Interview / Leonie Bos

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Interview with the Dutch illustrator, Leonie Bos.

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Hey Leonie, so where do you come from and where are you right now?

I’m from the south of the Netherlands, where I grew up in a small village. Although I’ve had a very happy childhood I couldn’t wait to break free. I was seventeen when I left home and after some detours I ended up in Amsterdam.

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Can you tell us more about this piece and the process of creation involved? [see above]

It was made in commission of Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant. During a couple of years I illustrated a hundred or so stories under the guidance of inspiring people like Theo Audenaert and Lucas van Esch, who gave all possible freedom to experiment. This particular image shows Belgrade’s BIGZ building. It’s part of a series where I was asked to illustrate a different city every week. These commissions probably made me truly aware of my love for architectural-esq objects, they were a game changer for me. I was already experimenting a lot with structures, reducing my color schemes, emphasising the empty areas of the image. With this commission, simply drawing buildings, everything fell together.

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What were your favorite activities when you were a child and what are they now?

That would have to be drawing. According to my mother I wanted to draw before I was even physically capable of holding a pencil. When I wasn’t drawing I was doing boy stuff; climbing trees, building huts, playing soccer.

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Did the birth of your daughter had a impact on your work/style?

Yes, very much in fact. Responsibility for her made me change course. I got pregnant shortly after graduating from art school, and was moving from squad to temporary one bedroom apartments. Before my pregnancy I had tried to get selected for the Ateliers, a prestigious postgraduate in Amsterdam. But I figured being pregnant wouldn’t get me very far. So Plan B was retrieving a Starting Grant. When that didn’t happen either I knew something had to change. Not only to provide for my newborn, making a living in Amsterdam is challenging as it is.

As many big cities it does not reward mucking about. I decided to try webdesign. I’m always anxious to learn new stuff, webdesign was something else alright. This was 1999, and I hardly ever touched a computer up until then. But I taught myself writing HTML and surprisingly soon I had a proper job with a large publisher. I stayed for a couple of years, first as a webdesigner and working my way up to being art director for several magazines. During this time I realised what I actually preferred doing was making the illustrations. So I quit my job to be able to focus completely on illustrating. My first client came within a month, nrc next, a well respected and large Dutch newspaper, which immediately got the ball rolling.

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Not long ago you joined the illustration agency, Handsome Frank (just like me hé!)- how did they find you and can you tell us more about that?

Handsome Frank wrote me an email one day, asking if I wanted to join. In the previous months I was already being approached by a few other agencies, but I declined, waiting for the right one. When visiting London’s Illustration Festival Pick Me Up two years before, I first saw Handsome Frank and the illustrations they presented really stood out for me. So when they emailed me in the beginning of this year I was to-tal-ly excited and didn’t hesitate for a second to accept their offer.

What are you working on these days?

All kinds of things. I recently illustrated a beer can for an American brand, and I’m really excited to see the outcome. What’s better than drinking beer out of your own designed can??

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Give us 2 songs you love at the moment.

Easy, all day every day, these two:
– Eightball by Underworld
– Head On/Pill by King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard.

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Which period of time has the biggest influence on your creations (in term of interior design, architecture, …) and why do you like it?

I get my influences from a lot of different styles. Whether it’s Brutalist architecture, Amsterdamse School tapestries, Memphis design, etc. But I think what they all have in common, and what especially attracts me to it, is a certain clarity and simplicity.

Would you like to craft real furnitures one day?

For sure! I first would need a few hours extra in a day, but I would absolutely love to be able to create actual 3 dimensional objects. It doesn’t necessarily have to be furniture, or made out of wood, for that matter. Just working with physical matter is definitely something that I would love to experiment with one day.

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What’s next for you?

I would love to get my own show one day. I’m more and more trying to find a way to combine commissions with autonomous fine art, there lies my challenge. I push myself really hard, I’m rather self-critical and fanatic, often making things harder for myself then necessary, I’m fully aware. I keep seeing imperfection in every image I create. But this constant struggle to improve myself time after time is addictively fun and exciting! And that’s a good thing because I will never be satisfied anyway :)

What are you going to do just after having answered to this final question?

I’m waiting for a client to react to some initial sketches. So in them meantime I’m getting my hands dirty with actual charcoal and paint. Giving that fine-art-thing another shot. I can do that now that I have my very own studio, the first since that pregnancy! It beats the kitchen table a whole lot! Good things will come from this :)

Merci beaucoup Leonie !

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