Interview with Astrid Yskout

14 Dec 2011

It has been a while since I last posted an interview with a talented illustrator, and I thought it's high time to change this. So today I have the absolute pleasure to introduce you to Astrid Yskout, a 26 years old illustrator that lives in Antwerp, Belgium. She combines her illustration work with two part-time jobs. She works in a secondhand bookshop, and teaches children & teenagers at an art academy. I got to know Astrid's work through Flickr, and later on I encountered some of her marvelous illustration work in a Belgian weekly magazine that I'm subscribed to. I immediately fell in love with the beautiful spontaneous sketchy style, and felt the urge to ask her for an interview. Lucky for me she said yes…

Did it take long before you found your own style that you are personally happy with?

sketch of a cat

While studying illustration, our teachers liked us to work for an adult audience. I knew my way of drawing was more leaning towards children book illustrations, so during my studies I did my very best to give my illustrations a dark, melancholic twist, I wanted my drawings to have this double, mysterious edge. But actually this isn't how I feel at all, I'm a happy person with no hard feelings.

So at one point, after some years being graduated, I became aware of this and decided to draw just the way I feel. One day I made this cat sketch (see image to the right above), it's one of the first drawings I really liked myself. It captures the quiet and ease I feel inside.

Since last year I feel ok with most of what I do, so it took me about four years after graduating to come to a result I'm more or less personally happy with. But I can also get frustrated or disappointed being trapped in my own style, I guess every illustrator has that feeling once in a while. Being aware of this and trying to do new things is enough to keep me going.

Some of the illustrations you can view on her Flickr page.

How would you describe your creative process?

The different steps in Astrid's process.

After a talk with the client I put down my ideas very rough and quick, it can be pages and pages filled with drawings and words. Together we pick out one sketch - step 1 and I can start working on it. I love the sketching part the most because my characters always have more personality, they can be very lively. I can struggle to get the same feeling into the final drawing. Sometimes I change the idea during the process. Here I saw the squirrel jumping in my sketch and thought it would be more dynamic and interesting to make the girl racing the animal. I had drawn the background leafs already when this idea popped in my head. So I made a quick sketch on top of the leafs to send to the client - step 2 I do some extra sketches in search of the right posture - step 3. Then I make the final drawing, I use pencil, markers, ink and photoshop to add or change color - step 4 - step 5.

Is it hard to be an Illustrator in Belgium?

I believe so. I'm not a very well-known illustrator, I haven't done children books or published comics yet, but as far as I know, other illustrators too are struggling sometimes. I heard the payment here is quite low in comparison with other countries.

Belgium is small, there are no real agencies so the best is to get international attention. On the other hand, because our country is this modest you get to know other illustrators very easily. I believe belgium has a lot of great young and well-known illustrators (The pazuzu agency illustrators, Ephameron, Brecht Evens, Brecht Vandenbroucke, Ward Zwart,...) and I'm very proud to be (geographically) connected to them.

Vinyl cover "Castles in the air - Full Album" for Claire.

Could you describe a typical working day?

Because I work in a bookshop and teach I mostly make illustrations in the evening and in the weekend, for me this is the best time to work. I get distracted when I work during the day because I feel a lot is happening outside and I cannot join in. In the evening everything gets calm and dark outside, so I feel ok, silently working in my room.

I love the sketching part the most because my characters always have more personality, they can be very lively.

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

In the bookshop I get in touch with a lot of subjects. Because it's a secondhand store, the clientele is very mixed, it is a broad mix of different ages, and social statuses. Customers do act weird sometimes or some have strange obsessions, in a way all these people inspire me. When I'm stuck on inspiration or ideas, I take a shower. When I was a kid I used to be a very good and passionate swimmer. I still love lane swimming, your mind gets blank but at the same time it's like everything is getting obvious. Afterwards I can think more clearly. Water has this "healing" meaning to me.

Comments

  1. 1 Joao Costa 15 Dec 2011

    Awesome! So good to see a real person giving an interview :)

    I want to visit Belgium, already have a friend over there.

    I´m also a designer (slash) teacher here…
    Best regards from Brazil.

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