Pretty Profiles: Wijtze Valkema
Currently Listening To: The original XFM series with Ricky Gervais, Stephen Merchant and the round-headed buffoon that is Karl Pilkington.
Favorite Coffee: Guatemala Santa Rosa, ground roughly and slowly dripped through my trusty Chemex.
Tell us about yourself and the kind of work you create.
I am a Netherlands based commercial illustrator, focusing on one-image projects for the editorial market with room for illustrating for the advertising industry, agencies and identity work. My personal work is often print based: posters, booklets, cycling apparel, stickers. I have a background in graphic design which shows in my illustration style: graphic, shape-based, composition-driven illustrations. I also love comics and stories which is why I work with characters a lot. My work needs to provide upbeat illustrations in a grey world. If I am only adding dull content to a grey world, if it doesn't stand out or make you happy, it isn't good enough.
What is your typical day like? Are there any challenges that you face on a consistent basis?
We're creatures of narrow habit, and my work day looks like this most of the time: Starting the day reading emails, doing social media, reading news, making a rough to do list for the day and then juggling multiple projects at the same time. For one project it means reading articles and sketching out ideas on my iPad Pro while another project is in the digital stage so I will be laying out compositions in Adobe Illustrator.
Client contact and feedback processing happens throughout the day. I usually end the day contacting potential clients, updating portfolios and personal projects. Admin is somewhere in there too. I try to stick to office hours as much as I can. Exceptions to this routine are days when I plan meetings outside my studio when I'll often take a train and combine meetings with working from a coffee shop, and days where I get to ride my bike for a couple hours to recharge, think and relax.
Tell us about your side project, Drip for Drip.
Working from home doing projects with quick turnaround means I don't get to interact with humans a lot. Even client contact is quick and efficient and I'd been thinking about a side project that included more personal collaboration, networking and online friendship. I came up with Drip For Drip where I trade coffee cup illustrations with internet friends.
The cups are dummies, I print templates that I glue into cup shapes and photograph them with a take away lid on top. I curate the photos on a website and recently have started to flesh out the website more as a blog, adding written content and sections to it as we go.
I do artist profiles every Tuesday in a series called Introtuesday, I send out artists for a coffee break in return for a napkin doodle in Drip-a-Doodle, I write about digital illustration tips and hope to explore doing printed content as well as video in the future with Drip For Drip.
What do you see as the “next step” for Drip for Drip?
Running Drip For Drip by myself, there's only so much time I have for curating coffee cup trades and to write content. That being said, I would love to explore new ways to spotlight commercial art and the things that inspire artists. I'd love to do a bigger printed project one day, a magazine or newspaper for example. I'd love to welcome sponsorships to the coffee cups by connecting the artists to clients and brands. As an enthusiastic cyclist (both road and mountainbike) I am also trying to see if I can merge commercial art and cycling on the blog in some form and I would love to explore video content as well. New features and content always takes a lot of time so in the meantime I'm also keeping focus on sharing artist profiles and trading coffee cups.
Drip for Drip and Pretty Picture Club have a lot in common - freelancers looking to connect, socialize, and challenge themselves creatively. In what ways do you feel community has helped you along your creative path?
Drip For Drip helps develop my style in the way that I use the cups to try out new techniques and work processes, and it also builds a network in a natural way. As our content gets shared around, I've seen my clients hire the artists I feature and in return, their clients have hired me after finding my portfolio through the collaboration. It is very exciting realizing this little coffee cup project I started in 2014 actually brings people together and I'm looking forward where it will take us next.
How do you manage so many projects at one time? Are there any projects that you've been dying to get back to, but you don't have time for?
My commercial work is mostly editorial which is a world of fast deadlines and tight budgets. To make a living doing editorial work you need a lot of projects coming in all the time. Juggling multiple smaller projects per day is just part of the game. With small budgets and tight deadlines, there's a bit of perfectionism you have to let go. At some point, the deadline decides when a piece is done, even before your creativity agrees. You can't make your best work ever six times a day, so you'll have to be able to settle for 'good enough within the time and money given'. It also puts time pressure on your personal work because you will run out of time before you run out of ideas.
One of the things I do to stay sane is to be very careful taking on larger projects and projects with a bigger turnaround as these tend to eat up concentration and creativity quicker than smaller projects. A while ago I got an iPad Pro to try out more organic styles, but it's been really difficult finding enough time to develop a satisfying work process, so that's something I definitely want to get back to. Another thing I'd love to do again this year is putting together an exhibition of new, personal work. Just waiting for that extra couple of weeks time somewhere along the way.