Lea Vervoort is an illustrator from the Netherlands. She studied at the Academy of Arts (St.Joost) in Breda and after receiving my Bachelor of Fine Arts for Illustration in 2012 she stayed there to live and work. She believes the world is even more beautiful, crazy, fun and mysterious than we already think. With this in mind she works as an international illustrator on a various of projects, mostly for kids.
She sees herself as a visual storyteller and has a big love for made-up whimsical worlds. Lea enjoys drawing characters and environments. Besides imagination, the use of colour and little -funny- details are a big part of her work as well. It determines the characteristic atmosphere of my illustrations (from a world where there’s always something to discover)
Selected Clients & Publications
Zwijsen, Lannoo, Rubinstein, Gouden Boekjes (Little Golden Books), Efteling, Ammo, Uppercase, Kröller Müller, Boekie Boekie, Uitgenodigd.nl, Paperwoven, Ouders van Nu, Dobbies Garden Centres, Seed Learning, Alice Éditions & more.
Fatima en de grote muziekoptocht, Zwijsen (2016)
Le Collectionneur de sentiments, Alice Éditions (2015)
Nutcracker, Seed Learning (2015)
Onweer in de tuin, Zwijsen (2014)
Roodkapje Gouden Efteling boekje, Rubinstein (2014)
Assepoester Gouden Efteling boekje, Rubinstein (2014)
Ik Ben OK, Lannoo (2013)
Here is Lea discussing her process:
Most of the time I start doodling. Sometimes I already have an idea, sometimes it’s just to get me started. The doodling and sketching happens in two places, depending on my mood: my sketchbook or in Photoshop. This time it happened in my sketchbook:
Because I already had a vague idea, there isn’t too much to see. But most of the time I only stop until I have a full page of scribbles to choose from. I scanned it, placed it in Photoshop and enlarged it to the right size:
After this I do some small tweaks here and there. Replace some parts of the illustration, move stuff around, rotate and or enlarge elements, etc. When I feel satisfied, I trace the sketch using the freeform pen tool (everything from now on gets done in Photoshop). It looks like this:
As you see the dragonfly got replaced and I created a little colour-pallet as well.
After my paths are figured out, I’m ready to fill them in. I colour pick from my palette and put every coloured shape in a new layer. Which results in this basic look:
A small fraction of how this list of (Dutch named) layers looks like in Photoshop:
When I’m happy on the colours, I start on the lightning and shading. Layer by layer. I place an imaginary light source, select the right layer and add lighter and darker colours to give its shape depth. Here some bushes, leaves, the rabbit and the ladybird are done:
When I continue, the illustration is starting to look more alive. I also placed some textures:
I like to mix all kinds of textures. Watercolour paint, scratches, paper, fabric and more. I have some favourites but it changes every time.
Here almost all the shapes are done and I started to play around with the quote:
When all the shading/lightning on the individual shapes are done, I play a bit with the overall lightning and colour saturation until I think the balance is right.
This is the final illustration:
Some Book Covers
How long have you been illustrating?
Professionally it’s been almost 4 years. Time goes by super-fast!
Have you always lived in the Netherlands?
Yes. I grew up in a little town in the south of the Netherlands. At the age of 17 I went to a city close by to study. (But I have to say that in the Netherlands everything is close by)
What was the first thing you painted where someone paid you for your work?
I think it was a card to announce the birth of my grandnephew.
Did you go to school for art? If so where and why did you pick that school?
Yes, I went to an art academy in Breda. I picked this school because of the atmosphere, pretty building (it used to be a monastery), it surroundings and because it has an illustration department.
What did you study there?
Do you feel College helped develop your style?
Yes I do. It was a big part of the education at the academy. There was a lot of encouragement to experiment. Having your own style sets you apart from the rest. It’s important to stand out in this saturated industry.
What type of work did you do after you got out of school?
The first year I combined my work as an illustrator (which in the beginning mainly consisted of spreading my portfolio, reaching out to possible future clients and a variety of little projects) with a part-time job at a well-known Dutch warehouse (HEMA). After one year I was able to quit my part-time job as my projects got bigger and more frequent.
Did art school help you get work when you graduated?
Yes, they offered me a free business course to get me started. It helped me to get more confidence and find my way in the professional world.
Have you seen your work change since you left school?
Yes, I think it’s good to evolve your style and develop skills. Go along with your time, trends, etc.
When did you decide you wanted to illustrate for children?
Around the third year of my illustration studies.
What was your first book you illustrated?
“Ik ben OK”. It’s a Belgian book about mindfulness in raising kids.
How did that contract come about?
I contacted the publisher and shared my portfolio. They responded. There was a book that needed to be illustrated and it suited my style. Also there was little time, so I think my introduction came at the right time. I did some sample illustrations, they got approved and there was my first book assignment.
Did you do other types of illustrating before you got that book contract?
Yes, a lot of different things. Two album covers / booklets, a (very simple) animation, something for the interactive website of an upcoming publisher, editorial illustrations for a children’s magazine, a banner for a chutney brand, a Kickstarter campaign and many more. I still like to do all these different kind of illustration projects. It keeps the job exciting and interesting. Storytelling can be done in so many forms.
How many picture books have you illustrated?
Have you ever illustrated a book for the US publisher? If yes, who and what?
Nope. Only Dutch and Belgian for now. I did do an educational children’s book for Seed Learning which is an US company.
Have you ever won an award for any of the books you illustrated?
Nope. But I who knows what the future brings!
Do you have any desire to write and illustrate your own book?
I thought about doing it. I make up a lot of little stories around personal illustrations and that’s a lot of fun. But I’m not sure that I have the skills and perseverance to do it all by myself.
What book do you think was your biggest success?
That’s hard to say as I’m not sure what defines success. But I’m most proud of “Onweer in de Tuin”. It’s a quite small and infamous book, but I still like the illustrations that I made for it.
Have you ever tried to do a wordless picture book?
I never had the opportunity to do this yet, but it seems like a good challenge.
I see you are represented by Good Illustration. How did you connect with them?
I reached out by e-mail. Being represented by an agent was a big thing on my wish list. And I’m still very happy and thankful for it. They’re great.
Do you illustrate full time?
Yes! I try to limit my work to the weekdays, but when I’m super busy I sacrifice the weekends. Deadlines are sacred.
Do you have a favorite medium you use?
I work digitally on my Wacom Cinitq in Photoshop… So I guess I only use one medium.
Do you take research pictures before you start a project?
I do use research pictures, but I don’t take them myself. I look them up online.
Do you use Photoshop with any of your work?
Yes, Photoshop brings my work to life.
Do you have and use a graphic tablet?
Yes, like I said previously. I work on a Wacom Cintiq, which is a graphic tablet and screen in one. You draw directly on your screen. It’s a great tool as your digital work feels more naturally.
Do you do exhibits to show off your art?
Yes, Whenever I have the opportunity. Right now you can view my work at a combined exposition in an art hall in Rotterdam. And before at a variety of places; in coffee shops, at the library, in a gallery in London, etc.
Would you be willing to work with an author who wants to self-publish a picture book?
It depends on how well I know the author and whether I like the story or not.
Has any of your work appeared in magazines?
A couple appeared in pedagogic magazines. And a lot of work has been published in “BoekieBoekie”, a Dutch magazine for children with mainly stories and poems. They organize yearly competitions for young illustrators and I won their award in 2013. I’m also a member of their editorial board.
Do you have a studio in your house?
Yes. But I would love to start working outside my house. It’s easier to separate work and free time like this. And It would be less lonely as I’m looking for a studio in a creative environment with other designers.
Is there anything in your studio, other than paint and brushes that you couldn’t live without?
My Wacom is my paint and brushes, so that would be it. It’s a great tool.
Do you follow any type of routine to attain your career goals?
Get up at, at least, 8 am every morning.
Any exciting projects on the horizon?
There is a project that I will start working on soon. But as with many projects, it’s confidential. Until it’s out for everyone to see I can’t share any information. It’s hard for me sometimes as I am a real blabbermouth (but please don’t tell my clients).
Do you think the Internet has opened any doors for you?
Yes, very much. And I spend a lot of my time on online visibility. I have to update and promote my website and a lot of social media channels. I have a Facebookpage, Twitteraccount, I’m on LinkedIn, Instagram and a couple of portfolio sites like Dribbble and Behance. I think that building up a loyal following helps to grow your bussiness. And internet is a great way to do this.
What are your career goals?
My illustrations are great for stories and I like to see myself as a visual storyteller. But I would love to use them for more than books. Convey a message during a big campaine for example. Or create a stationairy or toy line based on a story. Create concept art for a kids tv series. I could go on and name more dream projects, you can use stories for everything. I would love to be able to experiment with different outcomes/forms and types of clients.
What are you working on now?
The design / artwork for an indie game. It’s called Moonlight Express and it will be released this Christmas. I’m collaborating with a developer based in Stockholm. And it’s very exciting!
Are there any painting tips (materials, paper, etc.) you can share that work well for you? Technique tips?
During my illustration study and carreer I developed a way of working that is mainly self teached and very personal. So it’s hard for me to give quick advise. But if you’re thinking about picking up your first Photoshop brush, use a graphic tablet for it and toss your computer mouse. Watch tutorials, but do your own thing. Find what feels good.
Any words of wisdom you can share with the illustrators who are trying to develop their career?
Do more of what you love. Or work towards it. Use it to build up your portfolio. You will get the projects that you show on your portfolio. So if you want to be a children’s book illustrator, make sure you show children’s books. And if you cannot find a publisher, make one yourself and show it to them. Or illustrate existing (short) stories without creating a book. Create the illustrations for it. People don’t care if they are commissioned. They care about the quality. And maybe they will like it so much it will get published in the future!
Thank you Lea for sharing your talent, process, journey, and expertise with us. Please make sure you keep in touch and share your future successes with us. To see more of Lea’s work, you can visit her at website at: http://www.leavervoort.nl/
If you have a minute, please leave a comment for Lea. I am sure she’d love it and I enjoy reading them, too. Thanks!