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Pretty Things: Meeting illustrator Sandra Smijers

Pretty Things: Meeting illustrator Sandra Smijers
By Yoek July 27, 2017 4177 Views

From a creative idea to the design table, translated to a tangible garment, whereupon surrounded by glamour on the catwalk and then as a beautiful fashion illustration on the wall! Handcrafted fashion drawings quickly became more popular, a new development after the hype of Instagram and actually thanks to this online medium back in the stylish game again! The fashion weeks in New York, Amsterdam and London always have an enchanting, fairytale vibe and this is easier to catch in illustrations than in pictures. Besides that, no drawing is the same, every illustrator will see something different and has a different fantasy and experience seeing a fashion creation.

Sandra Smijers (47) is a Dutch illustrator, filled with creativity and busy following her heart. We had a drink with Sandra and we wanted to learn more about her and how she ended up at this point in life! She even made some illustrations for us, matching the new Yoek Fall/Winter ’17 collection.

“You have a very creative background, we are curious to hear your story!”

‘I live in Roermond (Limburg, The Netherlands) with my husband and two dogs, cocker spaniels. My oldest son moved out of the house already and also my youngest son will start living on his own after summer. I am happy they (will) visit us regularly! I ended up in Roermond when I moved here as a kid because of my father’s job. After high school I started studying Spanish, but I could not really give free reign to my creativity, so after a year I decided to go to the Charles Montaigne fashion academy in Amsterdam. Eventually I stayed in the western part of The Netherlands for over a decade. I have worked for different fashion companies; private labels as well as brands, and store chains. When the kids were old enough to go to school, we wanted to head back to Roermond. The nature is very beautiful here and we are close to Belgium and Germany, at cycling distance even. And family of me and my husband live in the area as well. Finding a job as a fashion stylist has been harder in this region though, there are not many fashion companies around. After some career changes and even an entire different study, blood definitely proves to be thicker than water. Creativity and drawing is the common thread running through my life and I decided to start my own business.’

“So you are an illustrator, tell us more!”

‘I have always been drawing. As a child I could draw for hours and I attended a drawing course at the free academy. Especially human figures and portraits. From an early age I had the dream to become an illustrator. At the fashion academy, fashion and drawing were my favourite subjects. After graduating I started working as a stylist and I have mostly designed collections, made technical drawings and patterns. Fashion drawing was being put on hold, because my job and raising the kids took most of my time. About five years ago I started drawing again and right now I really enjoy doing it. It is strange, but sometimes something is so close and obvious that you don’t really see it yourself. Friends and family have encouraged me to start focusing on it! And to make the dream, I used to have as a child, come true.’

“Is creativity something in your genes?”

´Both of my parents used to work in health care, so that is something entirely different. My mum was immediately okay with me going to the fashion academy, but my dad had more trouble with it. Initially he hoped I would have chosen a more ‘proper’ profession, but they have always supported me in my creativity. My mum used to draw a lot as a child as well, just like her father. My dad was creative in an entirely different way. He stored everything and was able to make something out of ‘nothing’. Mostly practical solutions or repairing something. This has inspired me in a certain way; you can always make something with what you have. It has learned me to be a flexible thinker, to adapt quickly and to find inventive solutions. When something is not very common or obvious, I see it as a challenge to make something out of it, it increases your creativity and to be resourceful, no matter if it is in drawing, cooking, gardening etc. Besides that I have many painting aunts, cousins and an uncle, so yes I do think it is something genetic!´

“What is your main source of inspiration?”

´I once followed a drawing workshop of ballet dancers. Together with the dancers we were in the rehearsal room, where they used to practice for a performance. While they were practicing, we could draw them. Obviously, this went really quick. But it made a lasting impression. We were witnessing the creative process of making a choreography and at the same time we were creating on paper. To capture movement and emotion in a sketch.

While drawing I love to put music on, as an inspiration and to let go of any thoughts. Watch carefully and just start. I also like to go to art exhibitions. When an artist succeeds to intrigue you and takes you along in his or her story I think that is fascinating and I truly admire this ability. Recently, I saw an exhibition by Claire Morgan. It is amazing that she has been able to create something beautiful with stuffed animals and plastic!’

“How would you describe your drawing style? And what are your most important tools?”

‘My style is airy, I like to paint very watery which makes some parts transparent and makes that colours can flow. I also like to have a contrast between very elaborate details and parts which are not filled and leave room for fantasy. I think it is exciting when the outcome is not entirely clear in a drawing. It makes it more interesting to look at. I prefer to work with charcoal, pastel crayon, ink and acrylics.’

“How do you start with an illustration?”

‘For me it works best to start on a large sheet of paper, with charcoal. Or to start creating the position right away, with very watery paint. Then I see what works for the drawing. It is important to define the posture. Not looking at the details yet, but at the whole, the movement and the position. Later on I work more detailed and on a smaller sheet of paper.'

“What is the ultimate compliment you could get or might received already?”

‘If I made someone happy with my illustration. Once I made a portrait by order for someone’s daughter-in-law. She wrote me that her daughter-in-law said about a hundred times how delighted she was with it. Naturally, I was very pleased to hear this!’

“How do you see the future?”

‘It makes me happy to do something where my heart is, it gives a feeling of freedom. Because drawing and painting are my passion, I keep developing myself. Everyone has become more proficient digitally and most people can take pictures with their cell phones, but drawing still has something personal and is handcrafted. I love to see the rising attention for illustrating by hand and I hope I can keep on drawing for websites, blogs and other media with space for illustrations with a more personal touch next to pictures. Besides my job as an illustrator I also paint portraits by order, this started to roll just now. So yeah, actually I am a very satisfied, happy person!’

Do you want to find out more about the drawings or paintings made by Sandra? Her website is still under construction, but she is happy to help you and answer your questions by e-mail sandrasmijers@xs4all.nl

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