Philip first turned to humor to escape boredom. Growing up in a small town in the Netherlands where there wasn’t much to do, he resorted to skateboarding, pulling shenanigans and painting graffiti for entertainment. He was drawing during this time, but it wasn’t until his high school dean introduced him to a graphic design class that his artistic career plans began to materialize. “It sounded like music to my ears, and I immediately wanted to jump in,” he told Creative Boom.
From there Philip moved to the relatively large “(but actually quite small)” city of Utrecht, where he met like-minded graphic design students and began to flourish creatively. During his final year of graphic design studies, he was invited to participate in a one-semester residency at an artistic complex in Barcelona. During this time, he perfected his witty visual voice and worked on a solo exhibition in the heart of the city.
“With the portfolio that I put together in Barcelona, I was finally admitted to the University of the Arts in Utrecht to study illustration,” explains Philip. “The art academy invited (or forced) me not only to find depth in my work, but also to experiment and research materials.” These missions pushed him out of his comfort zone until he finally fell back on a visual language and a working method that suited him the most. “Right now I’m working in a way where I feel I have full control to set up worlds and be able to develop them.”
And it is these vibrant and incomparable worlds that have appeared in the editorial illustrations of publications such as De Volkskrant, De Standaard and Vpro Gids. Philip’s worlds draw inspiration from retro accessories, memorabilia, vintage American visual culture, fashion and movies, teeming with detail, characters and an assortment of iconography.
“But above all, I feel inspired by everyday situations, people I meet in the street and human habits”, reveals Philip. “When I take the train, pass the market, or drink a beer in a bar or terrace, I have thousands of ideas for character drawings. Sit down and collect these thoughts in my notebook. sketching is something I like to do every now and then. ”And if he is unable to summarize ideas in his sketchbook, he trusts his subconscious to record what he has seen, knowing that his observations will appear in his work at some point.
He adds, “I store the way people behave, express themselves and dress, and I want to propagate my illustrations with these observations. In this way, I hope to present a world that reflects the times we live in, and one where the characters feel recognizable to the viewer. “
Two of the pillars of Philip’s style are playful, precise linework and a bold color palette. And although it was selected with digital tools, it still strives to capture an analog feel with deliberate stripes, grainy lines, and washed out hues. These elements work together to create illustrations that are both modern and timeless and give his characters and atmospheres a distinctive appearance. And that’s even without considering his humor.
“Humor plays a major role in my work, and I like to look for reasons (or perhaps excuses) to implement it in these worlds,” explains Philip. “This urge often translates into worlds in which a certain degree of complexity is present and in which a lot of detail can be visualized. The frenetic pace of my worlds is very typical of my style.”
And despite the humorless situation we all found ourselves in last year, Philip has been fortunate enough to work on many fun projects for newspapers, magazines, and commercial projects. He even experienced something of a creative boost.
“The coronavirus crisis also made me work for clients where I was able to capture and present an image of the time,” reveals Philip. “I did illustrations on topics like fear of scientists and vaccinations, the inability to leave home and the loneliness caused by lockdowns.
“But I also found some fun topics related to Covid, like people doing home workouts, cooking, reading books, and relating to tech and social media. These are tough times, but there are the place to treat the illustrations of the health crisis in a light way. They help to put things into perspective, and everything is easier to discuss with a good dose of humor. “
In addition to his commercial work, Philip’s current personal projects include a series of paintings of stylized forms. He will use them to develop weird figures and cheerful characters, creating a library of people who can also be reintroduced into his professional pieces. It’s a perfectly cyclical way of working that shows that Philip enjoys his passionate projects as much as his collaborations with his clients.
“Commercial jobs make me so excited because they force me to work with new topics and themes that I’ve never touched on before,” says Philip. “I like to be briefed, rack my brain on the context, find smart solutions, and eventually take ownership of the subject and watch it merge with my world.
“Trusting my instincts and just having fun while working has always been the most important thing for me. And I think joy will express itself throughout the work and affect the viewer in the same way.”