The first piece I was proud of is still hanging on the fridge at my mother’s home and will probably never
Ilse Harting is a freelance character artist and illustrator based in the Netherlands. She recently graduated from ArtEZ University of the Arts, so even though she’s rather well known online, her career is only just beginning. Like a lot of artists from Ilse’s generation, she was initially inspired by anime and manga, which made her want to start drawing in that style when she was a teenager. She developed the look we all know her by from Instagram and Twitter when she went to art school and began to study realism.
She found out that you can only stylize things that exist in the real world because trying to do it from something else probably isn’t going to work.
This realization is one that the artists on Vox Groovy know all too well. I’m sure anyone who regularly reads or watches interviews with painters has heard about the importance of fundamentals a thousand times over. And it’s true. The best way to making great art is through hard work and strong knowledge of technique, all of which serves as a base for the more fun, creative parts.
In our talk with Ilse, you’ll learn more about her beginnings, the messages she wishes to communicate through her art, and her personal philosophy.
Tell us about your journey so far.
I was born and raised in a small (and rainy) country called the Netherlands. I’ve always had an inclination towards drawing and loved to draw my favourite TV and game characters a lot when I was a kid. I knew that I wanted to do something with art later, so I went on the journey of becoming better, and luckily, my immediate family was very supportive.
I decided I wanted to enter an Art school here in my home country so I applied. I started as an Animation student at the ArtEZ University of the Arts but ventured into the world of illustration and concept art for games after a successful internship at a game company. I kept pushing forward in that direction after school and have been working as a freelance illustrator and concept artist for mobile games, board games and indie games since.
Rosie < > Winter Witch
Character for a personal project
You studied at ArtEZ University of the Arts, right? What was that experience like?
To be really honest, I have mixed feelings looking back at the whole ordeal. I learned a great deal about teamwork and hard work. I’ve grown stronger mentally from the constructive criticism, and I’ve gotten pulled out of comfort zones more times than I can count.
However, I don’t think I learned many usable skills. The school at that time was leaning heavily into the Fine Art aspect, and any art styles or ideologies outside of their small sphere of interests wasn’t encouraged. This meant that I had to hone my preferred art skills outside of school hours.
If I could go to the school again, I would take the teacher’s lessons on what real art is supposed to be with a grain of salt and worry less about whether my work was considered art or not.
For the people seriously considering the art school route, make sure you really do your research on the school. Ask people that have been there for unfiltered feedback. Be sure that they will be able to give you what you pay for!
Can you tell me a little bit about the first art piece you were genuinely proud of?
The first piece I was proud of is still hanging on the fridge at my mother’s home and will probably never leave! I remember spending days on it without letting her take a peek just to give it to her on Mother’s Day.
I’ve felt proud about many pieces over the years after that one. With enough time and hard work, I continued to create new pieces that I could be proud of so I can’t really pinpoint a specific one at the moment. It’s ever-changing, which is good because it means growth!
Unexpected friend makes an appearance!
How did you go about finding and developing a personal style that’s unique to you?
Creating your own art style is mostly about learning new techniques and getting inspired by new external sources. This is a very natural process and happens almost without any effort, provided you have a moderate amount of curiosity for the world.
If you would like to be more mindful in your search, think like this. Whenever you see a piece of work from a newly discovered artist, take a moment to really look for what’s so great about the painting that stopped you in your tracks. Is it their use of colour? That beautiful brush efficiency? The subject matter? Once you know what it is, you can study it and eventually make it your own. You can’t 100% copy another artist anyway, you will undoubtedly add your own twist to it for sure.
The first time I took notice of this was when I started life drawing classes. In these classes, I would learn to draw anatomy and gesture and to paint realistic values and colours. At home, however, I was an avid manga-inspired artist, so my personal works all fell neatly into that category. At some point, I noticed that the lessons they taught me in my classes and my favourite type of work at home started to blend together. This continued to happen over many years with multiple sources of inspiration, which resulted in the style I have today.
Could you walk us through some of the techniques and processes you like? I’m sure our readers would be delighted if they got to learn something new today!
I always start with a sketch. I used to jump into colours really quickly because it is my favourite part of the process, but this meant a lot of fixing needed to happen in the end stages. Nowadays, I take more time to make my lines and do them as accurate as possible. I do still decide colours as quickly as possible because, for me, they dictate the whole feel and mood of the piece, which are the most important aspects next to the story.
I add in local colours first and use Multiply blending mode layers for the shadows. This way, I have strict control over all the colours, and I can easily change the light source by just altering the Multiply layers. When I’m completely satisfied with the work, I merge all my layers and start painting over everything. I almost always prefer “painted line art” above the original line art I did during sketching.
I always try to use references where needed. The worst advice I’ve ever gotten was a teacher telling me I should be able to paint from memory. If you don’t know what something looks like, you use references to help you out. Don’t try to wing it, you will stifle your growth!
We are currently experimenting with Radio Vox Groovy—our very own Internet radio. The RVG programmes include: Art Relax, VoxStream and VoxBox as of January 2021, but we will be introducing new ones in the foreseeable future.
Our new programme—Art Relax— (EN) will be launching soon. You’ll know that this is the go-to place for every art enthusiast as soon as you tune in!
Now that we’ve touched on technique, I’d like to ask you about the meaning of your art. What are some of the messages you want people to find in an Ilse Harting piece?
The concept in all my work is actually very simple and hard to elaborate on. I just want to make works that make people feel something very specific. I really like intimate concepts with small stories that people can connect to. The quiet and mundane moments captured into a colourful setting is something I love.
As an artist, I’m sure you’ve thought about creativity and its place in both a creative’s life and the world. What are some of the observations you’ve made about art over the years, and have they notably shaped your personal philosophy?
It sounds basic, but it taught me that art is a very subjective concept that changes constantly. Chasing whatever is trending at that current moment is not something to consider unless it already aligns with your own views. It’s better to focus on the things you really like to do or feel strongly about because this will give you the endless energy you need to keep drawing for the rest of your life.
If you could only pick three classical or contemporary artists who influence and impact you the most, who would you choose and why?
The first I have absolutely have to name is Lois van Baarle, more commonly known as Loish. She is a Dutch artist just like me with similar interests art-wise. I looked up to her for most of my teens and early twenties, taking a lot of inspiration from her art and her as a person. Her beautiful mix of manga, Disney and realism really blew me away. Although my interest in different artists has broadened and shifted over the years, I still get excited whenever I see new work from her!
The second person is a fairly recent one by the name of Ramón Nuñez. He’s really good in setting up stories and interesting conflicts in his work. It’s something I really admire! At some point, I really started to doubt my work and storytelling all together and just looking at his work or hearing him talk so nonchalant really pulled me loose from my sterile approach to art.
The third is not really an artist but more just a whole decades-long movement that by now is known to almost anyone. The anime and manga industry. It’s a style that will forever be appealing to me, and I keep coming back to that root and take inspiration once again. The playful looseness and simplicity just tickles my art brain. Since it’s been so influential to me for so many years, I couldn’t not mention it!
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What’s next for Ilse Harting?
I would really love to venture into sequential art. Comics and animation have been an inspiration over many years, and I consume them a lot, so I would love to create my own at some point!
Visit Ilse Harting’s ArtStation
By Vox Groovy staff writer;
All images used with permission by the artist
© Ilse Harting or respective copyright holders