Analog to digital: Dutch illustrator Sandy Van Helden shares her latest work
Hailing from the Netherlands Sandy Van Helden creates strikingly simple, stylish illustrations.
Dutch illustrator Sandy Van Helden grew up in a small town called Leiden near the seashore in the Netherlands. “Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to become an illustrator.” says the artist. “The first time my parents asked what I wanted to be when I grew up I said; ‘tekenares’ (which is the Dutch word for a draughtswoman). Back in the day, I wasn’t familiar with the term illustrator, but I was certain I wanted to pursue a career in drawing.”
After high-school, she moved to Rotterdam to study illustration at the Willem de Kooning Academy. G raduating mid-2013 with a BA Illustration, it was then that she started developing her personal style, and at the beginning of 2015 took the plunge and started focusing on developing a freelance illustration career. Since then she has worked for national and international clients such as IKEA, Danone, L’Officiel, WIRED, and VSCO cam. Sandy lives and works in Amsterdam.
I share my studio with six other creatives, which is great. They really motivate and inspire me, always there to give me candid and constructive feedback.
“I share a studio space on the east side of the city. It’s an up and coming area, and super diverse; all types cultures come to together in this neighbourhood, and I try and reflect this diversity in my work.
“I’ve never deliberately decided upon a style; it’s grown organically. Nonetheless, over the years I have made some conscious decisions about my design process, gradually shifting from analog to digital. I’m a bit of a perfectionist which is the reason why I always felt frustrated working in analogue. I wasn’t able to change colour, composition or lines very easily, and always lost the feeling of the material when I translated it to a digital version. For this reason I started increasingly working more and more digitally. At the moment I’m doing almost all of my illustrations on an iPad Pro (which I fell madly in love with a couple of months ago!)
I’m passionate about food. On the weekends I love to look through my cookery books to find new recipes and go to the market and browse for the perfect ingredients. I don’t like cooking for just me, so most of the time I invite friends over for food and drinks. More often than not we end up going dancing somewhere in the city.
If I had unlimited time and money I would love to do more product design; translating my illustrations onto rugs, working with the Textile Museum here in Tilburg; they have amazing weaving machines and often collaborate with artists.
In general I collect pretty things, from packaged products to record sleeves and ceramics. The product itself doesn’t matter most of the time, it’s the aesthetic that draws me in to buying an object. In my studio there are shelves above my desk where I keep all of these various objects; which means I can keep my desk clean and have space to work and think.
At the moment I’m reading ‘Just kids’ by Patti Smith for the second time. I especially love the beginning of the book when she describes the time that she just moved to New York in the seventies, and how she and her friends were trying to make it as artists. The energy of New York around that time seems magical to me. Next to that, I have a 90’s black & white photography book by Karl Lagerfeld on my bookshelf, which I stole from my dad, and a lot of small weird zines from independent publishers.
Recently I visited Japan and bought some Japanese markers called Magic Ink. They come in beautiful colors and are fantastic to work with (even though you get mega high from their smell HAHA). In the future, I’d like to start working with screen-printing and risograph printing again. I used to do it a lot in art school, but it’s hard to keep it up when you don’t have the workshop as a playground anymore.
Currently, I’m working on a personal project, within which I’m try to embrace imperfectness; quite a challenge for a perfectionist like me! (Which is precisely the reason why I started the project in the first place). I think it’s important to celebrate “shitty” work just as much as perfect “masterpieces”. The project is still in an early stage, so I can’t tell you much more about it yet. As for commercial projects, I’ve several things coming up; a monthly editorial series for a big online platform, customized products for a brand auction, and several portraits. I’d love to start doing murals next year, so I’m currently looking for opportunities within and beyond the Netherlands.
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