As you’re not explicitly trying to replicate something old, something new will start to evolve.

Stefan Glerum

ART  .  April 11th, 2021

Who are you Stefan?

I’m an illustrator from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. At the moment I’m moving more to autonomous projects in sculpture and woodworking.

What can we find in your head?

Generally a lot of excitement towards learning these skills into woodworking and figuring out how to translate 2d designs to actual 3d forms that need to be made using machines in the workshop. So how to achieve these designs limiting yourself to geometric shapes.

How did you develop this distintive, vintage and yet modern style?

When I started in art school I didn’t feel that much of a connecting with vector based illustrations which were kind of a big thing then. I liked hand drawn work, so for reference I’d look at a lot of avant garde design and typography from the start of the 20th century and found out a lot of these shapes were based on geometric forms. Forms you develop when working with a ruler and compass. Using these tools, your drawings will evoke a bit of that sensibility from designs past, but as long as you’re not explicitly trying to replicate something old, something new will start to evolve.

Where is this passion for means of transportation coming from?

I think it has to do a lot with the toys and models you grow up with. I’ve never been a proper car enthousiast or something, I was always more into how the ships in the old Star Wars were designed. Also the sixties aesthetics of the Thunderbirds and the vehicles from that series.

What type of vehicle is your favorite and why?

I think I like the blockade runner from Star Wars A new Hope the best. It has this tube like body that still looks somewhat like an old realistic NASA kind of space station with docking rings etc, but at the same time it’s this worn out crunchy battleship. I also like that before all the sense of wonderment was kicked out of starwars with all the cgi crap it was kind of hard to really pinpoint what the scale of these ships were. You kind of had to piece this together yourself looking at design sketches from these ‘making of’ books and sticking your nose up to the television screen.

What’s the best project you ever worked on?

A lot of different projects have different things going for them, but the most memorable has been the stained glass for Ymere. It was such a huge project, the client was absolutely fantastic and supportive and it was so great learning from the stained glass studio how to make a drawing actually work in stained glass, it’s pretty hard to beat that one. To see the whole stained glass structure of 18 meters coming together was a sight to behold.

In general, what’s your favorite type of project?

Where you got asked more as an artist with a lot of creative freedom and less of as an illustrator having to tie in to existing subject matter. Unless the subject matter is sci-fi or pop-culture ;)  Generally editorial illustration about normal life, finances, a pandemic here or there, that is not really my thing.

Do you only work by hand or do you use a computer sometimes?

I always start out by hand. I sketch with a pencil and after that I ink with pen and ink. After that, for autonomous work I’d color the drawing using ecocline or watercolors. For a commissioned illustration I’d scan the black and white drawing and color it in photoshop. 

Please guide us through your process from the first idea to the final result. You can take this image you did for Sir Adam as an example.

Well this one actually started out as a design for a mural in the Sir Adam hotel. In the process it got moved to use on their record cover they supply to all the hotel rooms (which have record players).

But the design started out by making something that would fit that particular wall along a staircase. So that is why it’s a longer shaped flying car. If I remember correctly it was their request to have something associated with bands or music, so I made it kind of a flying tourbus. The process is pretty much as I described in the previous question, but for this one I built up the vehicle in photoshop from shapes that I had handdrawn as separate elements, so I could build up the vehicle modularly, kind of what I’m doing now with the wooden models.

I printed out the vehicle and drew the whole band on tracing paper over the print. Scanned that in and colored it in photoshop. As for the typography that is also handmade which I cut and pasted in photoshop to the form all the titles and tracks etc.

How was is to work with Jägermeister?

I’ve worked on several occasions with Jagermeister or Jagermusic, always through a bureau that used to do a popular DJ magazine in the Netherlands. I’ve been working with them from the start of my career, so it always has been a good relationship. For the special edition bottle it was especially interesting to work with these hidden printed layers that were activated by low temperatures and the golden layers. That made it feel very unique.

You’re also into model making, from the cover of Awanto 3 to your recent wood figurine. Can you tell us more about this? 

Since I was a kid I’ve always been into modelmaking. In my professional life I’ve always wanted to incoorporate models into illustration/art but could never find the time or the proper project for it. I had made attempts but other work always got in the way of it. I guess around 5/6 years ago I saw that techniques in modelmaking, FX, mold making, figurine sculpting etc were becoming more and more accessible through YouTube and saw all these people doing it. I was like, ‘what am I waiting for, I have all these ideas laying around doing nothing’. So i actively started to make time to incorporate ‘analog’ 3D in my professional life. That means making time to develop skills and learning, so taking on less illustration work, but also trying to see if certain projects were I’d traditionally would have done an illustration could be done with a 3d object or diorama instead.

How long did this Awanto 3 ship take to build? Can you tell us about the process?

That brings me to the Awanto 3 cover; I’ve known Awanto 3 for a long time, also the Dekmantel label is very open to creative ideas, so I felt there was room for doing something 3 dimensional. The music felt analog and futuristic to me, with a bit of humor. Since the record was called Gargamel (the bad guy from the smurfs), I tried to translate Gargamel’s head into a spaceship. I built this ship from geometric plastic parts, plastic strips and found parts from model kits. The same technique of how the models in the old star wars, alien, star trek were built (scratchbuilding, kit bashing). I then sprayed it grey, to tie everything together. I photographed it on a blue paper background, which gave it a kind of late seventies product photo look, and used my graphics to hint a little bit at playful times past. I think the process took two weeks in total, that was mainly because I didn’t work from a sketch or plan, but just let the material guide me. If I’d do it now with a plan in mind, I could do it much faster.

Please tell us everything about your amazing modular models project you’re working.

For the past year I’ve been working with a small research grant from dutch cultural fund ‘Stimuleringsfonds’ to develop my work in 3d. My initial idea was to make prototypes of the kind of flying cars I use in my drawings (the Sir Adam one for instance), and see to what extent I can make them modular. So as a client buying a (scale model) car you’d have all these customizable options to compose your car. Trying to make these models I had to learn new techniques, because my techniques in plastic were limited to fairly small models and mostly hard edge shapes. For nice round shapes I had to learn to use a lathe and woodturning. I had to learn a lot of other techniques in woodworking, and completely fell in love with it.

It gave me all kinds of new ideas and I’m exploring all kinds of different options I could go with this project and also routes I could take with making 3d work. I’ve also been sculpting in clay and making molds, painting and airbrushing, to create figurines. I like combining multiple materials, textures and shapes it’s really surprising what can come out. So i think I’ve let chance become a larger part of my work, which is really exciting.

For now, it’s research into modulair models, the endresult is still something that i have to think about. The objective at first was to have models and figures in a modulair system that would serve as collectibles. During my research i liked working with wood so much i might rather have the models to be one off handmade ‘art’ pieces than manufactured collectibles. or they could serve for an animation, be a playset for adults, or they could be multiple things. On one hand, i like the unpolished roughness of these geometrical shapes in unfinished wood. On the other hand, i really like sculpted and casted figures. and i really like the combination/juxtapostion of wood with plastic, or different types of wood together. painted/unpainted, light/dark etc. it’s safe to say that i really enjoy the process of working with my hands and learning these techniques.

I mostly learned this stuff from youtube. i also took a small course in woodturning and metalturning. my neigbours in my studiobuilding are woodworkers and gave me a lot of advice. comes in very handy! unfortunately i had to find out the hard way i’m wildly allergic to wooddust, so i have to look something like a spacetraveller myself when i handle wood ;)

What’s next for you?

Continuing with my adventures in 3d and hopefully be able to show the result with nice art shows after this shitstorm of a pandemic is over!