The talented illustrator Rop van Mierlo has been nominated for this years prestigious Dutch Design Awards with his work Wild Animals. Prior to the elections of the award Rop has created a truly marvelous poster exclusively for Found by James. As of the 17th of October, 2011 right before the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven, the poster will be for sale here. Next to this collaboration, Mr. Rop van Mierlo sat down with me for the following interview about the things that inspire him, his DDA 2011 nomination, his future plans and his dreams.
JAMES: Three years ago you graduated from the Design Academy Eindhoven. Now I come across your book Wild Animals everywhere, from the MoMa in New York to Palais de Tokyo & Colette in Paris and many Paul Smith stores all over the world. An incredible story! How did this happen? What has created this buzz?
ROP: I graduated three years ago from Design Academy Eindhoven with a book called Bonsai & Poodles: a project about humanity’s urge for c
ontrol. While making this book, I got fascinated by the idea of creating animals I couldn’t control: Wild Animals. It wasn’t part of the actual plan, but the animals came out really nice. Almost everyone who saw them reacted insanely enthusiastic, so I decided to turn it into a book. Once the book had been finished, I contacted two children’s book publishers, but none of them were interested. Then I found an art book publisher who was excited, but he didn’t have time to print the book within a year. It had already taken me such a long time to realize the book that I didn’t want to wait another year. So I decided to selfpublish the whole thing. I launched Wild Animals for friends and family during the Dutch Design Week Eindhoven 2010 at Ontour Clothing Headquarters and put it up on the internet with a special Wild Animals website. The book got a review on design.nl, I sent my website to itsnicethat.com, e-mailed Colette and things went really fast from then on.
JAMES: The Design Academy Eindhoven is known as one of the best design education programmes in the world. Has the academy actually opened many doors for you? And do you think good (audio) visual education automatically leads to gifted creatives?
ROP: The Design Academy has indeed a very good education program. You have to work like crazy, but the program is set up really free. The first half of the week I studied communication design and for the other half I chose Atelier, a kind of art class course. Especially Atelier has been really important for me. There they taught me to just start working on a project -and think about it while working -instead of trying to be very cleverly conceptual, what would leave me thinking for days and never ever realizing anything. I think good education is important but doesn’t automatically produce the greatest designers; I think many amazing designers studied at the academy, but some horrible ones too.
JAMES: How did the idea occur to really get into the ‘wildlife’? Would you say it is a kind of escapism to another, dreamy world?
ROP: In a way drawing or creating (non-commissioned) work is a good way to escape from reality. But for me, making work is also a search to understand the world and to make fun of it. By the way, once I tried to paint ‘wild flowers’, bu
t it didn’t work and everything became a really sad joke.
JAMES: The book is very accessible for a broad audience (young, old, male & female), yet hard to define. One might wonder whether it is a book for children, one for design lovers or both? Personally, I think the nonconformist form is its great strength. How would you describe the book yourself?
ROP: At first, children’s bookstores told me to go try at art bookstores and vice versa. In my opinion it’s just a very expensive children’s book that can only be looked in when you’re old enough.
JAMES: I’m curious about how you come to your final image. How do you create such a marvelous crocodile, elephant or giraffe?
ROP: I put a lot of effort in finding the right animals. I search the library for pictures, buy second hand photo books and explore the web. I look for postures that I like or that are funny. Once I find images I like (may take several days), I start drawing those animals in as few lines as possible. When that’s done, I start painting. The hardest thing is to let go and not try to control it anyway. Often I still tend to do it.
JAMES: We’ve already talked about the success of your book. But besides that, you are nominated for the Dutch Design Awards 2011. How does that make you feel?
ROP: First, I thought I wouldn’t really care about nominations and awards. But when I found my name amongst the DDA finalists, I was really thrilled. I have put so much of myself into Wild Animals and created something I truly believe in. If that is being picked up by a jury, it feels incredible.
JAMES: There are more designers nominated for the DDA 2011. Both great, established names and relatively unknown talents like you. Are there other nominees that particularly inspired you? Who or what inspires you anyway?
ROP: Jop van Bennekom & Veronica Ditting are nominated for The Gentlewoman. The first time I flipped through the pages of that magazine, I got truly emotional. Furthermore I’m inspired by Dick Bruna, Mike Mills, Geoff McFetridge, Erwin Thomasse, Misaki Kawai, Wood Wood, Yoshie Watanabe, Erik Kessels, Toon Hermans, Maarten ‘t Hart and Parra. To name a few…
JAMES: Most of the year you can be found in and around Amsterdam and Eindhoven. What are your favorite spots in those cities? And are there other places outside the cities that you would suggest?
ROP: I don’t have any places that I really like to go to in Amsterdam yet. Some places I like to visit in Eindhoven are La Folie, Magda, Motta, Ontour HQ, MU, Piet Hein Eek en Plugers & Vercoulen. A few weeks ago I went to Into The Great Wide Open, an interesting festival at Vlieland. The small island in the north of Holland is definitely worth a visit, for its beaches, peace of mind and tasteful local food.
JAMES: After the poster that you have made exclusively for Found by James, you will start working on your second book. Will you come up with a new theme? Or is it a sequel to the Wild Animals book?
ROP: I want to create a book with short stories, but there is a chance it will not be feasible in this wet-on-wet watercolor painting technique. Or maybe by the time I really start, another idea comes to mind, which will be even more attractive. So if it ends up being short stories? Let’s see…
JAMES: If you look into the future, do you keep on illustrating or would you see yourself making different images as well? What are your dreams?
ROP: My dreams? Making a book about cats, drawing horses, painting a family of ducks, making some huge drawings of humans, making a book about dogs and traveling for work. I would love to be able to produce work that means something to me; work that makes me happy. Finding time to make new animation projects, making money and having no stress are high on my list as well. That would be great…
AMSTERDAM, September 2011