started at the left side. Bullets and grenades were flying through the air; you could see their motion path indicated by dotted lines. Of course there were lots of explosions, and everything was on fire. Ah those were the days. I think we were 4 or 5 years old.
TP: Is it more challenging for you to draw for one age group or another?
Mark Verhaagen: Not really, as long I can do my thing. As I’m just a big kid, I have no problems making stuff for children. I can be serious too, but still.. I like my work to be not too serious. Sorry, serious people.
TP: Who are the artists who have influenced your work?
Mark Verhaagen: I find it hard to name people. There are several artists I admire, but I’m trying to do my own thing. Therefore I’m trying not to get too much influenced by people’s work, rather by other things I see and hear.
TP: Any advice for new illustrators?
Mark Verhaagen: Do your own thing. That’s really important, to have your own recognizable style. It’s sometimes hard to stay off the things that everyone does, because it looks so good and you know people will like it. But it’s much more rewarding if you come up with something of your own. Even more if people still like it, because it’s that fresh and they haven’t seen it before.
Also, work hard. And look further than just illustration. Illustration is about making images, but those images could be moving images as well. They don’t have to be in magazines alone, you could do murals as well, or product design, clothing, toys… There are really a lot of possibilities.
And remember kids, like Mr. T said: treat your momma right.
TP: Thank you, Mark.
Make sure to visit Mark Verhaagen’s online portfolio for more samples of his work.