Wouter Tulp

Where did you grow up and when did you decide to become an artist?
I grew up in The Netherlands, in a small town called Maassluis. I have loved drawing for as long as I can remember, and I never decided to become an artist. The only thing I wanted to do was to draw and paint, and I just made the choices that allowed me to do that.

Have you always been supported in your artistic path or has it been challenging to let your family and friends understand your choice?
Fortunately I have. My parents always believed in me, and gave me the opportunity as well as the responsibility to pursue this career. 

What was the strongest influence you had when you were growing up ( artists, movies, cartoons, comics etc.. ) ?
I learned about art through my dad. Other than that, I didn’t have access to much else than comic strips, which is what I learned most from. just copying Donald Duck’s, creating my own gag, learning to tell stories that way.

Did you go to an art school or are you self taught? What helped you prepare to become the artist we know today?
I went to art school for four years when I was 18 years old. I found my ambition to be higher than what they were able to offer me in that school, but it gave me four years to focus solely on my art. After that, I took on many different types of freelance work, to develop my art an learn many different styles and techniques. I actually still use the assignments of my work to improve as an artist. In a way I’ll never stop being a student.

Did you have a favourite subject to draw when you were a child and do you still have one today? If you do, what makes it so special?
Not specifically, although I like to draw humans, and also to exaggerate. Both are often present in my work.  Also I am fascinated by the philosophy of painting. The idea that we put pigment on a canvas in a specific order, and it can move us to tears. Sometimes we can at the same time identify the brushstrokes and see what is depicted. When is a line just a line, and when does it become a perfect interpretation of the artist’s perception. I find that very interesting.

From the initial client idea to the final design: what goes through your mind when you're designing and what is the method you use when starting a project? Could you describe it?
Obviously it is different for each project, especially since I do different types of projects. But in general, I work from broad and rough to specific and defined. I put down associative ideas, rough sketches, various concepts. I look for reference to help me develop these ideas. Then I draw little thumbnail sketches, where I can judge the concept visually. In such a small sketch, I can judge if the concept , composition, pose etc. works. If it doesn’t work in such a small sketch, it won’t work on a larger scale. I choose a few ideas and do larger versions of them, add some rough color as well. This way it becomes clear to the client what he can expect, but also is he able to choose an direct in this stage. Having this moment to connect with the client often helps to limit the amount of changes the client wants at the end.

What is your process in colouring your art and what type of tools or media do you use?
In gouache I work from transparent to opaque, quite traditionally. With markers from light to dark, like watercolor. Digitally, I use different methods. I like painting as if I am painting traditionally a lot, but I also add color under a line drawing, and work from there. To me it is more important to have a clear vision of what I want to achieve than how I get there.

What part of designing a character is most fun and easy and what part is the hardest to design for you?
The creative part of the process, where anything is still possible is by far the most fun. Exploration, trying different ideas. When everything is settled on, and there needs to be a fully rendered version of this idea, that is harder for me, as it leaves less room for happy accidents, of going with a spontaneous idea.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work/collaborate with?
I work from home. I have a studio, and my wife who is a photographer also works there. I start my day with a run, then have breakfast with my wife and son. After I bring my son to school I do some meditation. Then I go to my studio, and create an overview of what needs to be done that day. I set my goals. Then I check emails and messages and spend 30 minutes of gesture sketching. (or character studies, or anatomy studies) during a course, I’ll be doing some student critiques first, and then I’ll get to work. I set alarms every 30 minutes to move my head and body. During the day I take breaks, and go out for a walk. I pay attention to my rest and body, because I believe when I have a calm mind and a healthy body I can do my best work.

What are some of the things you have learned from other artists who you have worked with or whose work you have seen?

  • Work hard, but take care of yourself as a complete human being. That includes mind, body and relationships
  • Everything is interesting. When you focus on something, a world opens. Great artists often notice things nobody is interested in, and they use it to create beautiful art.
  • There is no shortcut to success, or skill. All the artists I admire don’t feel they are ‘there’ yet. It is a continuing process.
  • Have fun!! art is fun, don’t make it a competition, but share, inspire and enjoy!

Is there something that you have designed that you are most proud of?
Mmm, tough question. I think not a design, but more the fact that I am living my dream. I’m really proud of that!

What projects have you worked on in the past and what are you working on at the moment (if you can tell us)?
For years I have worked as a freelance illustrator in the Netherlands. There I did caricatures, children’s books, editorial illustrations, commercials, for magazines, books, tv and more. At a certain point I started to do work for movies, starting with ‘Der 7te Zwerg’, directed by the late Harald Siepermann. After that, I did designs for a dutch 2D feature called Triple Trouble. Then I started doing character designs for international projects, among which a CG feature by Paul McCartney. Unfortunately they changed directors, and none of my work will be used. Currently I work on a CG feature for Sony Pictures Animation, and I teach a character design class at CGMA, and give lectures from time to time all over the world.

What is your longterm career goal and what would your dream project be?
I find myself in the strange situation where I have achieved every goal I have ever set for myself. I love what I am doing, and I hope I can keep doing this.

Working for a company or freelancing: what suits you best? And why?
Freelance. It gives me a lot of freedom and flexibility. 

What advise would you give to an artist who is dealing with an art-block? How do you boost your imagination and keep yourself creative?
I think such a thing has to do with thoughts of what people will think, expectations. Just start. Have fun. Create an assignment for yourself. This is not something you will put in your portfolio, you are not even going to show it to anyone. This is just for you. and it doesn’t matter what the outcome is. There are no mistakes , just results. Allow yourself to learn. and find the fun. If you’re stuck, you are probably taking stuff too seriously.

Concept art, animation, illustration, comics, there’s so many options to choose and when you’re young, sometimes the only thing you know is just that you love to draw: what should a young artist take into consideration to make the right decision when choosing an artistic path?
What do you love to draw? why? What else do you like? Who are you? What part of drawing do you like? Sketching ideas, finished paintings? What kind of person are you? Team player, soloist? Often the answer lies in asking the right question. Go back to a memory of when you were drawing, and you absolutely felt this is YOU, this is what you were made to do. What is it that makes this so awesome? And also investigate what the industry is. What does it actually mean to work in a studio, what does it mean to be a self publishing graphic novelist? A lot of the answers are probably visible in the type of work you already create. Do you prefer characters, backgrounds, storytelling drawings, realism, cartoon, do you draw one style only, or are you a chameleon? A general advice is hard to give, but be honest with yourself, and find out what you enjoy most. That is where you are at your best. 

What’s your point of view about the industry today: what are the expectation for someone who wants to make a living with an artistic career?
The industry has changed a couple of times already since I have been working professionally, always has changed, and always will keep changing. There will always be a need for people to translate ideas visually. Make sure you know as an artists why you are in this business, what is important to you personally. What would you want to do even if the industry didn’t exist? When the industry changes, certain positions will disappear, but new opportunities will open up. When you know what it is about for you, you will always find that place where you can shine.

Who are the artists who inspire you the most today and what are some of your favorite designs?
Too many, but I’ll just name a few…Carlos Nine, Carter Goodrich, Jeremy Lipking, C.F.Payne, Paul Felix.. The best designs I think are designs where you are touched emotionally, or surprised in their way of depicting a concept.

We have a soft spot for hand drawn animation, what is your opinion about the future of this art form?
The big studios may have moved away from hand-drawn animation, but a lot of beautiful hand-drawn animations are still created. The future will be different from what it used to be in the past, but there will be a place for hand-drawn animation.

Social networks, crowd funding websites (like Kickstarter, Patreon, Indiegogo..) and print on demand online service (like Etsy, Society6, InPrint..) are connecting the artists directly with their fans like never before. In your opinion, how is this gonna affect the industry and what are the pros and cons?
That’s a big question.. I think social media offer a platform for artists, that can be very powerful, if used successfully. The way it is affecting the industry right now is that many artists can gain income from this, create their own projects, and set up independent projects.

Finally, where can we see your art online and get in touch with you? How can we buy your creations and support your work?
My website ( woutertulp.com ), Facebook page ( facebook.com/woutertulp ), Instagram, ( instagram.com/woutertulp ), Behance ( behance.net/wtulp ) and Twitter ( twitter.com/woutertulp ).  

Thank you Wouter :)