Interview with Illustrator Raymond Lemstra

By / Jul 30th, 2014 / , , / No comments

On viewing Raymond Lemstra’s work, be in it online or in print, you are transported into his very own fantasy world, populated by his characters. It is a world full of wild distortion and odd emphasis and a one that, if you are anything like me, you will never want to leave.

“In childhood, one encounters and experiences many things for the first time. Through curiosity and imagination, these moments are lifted to magical heights. As you get older, new impressions become more scarce and it’s rare experience to be surprised by anything. I try to bring back the sense of wonder we remember from being a child”.

It is this aim which make Lemstra’s work so special as not only does it show great imagination and a superior level of skill but it also encourages curiosity within the viewer. One seeing one of his creatures, you long to discover more, delve deeper into this world, meet the locals and see what else is waiting to inspire. To be able to spark this level of interest within the viewer is a real gift.

And it is this gift which has allowed him to create a career out of inventing characters, with a client list including the like of Nokia, Mercedes-Benz and The New York Times. As well as this he has exhibited his work around the globe and had the latest edition of Nobrow’s Big Mother publication based on his work.

After reviewing his edition of Big Mother, I couldn’t wait to get in touch with him and find out a bit more about his creative process.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Raymond Lemstra and I make drawings. I was born in Groningen. It’s a very green and clean city, full of young students from all over the world. It was a good place to grow up in. About ten years ago I moved to Amsterdam, where I still live today. Like most people that make drawings for a living, I have been drawing for a very long time. My interests and themes changed over time, but I always came back to the physical process of making a drawing.

What is a typical day like for you?

I really don’t have a typical day. Sometimes I do nothing productive, just the stupid things I enjoy. Too much of this will make me feel guilty so then there are days I just work non-stop without leaving the studio. Creating structure and getting started are my biggest personal challenges. But once I’ve started working there is usually no stopping.

Who influences you creatively?

I am motivated when I look at the work of Otomo Katsuhiro or Moebius. And I am inspired when I look at the people that are close to me who work really hard for their passion, like Wayne Horse, whom I share my studio with. Also audiobooks are a good help when it comes to focusing, a really great tip I once got from Femke Hiemstra. I enjoy Haruki Murakami most of all.

What is your studio like?

My studio is located in an old granite floor factory at the end of an industrial road. We’re in the old showroom. It sort of overlooks water, but the walls have no windows.. We however do have 12 windows in the roof. Beautiful daylight! We try to keep the space as empty as possible. I would change everything if I had the option, but this studio is perfect for what it is now.

Your creations are so detailed, how long does it take for you to complete a drawing?

I think I work pretty fast. But I can’t really say, some simple lines sometimes cost me hours, as to some seemingly complex crosshatching can take me just a few minutes.

When drawing you tend to create quite abstract characters. Is it hard to know when to stop distorting?

I never question myself when to stop, but somehow I do always keep attached to facial features as a point of departure… I guess it’s like a hook onto which I can attach all the messy, pockmarked shapes and elaborate drawing I sometimes like to do. For example when I am making some “CRUMBS”. In other cases I usually don’t notice the distortion, but I get reminded by other people that look at my drawings. I guess I have become accustomed to my small faces in big heads.

You have created a number of characters, do you have a favourite?

For now that probably is SNOUT. No specific reason other than that it is a recent drawing, and I tend to get bored with my older drawings quickly.

I recently reviewed your edition of Big Mother. How did this come to be?

I was asked by Nobrow. I met their art director Ben Newman when we were both exhibiting in Zurich. We clicked instantly, had an amazing time, and I more than happily said yes to this project. Ben gave me total freedom on the book, which was very pleasant. They make the most beautiful books.

What do you like to do when not creating?

I like traveling, bike rides, dinners and jokes with good friends.

What is your dream client?

That would have to be Hermès. I would love to do a carré with them and embrace their craftsmanship and beautiful heritage.

Finally, do you have any advice for someone wanting to become an illustrator?

It’s a weird profession. You basically have to invent it yourself and find your own gratification. And at that, an audience that connects to the results of this personal search. So my advice is to make sure that you enjoy what you are doing and find confirmation within your personal growth.

If you would like to see more of Raymond Lemstra’s work then you can take a look at his website or follow him on Instagram or Twitter.

And if you fancy treating yourself to some new artwork then check out his online shop where you can buy prints of some of his creations.

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