Interview: Jacques Maes

By / Apr 26th, 2014 / , / No comments

If you cracked open a joke to find out what it was made of, you would see The Setup, The Punchline, and maybe a Tag or two for good measure. 

The Setup establishes the joke, it’s essentially the background information. And The Punchline, that’s the twist, that’s the bit that makes you chuckle. 

Jacques Maes’ illustrations are ‘visual jokes’. He sets his scene, whether it be with two camels hanging out in the desert, or a giraffe lounging about in the forest. And then there’s The Punchline, the thought bubble where the camels’ humps are interlocking like a key in a lock, or the moment when you look for the giraffe’s head only to discover that there isn’t one- its neck turns into a tree. Jacques takes a seemingly ordinary scene and turns it on its head. 

We love this concept-rich, witty style,, and we stock a whole bunch of products by Jacques in our shop. Whether you’re looking for sheepish greeting cards or a cushion with a good use

We spoke to Jacques about childhood adventures and wrapping paper: 

How do you pick a background colour for your illustrations?

Usually when working on a new piece, I quickly try to come up with a temporary color combination and background that looks just about fun or good enough to keep me motivated. When an illustration is done, for me comes one of the parts that is the most fun, deciding on the colors. I can experiment with colors for hours, with each combo I take a screenshot, at the end I do a little eliminating game and decide on the definitive colors. Most of the time the end result is something close to what I have already used before, oh boy…

Do you wear tees featuring your own designs?

Maybe for 5 minutes or so when I get one, just to take a quick peek at how it looks or how it was printed, then I carefully fold it back up and wrap it up as part of the little archive.

Visual jokes and neat concepts are at the heart of a lot of your work, how do you develop your ideas? 

My brain is constantly trying to make a weird connection or joke with everything that crosses it path, we live in such a silly world that it almost comes naturally. I wish I was faster though at transposing ideas to a visual image, if only it could be done with a finger snap.

Can you tell me a bit about your Haute Coiffure collection?

It’s a little series of portraits that can trigger the imagination and lets you come up with your own story. Somehow they all feel related, yet their roles and positions seem so different. It’s for you to come up with the fictitious universe that surrounds them.

What motivates you as an artist?

Probably the urge and hope, that one day, something is put out there, something that can hopefully translate a uniqueness of an individual, by the combination of it’s thoughts and experiences. As artists we probably all hope our work lives on, so it can act as the little hidden stamp or tombstone of our lives.

Do you have a favourite piece?

‘Good use’ maybe, don’t know why, but it brings back a fond memory of some sort. Was really happy when Ohh Deer came up with the idea to turn this design into a wrapping paper!

Which artists inspire you?

That’s a tough question, because there are so many. From a shirt design perspective, work by Eric Fan or Tony Riff comes to mind. But lately I’ve been more into work like that of Alan Berry Rhys, such wonderful color combinations and an amazing cool style!

When did you first know design was for you?

Somehow I randomly rolled into art school, a little world opened up, I started to realize and rediscover that this was the thing I’ve always loved doing, creating things. Design is also one of the few places where you never have to fully grow up and can stick to your childhood adventure mindset and imagination.

You can see more work by Jacques at

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