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Anouk van Cleef

The artist Anouk van Cleef endeavours in quirky designs, mixing illustration techniques and graphic design together to attain her characteristic expression. She grew up on a flower farm in the southern part of the Netherlands and is still based in the Netherlands today: “I remember always getting out in the fields with my notebook to draw and write. Just me and a blank sheet full of possibilities.”

After primary school, however, Anouk stopped drawing to pursue a career in graphic design. She tells that she did not know where to start and did not believe that it could evolve into something financially fruitful. But after a few years, she took up drawing again as a creative outlet: “I wanted to add more feeling to the more superficial aspect of graphic design — it needed more flavour.”

Today, Anouk mixes her talents and knowledge from the graphic design field, turning it into her own creative expression. “And I love it! They enhance each other beautifully.”

In general, Anouk’s artwork is all about embracing everyday life: Realising that the small things in life really are what it is all about and that beauty is to be found anywhere. “It’s a reminder to myself, too,” she says. “I want to make people feel like they want to crawl into my illustrations and to give them a warm feeling when they look at it.”

A source of inspiration

Lately, Anouk finds inspiration in old English tile patterns, the use of colours and how the shapes merge perfectly into a symmetric design. 

“And the other day, I rediscovered the work of the Dutch artist Maurits Cornelis Escher. I found a book with his works in the thrift store and really just loved all of it.” Like the patterns of the tiles, Escher’s work pays great attention to details adding an unpredicted element to the finished piece.

However, where the work of Escher is in monochrome black and white — Anouk does not shy away from using colours. “I’m actually kind of obsessed with colour. How it can speak without the need for even a single word. How one colour combination can make you feel comfortable and another one energises you.”

Anouk collects inspiration for motifs and colour combinations during her everyday life. For that purpose, she always carries a small A6 notebook with her: “It has the ugliest and roughest sketches in it,” she laughs. “But whenever I get an idea or an image pops into my head, I will be able to put it on paper and not forget about it.”

All prints from Anouk van Cleef