Interview: Rick ‘Hedof’ Berkelmans
A vibrant mix of images, typography and color defines the style of Netherlands artist Rick Berkelman. Combining fresh illustrations with a unique vintage look achieved through his preferred medium of screen printing, his clients include the likes of Google, Redbull, Facebook and Sony Playstation.
Rick lives and works in Breda where he runs his one man design studio Hedof. Later this month, he will present his first collection of original paintings at Art Rebel’s Gallery in Copenhagen, alongside artist Monica Ramos as part of a new exhibition titled ‘The Build Up’ presented by YOUR-OWN agency.
We caught up with Rick to find out more about the show and what inspired this new direction.
So, you’re currently preparing your new exhibition ‘The Build Up’ – can you tell us about the artwork you’ve made for the exhibition and what inspired the title of the show? We heard this is the first time you’ve created paintings.
Yes, I usually focus on screen printing or other printing techniques. But I have experience with painting too, so lately I have worked on a few wall paintings and I began to play with the idea of a series of original works. I experimented with some different paints and inks on different surfaces but eventually chose acrylics on paper. I mixed 4 colors and approached the pieces the same way as i would do with screen printing. One layer in one of the four colors and a second layer in black. I curated 18 of my favorite sketches in my sketchbook and scaled them to the right size, I spent two days painting them in my studio. Whilst painting I listened a lot of quiet music like Kings of Convenience, to help me concentrate hahaha, “The Build Up” was one of my favorite songs, and I think it maybe reflects this new direction in my work.
As a kid, I always liked playing outside, building crazy things, playing with my food and of course drawing. all things I was into; dinosaurs, free willy, wild animals, action comics, I turned them into drawings. Later, when I went to art school and studied illustration, I wasn’t too excited about the program and spend most of my time partying, skateboarding and painting graffiti. But luckily my interest shifted towards illustration in my final year and i got more focused on a career as a professional illustrator.
Who do you admire in the industry, do you have any creative heroes?
Like a lot of other illustrators I am inspired by mid century design and illustration. Artists like Charley Harper, Alexander Girard, Heinz Edelman, Olle Eksel, but also painters like Henry Matisse. I also am a big fan of Russian childerens book illustration from the early 20th century, like the work of Elisabeth Ivanovsky. I also like contemporary illustration. I am a big fan of vector based illustrators like Malika Favre, Olimpia Zagnoli, Sue Doeksen and Loulou & Tummie. The difference with contemporary illustration is that i get really motivated to create awesome work like my colleagues instead of being inspired by what they make.
Screen printing has been a staple in your portfolio for some time now – how did you discover this way of working?
Like I said I wasn’t paying too much attention at school but halfway my final year. My friends and i want to organize a series op parties called Disko Vraiment. Being poor students, we couldn’t afford to print posters and flyers so i came up with the idea of screen printing the design at the printing workshop at school. When I lifted the screen and saw my design for the first time, it was like love at first sight and I knew that this way of image making was what I had been looking for. Screen-printing exists out of a couple of really interesting contradictions; all those little mistakes give the work that nonchalant and tactile look, but it also appears clever and professional. Working with certain restrictions within the technique makes the result much more interesting.
When I graduated I had no portfolio whatsoever so nobody knew me and I had zero commissions – but a lot of free time and a new found love for printing – I made a lot of prints that soon found a way into exhibitions, the internet and of course clients who wanted to work with me.
Describe your working process, how do you record ideas and create artwork – what software / materials do you like to use?
Because my working process was so based on preparing designs for screen printing, I later started working in a similar way for clients. Even though this is a lot of extra work most of the time, it felt right for me and I guess it has a big visual influence on my work in general. Almost all my work is drawn by hand, I spend most of my time drawing, exploring and experimenting. Nine out of ten drawings are crap but i curate all the little drawings i do like on to new sheets of paper. This collection is the foundation for my work and i usually work from there. I scan my final drawings into the computer and work them out digitally in photoshop by erasing all my line work and create new shapes in different color layers.
When you’re not working, whats your favourite way to spend the day? Where do you like to hang out / escape and get some thinking time?
I’m a big movie fan and I own a big dvd collection that I keep on alphabetical order haha. I share my studio with a friend and fellow illustrator ZenkOne (www.zenkone.nl), and because we have a huge white wall, we often have movie nights with friends in the studio. I also like to spend my evenings walking in the forrest or at the canals close to our house with my girlfriend Anneke, and talk about all the small and big stuff. Besides that I’m into cooking, eating, drinking and hanging out with my friends. Just enjoying the good life.
How did you first meet Jeroen Smeets (of YOUR.OWN agency) and get involved with the various projects he curates? What do you enjoy most about your relationship?
When I graduated, Jeroen was an editor at Reload, a skateboarding magazine that I really liked, so I contacted him with a promotional poster. Like most times, clients don’t have a suitable project for you right away but he contacted me about a year later when he had purchased one of my prints at an exhibition. From that moment we started working together on various projects and now, almost four years later I consider him more as a good friend instead of an agent or client. It’s really nice to work with him on all sorts of projects as much as hanging out with him. He is just super stoked and dedicated in all the things he does.
I can’t imagine living a day without creating something. I always feel the urge to just make new things. It is what I enjoy doing most and how I feel like good person contributing to society.
What’s next for Hedof? Any thoughts on the kind of projects, collaborations, experiences you hope to cultivate for yourself over the next few years?
I really hope to continue working as an illustrator on all kinds of cool projects for the next decade. Simultaneously I try to work on my name and reputation as an illustrator so I can set up my own brand in the future. I don’t know what kind of brand yet, still figuring this out… Maybe it could be a skateboard brand, clothing line, children’s toys, stationary or whatever…I will just keep on dreaming and creating something positive!