Hello Maarten, please tell us a bit about yourself?
Hey! Well, I'm a guy from Tilburg, Holland. Almost 30. I make drawings, I listen to music. I buy records. Play bass a bit, skateboard occasionally. I live in Paris at the moment with my girl and cat.
How did you first start off as an illustrator?
My first jobs were kind of appearing during the last year of my illustration studies at St. Joost artschool in Breda. I had been posting drawings and sketches online for years already and so some people started to contact me. My first real projects that I am proud of were for the great Dutch DIY record label Quadrofoon. They trusted me with doing some album covers for vinyl only albums, which was a great start that I am proud of. It was a great foundation, because I knew already that I wanted to focus on making art for bands.
Please take us through your initial thought process when you start a new project?
For client work I am lucky to have a lot of personal freedom most of the time. I usually start off right away exchanging ideas and themes back and forth with the client. Most of the time bands will send me music as well. I will then pretty much zone out, do research on those first ideas and anything that arises, and just try to compose that into something usable. It's almost a subconscious process. Depending on the project and client I can have projects where I work very expressive, but other times I'm required to have a more specific approach.
You have done a lot of work for the Roadburn Festival, how did you first start working with them?
When I was in artschool, I was always picking up the free posters in the library. One day I found a Roadburn Festival poster and the vibe immediately appealed to me. Then I saw the names on there, names like Hawkwind, Leaf Hound, Brant Bjork.. in my hometown! I contacted the festival and ended up doing some small flyer type work, that was great practice for me. In 2008 I visited for the first time and felt right at home.
All the music and people appealed to me and there was a strong focus on artwork with these bands as well, which challenged me right off the bat. Later the organiser would contact me again and ask me to do more stuff, which snowballed. Now I regularly make official band posters, and help out with graphic design stuff like band announcements and stage backdrops.
How would you best describe Dutch illustration?
That's a tough question. I think Dutch illustration has a tendency to be close to graphic design. It's modern and playful. Generally speaking I don't relate to a lot of it but that doesn't mean that I think it's bad. There are some great illustrators coming up as well. Personally I like illustration to have an artists' expression, if that makes sense; To see the expression of the particular illustrator in there, and not just see an exercise in style, done over and over again.
Who are your favorite artists?
Well, it always changes and I always forget some names when I am asked. Robert Crumb and Lorenzo Mattotti inspired me a lot, especially in my art school period. Some of my heroes would also be the likes of Hans Arnold, Virgil Finlay, Harry Clarke, Beardsley, Roger Dean as far as illustration type work.. The 60s poster artists like Victor Moscoso, Stanley Mouse, Rick Griffin etc. And artists like Munch, Klimt, Max Ernst are very high on my list. These are some names that inspire my work directly, but of course it's a whole other topic.
You do a lot of album covers, but what music styles do you prefer?
I don't think in styles too much. I've always been obsessed with music and I guess I am a collector. Psych, soul, funk, hard-rock, soundtracks, folk, metal, hip-hop, jazz, ambient, blues, country, you name it.. I love to discover, keep my ears and mind open. I like intense music. But even Hank Williams or John Coltrane are heavy to me. I've never understood people that limit themselves to one genre or niche. On any given day I go from Black Sabbath to Tangerine Dream, Miles Davis to Lee Hazlewood, Howlin' Wolf to Funkadelic.. There's so much music!
What would you say is your ultimate goal as an illustrator?
I guess one of my ambitions has always been to try and never to make the same thing twice. I always challenge myself to keep exploring and keep developing. To keep things fun and expressive, which is really not as easy as it sounds. I would really love to have my own printing studio and print whatever I want, whenever I want, and explore different printing techniques. And of course I would love to work with someone like Bjork one day.
Any words of wisdom you would like to share with us?
Probably to stay true to yourself and be patient. Don't just follow trends. Never work for free. Even if you're starting out as an illustrator, just work with tiny amounts, it'll teach you to take yourself more serious. Also, learn how to switch between artist and secretary. What I mean with that is I spend a good chunk of time speaking about formal affairs. It feels good to start working on a project knowing that your client agreed on and respects your price and conditions.
Could you recommend any good publications or websites?
I have a big book called "The Art Of Rock", which is pretty much my bible. Any illustrator or designer focussed on poster work should check that out, I've never seen anything like it. Tumblr and Instagram are amazing, I like to dig deep in there.. Also, I have a bunch of archive website standby for poster and pulp inspiration, but that is classified information ;)
A big thanks to Maarten Donders for taking the time to do the interview!
For more information and amazing works from Maarten Donders, please visit: http://www.maartendonders.com/All artwork featured in this interview is copyrighted and owned by Maarten Donders. Please do not use any of the images without written permission from the artist.