Working from his quiet home studio just outside the Belgian city of Bruges, Pieter Van Eenoge paints. He paints the familiar and the surprising. He paints the lush and energetic, and the quiet repose, and he paints it all very, very well. Whether they are serious, witty, or subdued in topic, his unique attention to composition and sophisticated color choices create work that feel modern and innovative, yet with a classicist twist. Simplification of characters and facial expressions means emotions are neatly captured, something well sought after in the field of illustration. The human form is treated tenderly when needed in one image, and boldly in another, all while maintaining Pieter's distinct visual look and feel. His work has been noticed by tastemakers in Europe and this side of the Atlantic as well. The smart and well-curated Nobrow published his Doppelganger illustration in a recent edition, and two of Pieter's pieces will appear in the glossy Snoecks 2013 Almanack alongside short stories by Sam Byers and Jon McGregor. The 550+ page annual almanac features the best in international literature, photography and art. His first US assignment came from one of the finest art directors at The New York Times, who noticed his work while judging an illustration competition.
INSTITUTIONAL ABOVE: Illustrations for the Cultural Centre De Spil's 2010/11 seasonal brochure
Pieter was born in Belgium but spent most of his childhood in Cologne, Germany. He earned his degree from the Sint-Lucas School for Arts and Science in Ghent, Belgium, where he studied graphic design before switching to illustration. While he mentions past interests that range from carpentry and playing drums to restoring his 1938 home, he finds that his illustration work and interest in the craft of painting consumes most of his attention. At the moment he is most inspired by fauvist painters, such as Henri Matisse and Kees Van Dongen, for their use of color. Interested in the Flemish and German Expressionists Gust De Smet, Constant Permeke, Jean Brusselmans, George Grosz and Otto Dix, he has learned much about technique and composition, and his love of contemporary graphic design, illustration and a comic driven esthetic have drawn him to Ever Meulen, Joost Swarte and Chris Ware's work. He paints with acrylics and explains his work - "I started with gouache" he says, "because I was a bit afraid of acrylic paint drying too fast and destroying my brushes. Now I feel very comfortable, and where I needed three days in the past, I can now paint a simpler illustration in little less than a day at times." He uses a lot of layers, something he learned from the painters he studies, saying "Layering colors is playing a chord instead of a single note!".
PERSONAL ABOVE: Personal work
Pieter has worked with a variety of clients from the publishing, advertising and corporate sectors primarily in Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK. His most recent editorial projects include pieces about memory for Cava magazine and saving for teenagers for financial newspaper, De Tijd; another piece for Weekend Knack explores the links between introversion and creativity while a piece for Scoop looks at the benefits of new hires learning from older, wiser employees.
EDITORIAL TOP: Cava Magazine / BOTTOM (from left): Scoop Magazine; De Tijd; Weekend Knack
Well suited to publishing and children's literature, Pieter has has illustrated a number of children's books for publisher De Eenhoorn. His illustrations for 2011's 'De dokter en het leger van Davy' (The Doctor and Davy's Army) written by Dutch author, Edward van de Vendel, earned him the plum 2012 Boekenpluim Prize. Each year the coveted prize is awarded to two Flemish children's books that feature exceptional illustrations. He also illustrated 'De poppen van oma' (Grandmother's Dolls) by Flemish author, Brigitte Minne, which tells the story of a grandmother and her treasured doll collection. This year will see the release of 'Karina schildert' (Karina Paints) by Dutch author, Frans Lases, which features illustrations Pieter describes as "a bit of modernism, a tad of post-modernism and a dash of post-post-modernism."
PUBLISHING TOP: De dokter en het leger van Davy (De Eenhoorn) BOTTOM (from left): Karina schildert (De Eenhoorn); De poppen van oma (De Eenhoorn)
Pieter has strong ties to Belgium's arts and cultural community and has illustrated for several local festivals and events, including posters for the City of Genk's May 1st festivities and Twinkelweek, a children's festival organized by the Cultural Centre De Spil in Roeselare. Most recently he was commissioned by Boek.be, an association of Flemish book publishers, to create the 2012 Boekenbeurs poster. Boekenbeurs is held each year in Antwerp and is Europe's largest book fair. The poster received an Award of Excellence from Communication Arts and appeared in their 53rd illustration annual. Click here to see 'in progress' sketches and painting. He also illustrated for the Flemish Public Library, creating a series of posters where children search for a hidden fly character in a number of festive scenes.
POSTERS TOP (from left): 2012 Boekenbeurs for Boek.be; Twinkelweek for the Cultural Centre De Spil BOTTOM: May 1st Festivities for the City of Genk
Earlier last year Pieter was asked by the the Bokrijk Open Air Museum to create a large scale illustration for interactive use in the museum. The piece is based on the classic children's game Game of Goose, an early board game similar to Snakes & Ladders. The final installation measures 5 x 3.5 meters and hangs in a 200-year old barn situated on the museum grounds. Craftsmen and interpreters dressed in period costume demonstrate what life was like in rural Bokrijk and demonstrate use of the game. The installation received wide acclaim, gaining attention across the Atlantic and resulting in a Gold Medal in the Institutional category from the Society of Illustrators (NY). It will also appear in the Society's upcoming Illustrators 55 annual. Visit Pieter's blog to read more about the project and see the art in situ.
MUSEUM ABOVE: Installation piece for the Bokrijk Open Air Museum
Pieter has lent his talents to a number of recent advertising and institutional projects. To ring in 2013, he illustrated a series of New Year's cards for the boutique European communications agency, Omygod. His work for the literacy foundation, Stichting Lezen, included creating a series of bookmarks that were gifted to 3000 contacts and partners during the holiday season. He was also commissioned by the Cultural Centre De Spil in Roeselare to create the marketing materials and visual identity.
PROMOTIONAL TOP: New Year's card for Omygod BOTTOM (from left): Bookmarks for Stichting Lezen; Newsletter cover for the Cultural Centre De Spil
In addition to being awarded the 2012 Boekenpluim Prize, Pieter's work has been recognized by the Society of Illustrators (NY), Communication Arts and 3x3. Phantoms of Wing, a personal series created for exhibition, received a gold medal in the 'Gallery' category of one of 3x3's competitions and annuals, while a Cultural Center De Spil illustration received a merit award in the 'Editorial' category. Pieter's work has also been published in several art and design books, including The Big Book of Illustration Ideas 2 (Duncan Baird Publishers), Fresh 3: Cutting Edge Illustration (Daab Media) and 200 Best Illustrators Worldwide (Lurzer GmbH).
AWARDS TOP: From De dokter en het leger van Davy (De Eenhoorn), winner of the 2012 Boekenpluim Prize BOTTOM (from left): Phantoms of Wing, winner of 3x3 Gold; Autumn Leaves, winner of 3x3 Merit
So, what does the future bring? He's writing and illustrating a new children's book, working on a graphic novel, and producing a screen print for sale this summer. And someday, a sound proof shed in his garden so he can blissfully bang away on his drums without raising hell with the neighbors.
Pieter currently lives in his hometown of Bruges, with his lovely wife, two sons and their cat.
Click here for downloadable items - desktop wallpapers and a high-res printable letter sized promo.
CHILDREN TOP: Illustrations for the Cultural Centre De Spil's 2010/11 children's brochure BOTTOM: Posters for the Flemish Public Library
Q&A with PIETER VAN EENOGE
What's one tip you have for other creative professionals? If you see something good, keep your eyes open, if you can't say something good, keep your mouth shut.
What's the first thing you do when you're stuck on a project? What are your best sources of inspiration? I just keep on squeezing my brain until something comes out. But books help too. And art. And sketches from old commissions. And a good night sleep.
In an ideal world, you would have an infinite amount of... ? I'd like to turn that question around and ask myself: "So, Pieter, how about a lot less..." and I would yell "Stuff!" Yes, stuff. You know, that pile of paper on the desk, the hundreds of toys all over the floor, shoes in the kitchen, clothes on all the chairs and even more toys on the stairs. I'm not saying our house should look like the ones in a magazine, but sometimes I have this feeling we are living in a Shurgard storage container... ;-)
Use three words to describe your style. Color, humor, odor
What is your favorite part of living and working in Bruges? Most of my friends and family live here, almost everything is a walk or bike ride away and there is art on every corner of the street. Living is pretty easy in Bruges!
Do you have a favorite movie? There are a few movies that punched me in the stomach (Seven, The Mosquito Coast, Into the Wild...) and tickled my belly (almost every Monty Python and a lot of 'Frat Pack' and 'Team Apatow' movies), but nothing has beaten the Back To The Future trilogy so far.
What are some sites you have bookmarked in your browser? REBLOLOLO (http://reblololo.tumblr.com/) - crazy art, photos and ephemera. FACEBOOK (https://www.facebook.com/) - it gets lonely sometimes in the studio... VOID (http://www.qubik.com/zr/) - more art, more photos, more ephemera!
What is your biggest challenge as an illustrator? To put the image I have in my head on paper in a reasonable amount of time and learn something along the way so I can do it that little bit faster next time. I see myself as a growing painter, still figuring out techniques and colors.
Do you have a sketchbook? How do you like to keep track of your ideas? I use a little notebook for ideas and images that pop up in my head, but you can hardly call it a sketchbook. Now that I think of it, I have never used a real sketchbook...
What's your guilty pleasure? Chocolate. But why should I feel guilty about it, right?
Who are three artists you admire and why? Italian illustrator, painter and comic book artist Lorenzo Mattotti. His use of color is flawless, he can switch from acrylics over pastels to black ink and you still know it's him and he keeps on surprising me after all these years. Henri Matisse, my all time favorite painter. I just can't stop looking at his work... And my fellow countryman Brecht Evens, who is taking over the comic world by storm and is one hell of an illustrator as well.
Best way to end a long day of work? If long means 'at midnight or later,' I just drag myself to bed. Which is easy actually, since my studio is right next to the bedroom. But I enjoy some loud music, a hot bath or a movie too when there is still some time left.M