Interview: Joren Joshua
Freelance illustrator, Joren Joshua, travels to his studio in the ‘Wild West’ of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, to create pertly, playful and humorous drawings that continue to impress both fellow artists and art lovers alike.
On the heels of his inclusion in Antigoon’s ‘Exquisite Corpse’ exhibition, Joren talks to us about his journey into illustration, switching it up in the studio, his lasting love for wall paintings and much more.
Nice to meet you, Joren! First, tell us a little bit about yourself and what encouraged you to become an illustrator.
My name is Joren Joshua and I’m a freelance illustrator from Rotterdam, the Netherlands. My mother told me that when I was a baby, I didn’t like to lie down, but instead wanted to be carried in such a way that I was able to look around. And I think that looking to the world around you is the basis for all image makers. I used to process an enormous amount of input by turning it into stories that I enacted myself, so lego, playing dress-up and drawing was a huge part of my youth.
Back then though, drawing was more of a game or expression. Therefore, the final result didn’t really matter. As I got older, I lost a bit of the playfulness and the fun of drawing. And there was then years where I created almost nothing. I think the turning point was when I moved to a bigger city at the age of 15, and graffiti became very important to me. I rediscovered that sort of playfulness and my drawing talent began to flourish again. From then on, everything became a relatively logical step to the point where I am now.
And what formal or informal trainging have you had?
After high school, I started my education at the Academy of Arts in Breda. There, I studied in its illustration department for four years – finishing in 2012.
My drawings are also not ready-to-eat, meaning that the people often have to look more than once to understand them. As my friend put it, it’s not a bag of chips that you can finish in just a second.
What three words would you use to describe your style?
Pertly, humorous and lively. I think they are the key words for most of my images. I do spend a lot of time perfecting the poses of my figures, but I think it’s important for my drawings to remain playful still. My drawings are also not ready-to-eat, meaning that the people often have to look more than once to understand them. As my friend put it, it’s not a bag of chips that you can finish in just a second.
Who or what are you inspired by?
There are so many image makers – past and present – to whom I look up to, but just as with music, tastes change. And it’s not just the illustrators that I know from books or the Internet who inspire me most, but people I know personally too. My girlfriend, Ilse Weisfelt, is also an illustrator and has meant to a lot to my own development. Also, Rick Hedof, Aron Vellekoop Leon and Olivier Vrancken are names that I have to mention. As well as their awesome and inspiring work, they have helped me with their tips, tricks and endless motivation. Furthermore, I try to get inspiration from everything I see around me to create my own images – from big cities to subways to bars.
What is a typical day like for you, and how do you usually approach your work?
My days are somewhat changeable, but I think that’s also the charm of a freelancer’s life. Nevertheless, I try to keep some regularity in my days. After my hot shower and strong cup of coffee, I jump on my bike and ride to the ‘Wild West’ of Rotterdam, where my studio is on the third floor of a vacant building. It’s a trip with lots of wind and an enormous bridge!
I spend most of my time sketching to create images that so closely match the images that I have in my mind. I fine tune my first sketches using a light box and then develop them digitally. I usually work until 6pm, after which, I drink a beer, and eat some chips and nuts. To me, cooking is such a relaxing activity, so I take the time for it. Later in the evening, I often watch a movie or darts, or I sketch a bit on my pink magnetic drawing board until midnight.
I really like to change the materials that I’m using, and I’m always searching for new techniques that are best suited to me.
So you mentioned some of the materials you use already, but are there any other techniques or materials that you favour?
I really like to change the materials that I’m using, and I’m always searching for new techniques that are best suited to me. Sometimes I sketch with a refillable lead pencil, and sometimes with felt-tip pens or normal pens. I also use Photoshop to colour in my drawings, but for my personal, non-commissioned work, I also like to use paint, ink or paper. I prefer to turn my digital drawings into screen prints or wall paintings too. And, of course, latex paint and graffiti spray cans are toys for an illustrator like me.
Do you have any personal favourites among your work thus far?
Absolutely! I have a big wall painting in Tilburg. To make images on such a large scale – and completely by hand – feels best to me. I also like collaborations because the designs you make with somebody else are often more surprising than those you make alone. Furthermore, to work together a whole week in the rain on a cherry picker is also just much more fun.
Speaking of collaborations, you were recently a part of the ‘Exquisite Corpse’ exhibition, curated by Antigoon. How did it feel to be chosen as one of his favourite illustrators, and what was that whole experience like for you?
To be honest, it wasn’t that big of a surprise because Antigoon is a good friend of mine! That doesn’t mean, however, that he didn’t make a careful selection, so I’m very happy to be included. It stays, of course, a funny and exciting system, especially because the result still has to be printed and exposed. I know I can work perfectly together with Ilse, but now we really had to trust each other. And believe me, I had no clue at all what her drawings looked like!
With large paintings you have to delve even deeper in to the heart of the matter than you do on paper… preparations are of great importance. A perfect sketch and good materials are necessary if you work on such difficult surfaces as a wrong action is, after all, hard to erase.
You also talked a little bit about creating wall paintings earlier too – and you do create some very cool murals! In what ways is the process of working on buildings, walls, etc. different to working on paper?
Not every illustration lends itself to be painted on large scale. In my view, with large paintings you have to delve even deeper in to the heart of the matter than you do on paper. Small details are often left out because it’s impossible to draw them all. It’s of course much more labor-intensive than emptying your Photoshop bucket! And you have to deal with the direct environment or a surface that influences your illustration. Also the preparations are of great importance. A perfect sketch and good materials are necessary if you work on such difficult surfaces as a wrong action is, after all, hard to erase.
All of my collaborations with Ilse have been dream collaborations for me!
And what about a dream brief?
Until now, wall paintings have captured my heart the most, and in the future, I hope to make more of them – and on a much larger scale than I’m making them now. It would be cool to paint them in different countries too; in a place where the sun always shines and there are plenty of palm trees! But actually, I just want to make all kinds of things and not restrict myself too much to doing one thing. It would be a nice challenge to create a whole collection for a big clothing brand, or to illustrate a music video.
What do you get up to when you’re not drawing?
It’s funny that this is a hard question to answer! Actually, in my free time, I like to paint graffiti with my friends, but that’s still drawing. I like to meet up with friends, cook extensive meals and ‘accidently’ drink a few beers too much, leading to nights that end with breakdance battles….
I’ve finished a nice job for a new company that makes custom-made suits; I’ve made a design for the inside of the suits that will come out soon. There is an upcoming expo where I’ll work with Ilse again, which will result in lots of new illustrations.
And finally, where do you hope to be in 5-10 years time?
Just as most illustrators, I hope to have gained my place in the competitive world of illustration, and to be an example for other designers. I especially hope to make a variety of work in different places. There is always the possibility of life abroad for a while, too. I hope that I’ll make that step once in my life.