Here is Part 5 of our City Cycling Europe blog series – a collection of interviews with the locally-based illustrators that brought to life the European cities covered in our new cycling guides (produced in association with Rapha Racing). This time we talk to Antwerp’s Sebastiaan Van Doninck.
Can you describe your style? What kind of projects do you usually work on?
‘My style has often been described as ‘colorful with a dark twist’ or ‘vintage kitsch with a twist’. I can see myself in this statement, though I also work a lot with humour to disarm certain sensibilities. I work on both books and editorial illustration, both for children and adults. My goal is to create crossover books that can be read to children while being layered enough to capture the parents’ attention too. Children will see different things to their parents. I love to tell stories, even if it’s in a one-page illustration.’
Are you a cyclist? What do you like and dislike about cycling in Antwerp and Ghent?
‘There’s a very strong tradition of cycling in Belgium. I currently live and work in the Belgian city of Antwerp and I often use the Velo bike share system, which works perfectly. Over the last 10 years, the city of Antwerp has made major steps towards becoming a cycling city. You can see more and more people using bikes to get from A to B. It’s not always perfect and smooth, but it’s getting there. On holidays abroad, I often rent a bike. For instance, earlier this year, I rented a bike on Venice Beach, L.A. and cycled the entire length of the coastal cycle path. Magnificent! A few summers ago I also rode a bike on the island of Öland, Sweden. Strangely enough, it felt like biking in the south of France. Scandinavia is incredibly hot and dry at that time of year. Beautiful memories. Biking in Berlin was also a great thing, you see so much more on a bicycle.’
How did you plan your response to the City Cycling Antwerp and Ghent brief?
‘I know Ghent and Antwerp very well as I’ve lived in both cities. To get started, I researched the places in the brief using a lot of photographic material, before drawing on memories and making personal visits – this approach helped me to draw out the atmosphere of those places. Also, if something wasn’t completely right in the brief (some places changed over time), I could suggest other places or angles.’
What materials and processes did you use in the artwork?
‘I used scanned structures, patterns and textures and brought them together with Photoshop. I initially worked up everything in black and white and afterwards added the Pantone colors from the brief.’
What did you find challenging about illustrating Antwerp and Ghent for cyclists?
‘Drawing the bikes! Ever tried drawing a person on a bike without mistakes? It’s a complex thing. Thanks to illustrating these guides, I can now draw a bike from memory!’
Are you happy with the resulting publication?
‘Absolutely! I love the fresh layout and the clear and contemporary graphic design. I love the fact they worked with illustrators who actually live in the cities covered by the guides. That works. Also, the strong use of color makes the guides attractive and practical to use.’
Follow Sebastiaan on Twitter and join the conversation around #CityCyling
The slipcased set of eight pocket-size guides in the City Cycling Europe series (produced in association with Rapha Racing) give you the confidence to experience a city from the saddle. Think of them as like having a local cyclist to show you around. The set includes guides to Amsterdam, Antwerp & Ghent, Barcelona, Berlin, Copenhagen, London, Milan, Paris. Available for £25.00 from the Thames & Hudson website.