Your work would be right at home in an Enid Blyton book. Who were your favourite authors growing up?
First of all, thanks! I’m very flattered to be associated with Enid Blyton! When I was little, I started reading my mother’s books pretty quickly. At age 11, I was reading Bukowski (without understanding everything) and many more, including Simone de Beauvoir, Marcel Proust or John Irving.
I also read what was recommended to me at school, and when I liked an author, I read more of their books. That way I learned about and enjoyed Jules Renard, René Goscinny or the Countess of Ségur.
Later I got into the classic SF of Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke and horror stories from Stephen King, Clive Barker or Dean Koontz.
Can you recall the first drawing you ever made, what was it?
I honestly can’t remember my first drawing, there were so many. My mom tried to keep the most important ones but she gave up soon after. Like many illustrators, I feel like I always drew. The best thing my mother did for me was putting a black pen and blank sheets of paper in my hands. I was often sick as a child, so drawing was another world for me.
Later on I spent hours watching people in the bus, in the streets so I could draw them. I drew everywhere, even in the classroom. I’d rather draw than go out and see the outside world, it actually never changed. I’d much rather spend days (and nights) drawing and painting than see actual people.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
Mostly music. Not so much the lyrics, but the mood, the atmosphere. It’s all about the mood. If I’m depressed, I’ll need some time to make a colourful/joyful illustration. In order to achieve that, I’ll listen to music that corresponds to the mood I want/need to be in, and after a couple of tracks, I’m good to go. Which is actually pretty useful : if I have to draw something dark/haunted, I’ll listen to Nine Inch Nails/Trent Reznor. If I need something more child-like, it’s gonna be Ravel. I guess I’m programming my brain a certain way.
I don’t really have other inspiration sources, other than sudden flashes.
Are there any artists in particular that you admire?
I’ve always adored HR Giger, since the beginning. I remember saving money to buy his books, which I flipped and flicked constantly. I’ve always considered his work as out of the ordinary, and he’s probably the reason why I’ve been attracted to erotic art.
Enki Bilal also played a major role. The purity of his drawing line, his palette are still unrivalled today.
I’m also very interested in 70s/80s hand-drawn SF/horror book covers, many of them were fantastic. I also really like Paul Kidby’s work with Terry Pratchett.
Tell us a little about life in Belgium and if that has affected your work in anyway?
There’s not many graphic artists here. We do have some, but not much new blood. I may be wrong, of course, but it’s the impression I get. I grew up in a place that wasn’t culturally challenging. My mother helped me to rise above the surrounding moroseness, so to speak. She was the only extraverted person around, and she helped me, years before the internet, to reach the artistic world. But because of/thanks to my work, I never really felt like I was living here. I feel like life here is so boring.
But on the plus side, Belgium is well-located in Europe, so it’s pretty easy to go about anywhere. I recently went to Paris for a day, and I couldn’t stop staring at people, they were so… pretty. Here it feels like everyone looks like everyone else. Still, I know people, friends, who are like me. And I’m lucky enough to live with someone like-minded.
You love using bold colors in your work, even in pieces with a dark subject matter, how important do you think color is when it comes to setting the mood for a picture?
Funny you’d say that, because only recently a local artist told me I had issues with colours, that they were bland. I’m glad you can see the use of bold colours, I guess I got better. Or maybe he was jealous?
A photographer friend of mine told me that a touch of colour can change everything, and I think he’s right. In the beginning, I found it hard to find and use the right colours, probably because I draw before I color/paint. Using digital techniques and watercolour helped me a lot, and made me get better, even if I’m still very far from perfection.
I also specialise in old stuff. The colour of old paper, of the rusted tin box adds authenticity to the drawing. I like to switch from a simple drawing with an antique background (in brown, red and beige) to a fully-colored illustration, enhanced with a digital collage.
Your creations resound as deeply personal, how much of your own self do you put in to your work?
In the beginning, I oil-painted tortured stuff. There were many hard things going on in my life at the time, and I guess it translated into dismembered/disemboweled bodies. It was efficient anti-suicide therapy, but it wasn’t very popular, twenty years ago. So I learned to somewhat filter my work. Still personal, but accesssible. I once tried to remove that filter, as there was a resurgence of macabre art. But I couldn’t. Maybe I wasn’t able to, maybe I didn’t want to relive that era.
But I can’t not be personal. I wasn’t trained as an illustrator, and maybe you learn to make yourself a graphic identity when you go to art school, an identity that’s severed from your own self. But I don’t do that. That’s the reason why you won’t see me making a kids book cover plastered with big pink hearts. Been there, done that, didn’t work out.
What’s a normal day in your life like?
My husband works at home too, but he spends more time with our kids than me. In the morning I get up to help him dress them up, then he takes them to school and (yes!) I go back to bed. I get up around noon, check my mailbox, do some paperwork and then I spend a couple of hours making jewelry. I have customers buying my jewelry online and in several brick-and-mortar stores, so I have to work for them too, and make them happy. The in the middle of the afternoon, I work for my commissioned illustrations, then my kids get back from school. I take care of them, then do some pencil sketches with them playing around. Later in the evening I’ll be able to work these sketches digitally. Then we eat/bathe the kids/etc until they go to bed (around 7.30pm). And then, my work day as an illustrator really starts.
From 8pm to 2-3am I’m working for my personal projects, in front of my computer until I fall asleep, basically.
How would you collectively describe your work in your own words?
Whimsical (I love this word), varied, rather traditional and constantly evolving.
You have two children and five cats at home, not to mention your husband, how do you still manage
to find the time for your creations?
I sleep when I can, which isn’t easy because I need quite of lot of sleeping time to stay up. And yes, my husband helps a lot with children and cats!
It’s not easy, but I wouln’t have it any other way!
Because “Art is important, art is everything.”