Wednesday, March 16, 2011

An Interview with Wouter Tulp

Though a resident of Rotterdam, Netherlands, Illustrator Woulter Tulp is swiftly gaining a reputation across the globe for his masterful caricatures. His amazing body of work, which spans from editorial and children's book illustration, cover art for the publishing industry, and concept art for animation, has garnered Wouter an enviable client list from across Europe and the U.S., including Reader's Digest, O Magazine, Playboy and Esquire. Since our character design students at AAU are studying and working on caricatures this week, I asked Wouter to share some of his experience and insights with us. He was kind enough to squeeze this interview into his very busy schedule. 


JGO:  Thank you so much for giving us your time to do this interview. First question; what kind of art education did you receive?

WT: I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember.  My father, who is a painter used to take me to the countryside from an early age to paint landscapes, and he taught me the basics of drawing and painting. I drew a lot of comics as a child, something I stopped doing since I went to the Willem de Kooning academy. Although the academy lacked technical schooling completely, my four years there gave me a chance to discover and explore a lot of art and illustration, meet professionals and get to know the world of illustration. Nowadays I keep educating myself by visiting workshops, reading books, looking at art, watching tutorial dvd’s and most of all, by painting and drawing.

JGO: Did you always have an interest in caricature, and how did you begin your career?

WT: I guess I did.  When I was about 8 years old, I used to draw caricatures of my classmates and teachers, or tv personalities, inspired by a book called: 'the arts of David Levine', containing many of his  caricatures and watercolors. He still has a huge influence on my work.


When I finished the art academy in 2001, I started freelancing immediately. The internet was not the mass medium it is nowadays, so I personally went to see every editorial department I could think of and show my portfolio there. In the beginning it was hard to get in,  but after a while it became easier to get jobs because I could show them some published work.  I used to take on every job I could get, which resulted in a varied portfolio. The good thing was, that it gave me the opportunity to learn a lot about the complete range of illustration jobs there are, and eventually what it is I want, and where I feel comfortable.


JGO: Who are some of your favorite caricaturists, both past and present?

WT: Daniel Adel, Natalie Ascencios, Philip Burke, David Levine, Hermann Mejia, Jan Opdebeeck, Jean Mulatier,Roberto Parada, Jason Seiler, Sebastian Kruger, Didier Loubat.

What these guys have in common, is their strong personal vision. In each of their illustrations you see strong decision making, and a personal touch. It goes far, far beyond just a big nose and a funny smile.

JGO: Could you tell us about some of the other artists who have inspired you over the years? 

WT: One of my major inspirations is John Singer Sargent (1856-1925).  When I first discovered his work, I was struggling with color and light. Studying his paintings made me see how he used color in his shadows, how he accented the important areas of a painting to lead the eye, and how he used edges. These, and many other techniques, I learned by studying the  paintings of John Singer Sargent.


Another influence is Andre Franquin (1924-1997). He’s a Belgian comic artist. His work is very funny, and the characters act so vividly.  I spent a lot of my childhood copying his drawings. At that moment, I had no idea, that a great understanding of human anatomy was needed to create such apparently simple characters. Their expressions and poses are extremely subtle.

                                                        Illustration by Andre Franquin

The work of Mary Blair made me see the power of design in an illustration. I was not aware of this  before I saw her beautifully balanced work, but now I can’t imagine myself doing an illustration without thinking of the design quality of it. She has such a beautiful way of composing colors, lines and shapes and combine 2D and 3D worlds in such a harmonious way. Very inspiring!

JGO:  What mediums or programs do you use to create your art?

WT: Digitally I mainly use Photoshop. Traditional mediums I use are: Gouache, oils, charcoal, acrylics, ink and (colored) pencil.



JGO: If an art student has never drawn a caricature before, what are some of the most important things that they should keep in mind as they begin?

WT: To me the most important thing to make any drawing is to answer this question: Why am I making this drawing? I ask myself this question in order to make as clear as possible what it is I want to communicate with my illustration.

The most common way of caricaturing is this: you look at someone, and you find out what features are typical for that person. Then you push those features. When you let ten caricaturists, or even a hundred, draw a caricature of the same person, all drawings will be different. That’s where it becomes interesting. When you are looking at your subject, the question you should ask yourself is not: ‘What do I “SEE”?’, but: ‘What do “I” see?’ . Find out what it is you see, feel or experience when you look at your subject, and magnify that.

These are questions you can ask yourself, before even putting a pencil on paper. To me they are very important, and I believe they lead to art that is personal and true.

The next step is: now that I know what I want: "How do I do it?"

To answer the question: “What do “I”see?” It is important to understand ‘What do I “SEE”. It is very important to understand shapes. You can study the traditional way of drawing portraits, which is the foundation for drawing caricatures. In caricatures, these shapes are moulded and moved around, to enhance the facial features, but maintain likeness. Study the shape of which a head consists, try to understand what is the essence of his likeness. What changes can I make to enhance likeness, and when does likeness disappear? How do the old masters use light to show the 3D features of a face, what is the effect of different colors in a face?

JGO: Can a caricature be pushed too far?

WT: I can't see how. How far a caricature is pushed all depends on what it is you want to express. The Caricatures of Grigor Eftomov are pushed extremely, but still they still get the message across.


                                                      Caricature by Grigor Eftimov, above

JGO:  Do you work from a single image as reference when creating a caricature, or a collection of images?

WT: I mentioned that shapes are very important. To get a good notion the three dimensionality of the facial shapes I always use several pictures. Even though I may end up using one image as main reference, I keep the other images for details, or shape information



JGO: What part of your work is the most fun? What part is the most difficult?

WT: I always love the creative process. So the stage where I come up with an idea and make several thumbnails, preliminary sketches and color sketches are the most fun. In this stage, anything can still happen.

I guess I am an optimist, for I don’t think in terms of ‘difficult’. Of course I struggle with many things, but to me it is always a challenge to find  out and learn from an experience when my skills or ideas fall short.

JGO: Which illustrations that you have done are among your favorites?

WT: I don’t look back and have favorites. I always want to move forward and explore and learn and do a better job than I already did. I am pleased though, when I have learned something in the process of making an illustration. Those are the illustrations I remember.

For example the caricature of Marylin Monroe  was the fist time I controlled my value and color in order to establish the concept. I still like the effect of this high key approach.


In the illustration of the old woman in an old folks home, I like the way I put story, design and caricature together in one image. I approached the face as a caricature, but the design and concept of the illustration make it tragic instead of funny.


The caricature of Danny Trejo is a good example of  visual stroytelling. I love it when the concept and the technique become one. The actor Danny Trejo has a rough  face full of scars. I chose a rough brush and let the structure of the brushstrokes give the impression of roughness.


JGO: What haven't you done yet as an artist that you would still like to do?


WT: I love to do concept art for an animated feature film.

JGO: Have you ever been contacted by a well known person that you had caricatured?

WT: In the Netherlands, yes. I don’t think Emile Ratelband is famous anywhere else. He liked what I did and wanted to buy the illustration.

JGO: Do you ever have "artist's block", or a day when your drawings are just not coming together? if so, how do you overcome it?

WT: Artist’s block, no, because I believe you just have to start. Once you created something, you can decide whether it’s what you want or not, but doing nothing leads to nothing…

I do of course have days when things are not coming together. Facebook and blogs, where people share their best works, give the impression that everybody is always successful. Well, I’m not, I have my off days. I always find it hard to accept that things are not working for no apparent reason. There can be many causes for this. Lack of sleep, no clear communication with the art director, triyng to do something I am unable to do…..and so on…

If it has to do with me, and things are just not working, I take a break. If I take a walk in the city or the forest, suddenly new ideas come.

If it has to do with the job conditions, I try to avoid these kind of jobs in the future.



JGO: Can you tell us about one of the most important lessons that you have learned from a fellow artist?

WT: Someone once told me: Never be afraid to do too much. He meant that I shouldn’t be satisfied to easily, and always do some extra effort to make an illustration really good. If you did a lot of work already, and you suddenly see that the foundation of the illustration is not what it should be, start over, and don’t be okay with less. If you leave something in a painting that does not express completely what you want it to, it’s like saying tomato when you mean cheese…



JGO: Can you tell us about one of the most important lessons that you have learned on your own as an artist?

WT: Two things:

-There may be many artists out there, who are more skillful, and better draftsmen, more successful than you, but there is nobody better at being you. The things that define you; your experiences, your beliefs, your culture your passions; is where your art should come from. In that way, your art is an expression of who you are. 

-Don’t be afraid to share what you have learned.  There is nothing to lose by doing that.



JGO: What do you think is the key to creating a character with "appeal"?

WT: Empathy. When I draw a character, I become the character. How do I feel in such a situation, where are my hands, how do I hold my feet… It’s like acting. Get to know your character . Look in the real world. Draw from your experience. Everything you design should push what the character must radiate.





JGO: Do you have any additional tips, advice or words of wisdom that you could give to an artist who is just beginning their career?

WT: First of all: Draw draw draw draw  paint paint paint!!!!! The best way to learn  drawing and painting is to draw and paint. Stay true to yourself. Explore and learn from everything you see.  Most of all: have fun! Drawing is fun! Whatever skill level you have, you can start right now and create your own universe and have fun doing it. If you have fun doing it and be passionate about it, there’s no stopping you!

Wouter Tulp's Website: www.woutertulp.nl

His must read Blog: www.woutertulp.blogspot.com

And his newly launched tutorial blog: http://tulptorials.blogspot.com/.


Many thanks to Wouter for sharing his art, tips and insights with us. Be sure to check out the links above; you'll certainly want to bookmark them once you do!

All images copyright Wouter Tulp unless otherwise noted.

67 comments:

  1. Awesome thanks for post this. Was a very good read and really inspiring.

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  2. The link to Woulter's tutorials should be http://tulptorials.blogspot.com/.

    I love interviews with artists who are still in love with drawing/painting. Very inspirational. Looking forward to more!

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  3. Thanks so much for the heads up Bill! Wouter's "Tulptorials" blog is an incredible resource for students.

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  4. Great interview. This will help me a lot in class.

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  5. I love this guy! What an inspiring interview!

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  6. well this was an interesting post, ill try to keep these things in mind, there was a lot of good advice in this interview!!!

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  7. Thank you for the introduction to this artist. I haven't heard of him until now and I will be visiting his sites in the future for inspiration and more.

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  8. Great, thanks for this! A lot of interesting views, and a lot of artists I never heard of.

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  9. Thanks so much for this blog; it was refreshing to get some down-to-earth insight, and now I have a number of new artists recommendations to look up. I especially like the examples of the original design work at the end of the blog. PS, the tutorial blog is fairly fantastic as well!

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  10. this was very interesting.i look forward to exploring his tutorials blog.

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  11. Thanks, great interview with the always inspiring Wouter Tulp!

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  12. nice interview, deviantArt is full of great artists.. For your next interview i suggest Michelle Jernberg: http://demiveemon.deviantart.com/

    cheers!

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  13. He's amazing, I love his works, he's got great insights and so down to earth. Truly inspiring:))

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  14. Insightful and generous interview. Your tutorial on digital caricature is very helpful.
    Thanks, Brew

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  15. This is one of the best interviews with an artist that I've read. I appreciate how he is "real" noting that what we usually see posted on FB and Blogs can lead to the impression that everyone is always successful. That can certainly lead to discouragement if not understood. My favorite quote "There may be many artists out there, who are more skillful, and better draftsmen, more successful than you, but there is nobody better at being you. The things that define you; your experiences, your beliefs, your culture your passions; is where your art should come from. In that way, your art is an expression of who you are." Thank you again for the interview and the web links!

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  16. Wow, wonderful illustrations and an extremely informative interview, thanks!

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  17. Awesome interview! I love how John Singer Sargent and Mary Blair were inspirational favorite artists of his-- I can see it in his work, as they are some of my favorite artists as well!

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  19. I'm in awe of the ability of caricature artists to capture the essence of individual, exaggerate it, yet maintain the likeness. I can identify the portraits but can't quite put my finger on how exactly to exaggerate in such an extreme way.

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  20. Excellent posting and incredible artwork, thanks for sharing. What an incredibly wide variety of styles from a single artist! I agree with Sean - what an awesome way to try to focus on likeness - by viewing incredibly exaggerated portraits that still have that SOMETHING that captures the essence.

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  21. Great insight and wonderful advice for artists working in any genre.

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  22. Thanks for showing a variety of work from the artist. It's a good reminder that strength in your drawing and painting foundations allow you to move freely between mediums and varying degrees of realism!

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  23. Very inspirational the words are coming from such a passionate artist. I especially enjoyed his key to creating appeal. Empathy. I couldn't agree more with that answer.

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  24. Awesome interview- really cool work and really sound advice. He mentioned Jason Seiler in his post- I used to work for the American Academy of Art where Jason attended for a few years- Jason Seiler is another fantastic caricature artist. http://jasonseilerillustration.blogspot.com/

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  25. Great advice and inspiration for students and professionals alike. Thank you for sharing his work. Excellent diverse style!

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  26. This is really inspirational. I think interviews with established artists give a lot of insight for art students as well as other artists. Can't agree more on having empathy when drawing a character!

    It's pretty enlightening after reading about Wouter Tulp's diverse style and how he deals with different job types. I have always thought that it's better to focus on a specific area for one's artistic development. Knowing that there's no need to limit oneself is very uplifting.

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  27. "-There may be many artists out there, who are more skillful, and better draftsmen, more successful than you, but there is nobody better at being you. The things that define you; your experiences, your beliefs, your culture your passions; is where your art should come from. In that way, your art is an expression of who you are.

    -Don’t be afraid to share what you have learned. There is nothing to lose by doing that."

    ****The BEST advice.

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  28. Thanks for the great interview! Some excellent things to think about and look out for as well. I really enjoyed reading this interview.

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  29. Excellent interview! Loved that Andre Franquin was mentioned! I've seen some of his work and always liked his style. Thanks for all the info and tips.

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  30. A wonderfull interview, full of great advice! I particularly appreciated what he said about empathy being so key to creating a character with appeal. Learning to "act" with my painting is an area I'm struggling right now and I look forward to trying out his advice.

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  31. These are great examples and will be helpful for reference.

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  32. I really appreciate hearing how artists view their own process and see the variation and similarity between what is said. This was very helpful in many ways. I think it offers good perspective and helpful tips.

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  33. Great interview! Thanks! Very informative. He mentions Hermann Mejia. So funny, I was very close with Hermann at one time. I took him to his first interview with Mad on orders from an old illustration teacher. Gosh...that was a long time ago....

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  34. Great Interview, thanks for having us read it. My favorite part of this interview is this statement: "There may be many artists out there, who are more skillful, and better draftsmen, more successful than you, but there is nobody better at being you. The things that define you; your experiences, your beliefs, your culture your passions; is where your art should come from. In that way, your art is an expression of who you are" I will remember this and whenever I feel down about where my art and life is going, I will remember this statement.

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  35. This is a very inspiring interview. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us.

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  36. Great advice from a great artist. Very inspiring. Makes you feel like stopping to hang around the internet and go back to your sketchbook...will do it straight away!

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  37. This is a great web-site in understanding the exaggeration of the form. The interview was great as well.

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  38. What a great interview. Thank you for providing this for us.

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  39. Thanks for sharing. I'll definitely have to look up some of these artists he has mentioned here.

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  40. Great interview! Lots of great inspiration.

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  41. Thanks for the tips. Never too much good information. :)

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  42. The art work is beautifully creative. Thumbnails seem to be the way to do it.

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  43. Very inspiring! I especially like how he emphasize being yourself with your art, and that even though there may be better artists out there than you are, they cannot create your art. Your tastes. Your experiences. Your view of the world. Those belong to only to yourself.

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  44. I can really appreciate that Woulter Tulp keeps educating himself by visiting workshops, reading books, looking at art, watching tutorial dvd’s and most of all, by painting and drawing. It was great to hear him discuss his process. I also really liked that he mention Mary Blair as one of the artists that inspired him.

    His blog site http://tulptorials.blogspot.com is amazing, such a great reference and very inspiring.

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  45. Very insightful! Thank you so much for doing this interview and sharing here on the blog! Wolter's artwork is so inspirational!

    kRisTy MiZe

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  46. Very Inspiring. Thank you for sharing.

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  47. Great interview! It was very insightful and I will be keeping it in mind while I work on my drawings.

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  48. This is a great article! Thank you!

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  49. This was a really great read! I found his answer to whether he had any favorite pieces of work to be very interesting in particular. I've never known anyone to express that point of view so well before and I think it's a great way to look at your work.

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  50. The part in which Mr. Tulep discussed being too easily satisfied with your drawing really struck a chord with me. I often find that I don't push myself enough. Thanks for sharing this wealth of knowledge!

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  51. Becoming your character and feeling what they're feeling is definitely helpful! It truly is as if we are becoming the actor.

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  52. Great interview! I loved reading about Tulp's challenges and how he handles them (walks, working with difficult directors/jobs), as well as how he says to always push the drawing and never be satisfied with mediocrity. Thanks for posting this!

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  53. Listed off lots of names for more good references. Full of good one-liners for motivation and improvement. Excellent life mantra too - "Doing nothing leads to ... nothing"

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  54. So inspiring! I love the variety in his work. "What I 'see'" versus "what 'I' see" is an important distinction I often forget to make. This was a good reminder to infuse more of my personality and experience into my work. Thanks for the post!

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  55. Wow! This was an excellent interview! He seems to have such an interesting approach to character creation and interpretation. What I took the most from it is the importance of understand who your character is through observation. Why your character makes the faces, looks the part, or does the things that your character does, is all based on experience. Not just the experience of drawing on our end, but really trying to figure out what traits really bring out every situation in every drawing. It's only then that we use our artistic techniques to bring the drawing to life. Thanks!

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  56. a great interview to remind us to work hard, never stop drawing/painting, and crucially--express who you are in your work. I like that he reminds the reader that we should go beyond what we see in front of us. Rather than making accurate technical drawings like a robot (or a camera); rather than simply following tips, tutorials, and guides; we must tap into what we see as individuals. Personal expression infused into skillful work.
    The art work is also awesome. With the exception of the Caricature by Grigor Eftimov. I think that is an example of something getting lost in visual translation.

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  57. So good to hear straight forward thoughts from a successful artists. Really appreciated hearing that artist block can be circumvented by just doing work. Loved that point.

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  58. This changed my mind about how I see things. Thank you for the useful tips!

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  59. A refreshing perspective. Admittedly, I fall into the pit of despair and envy when I'm not particularly active online. But lately I've noticed that artists who waltz to their own tune continually enjoy what they do and their creative pulse keeps on beating.

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  60. Thanks for sharing your advice with us!

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