In the work others create, we can see someone’s interests, experiences and personality (unless someone just copies, but let’s put that aside for now ;)). Style is always evolving, but seeing a person trough their art is what makes it so special and unique. Sometimes I come across work of someone else, and discover similarities in backgrounds later. Seeing the work of Antoinette Verhoeven made me curious about the designer behind STUDIOZWAANSTRAAT. She is a(n) illustrator, graphic designer and surface pattern designer, with a focus on creating very personal house portraits at the moment. And that is how I found out she had a background in architecture. A profession quite similar with my background in landscape architecture.
Can you tell a bit about yourself?
My name is Antoinette Verhoeven and as STUDIOZWAANSTRAAT I do what I love most: creating beautiful images! I get inspired by all different kind of things, whether it is the content of my kitchen cabinet or the way people on the other side of the world have their coffee. I create illustrations, postcards, birth cards or stationery for all kind of festivities, but I also like to develop a new corporate identity for your company, whether it is small or big, a fresh look can take your business to the next level.Lately a lot of people have asked me to make them a very personal house portrait, an illustration of their home with all members of the family, all covered with personal details, a cat, a swing or their favourite toy. I love doing that! And next to that I like designing surface patterns, for use on textile or wallpaper.
Last but not least I am a mother of two beautiful daughters and a little boy, of which the last one is just entering his teens, and sometimes it makes me quite sad that the cuddling years will be over soon, but at the same time it gives me time and the opportunity to develop myself in very new ways, and I love that!
How did you become an illustrator and surface designer?
After years of working as a designer in the world of architecture something started to itch. For a very long time I got my artistic satisfaction out of designing buildings, but that seemed no longer sufficient. My attention went to other things; Instant happiness at the sight of a nice book, a good color combination, or a pretty painting. And I missed drawing! It was definitely time for a change…
One night I found this quote ‘I think we should all stay up late and draw’. It was exactly the way I felt (and I am sure it would make the world a better place). I started following courses to learn the things I always wanted to learn but never had time for: different drawing techniques, photoshop, illustrator. And I gave myself time to do that. Quite a luxury! Still loving urban design and architecture, one day I created a house portrait of my own home and family, and this was the start of a lot of commissions and of my own studio STUDIOZWAANSTRAAT.
How would you describe your style?
After working as an architect for a long time, where being precise and accurate of course is very important, it is such a relieve to work in a much more intuitive way. The use of colours, the lay out, it is all ‘from the belly’, as we say in The Netherlands. It is such a relief to create things that way, and I feel it never lets me down. Listening to my gut feeling has proved to be a very good thing! My style is therefore more about atmosphere than about truth. It is more about feeling right then about being right.
Can you share a bit of your design process, and your main inspiration source(s)?
A lot of different things inspire me, and I still have a great fondness of houses, buildings, city life. I am always intrigued by the way people make their surroundings theirs, and how this is influenced by cultural differences. I can be really moved when I see the way an old lady has set up her little balcony in her own personal style, to spend all her time there knitting and watering her plant babies.
What was the best advice you got from a teacher/mentor or other (creative) person to help you with your creative work?
Insecurity is the biggest enemy, for me and I guess for a lot of creatives. Therefore I will always be grateful for any encouragement that I get along the way. It’s not the opinion of a teacher or mentor that counts. Even the smallest thumbs up means a lot, maybe it was your thumbs up that made me make my decision to just do it, and go for it. Thanks for that!
What is your creative dream at the moment?
STUDIOZWAANSTRAAT has only just started this year, and I really hope that in the future I will be able to make a living out of what I love doing best. Taking small steps and learning a lot! Recently I designed a set of postcards, and right now I am in the process of finding shops who would like to sell the cards. Every time I get a ‘Yes, please!” I do a little dance!
Who are your favourite surface pattern designers/illustrators and why?
Recently I discovered on Instagram the Portuguese illustrator Ana Frois (who is, as I found out, also trained as an architect. I see a connection!) I really enjoyed her work, it has a certain roughness over it. Go and take a look yourself! As a business owner I am looking up to Jurianne Matter, who has been steadily building her business in a personal way, always staying close to herself, and therefore her designs feel very sincere. I always fall in love with her products!
What is your best recommendation for other (emerging) designers?
Give your intuition a chance and you’ll give yourself the biggest gift of your life.
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