Nelleke Verhoeff

Interview: Nelleke Verhoeff wants you to surprise yourself


JJ Gregory caught up with Nelleke Verhoeff on having fun while making art, overcoming your inner critic, and the question we all want an answer to: can you have too many red pens?

Q: The way you combine digital and analog elements in your work is delightful and looks like so much fun to make! I love that you emphasize that it is not about the end result as much as it is about playing and trying different techniques. You started out traveling all over Europe making physical and visual theater. Do you think that experience helps you to sustain a spontaneous attitude toward your art?

A: Making theatre has absolutely influenced my art making, but more in a way of the subjects. I often draw jugglers, musicians, acrobats, performers etc. because I know (and love) that world so well.

Q: In Fun & Funny, you show us how to collect all kinds of little things and organize them into folders to use for inspiration later. I especially love how you cut up old paintings for textures that you manipulate using a scanner and Photoshop. What would you say to someone who wants to use collateral and scrap from magazines in a sketchbook?

A: Go for it and make them your own. Cut and paste and make new images. Collage, in combination with drawing, can give such surprising results.

Q: You point out that if you are trying to create an expression on a face in a drawing you put that expression on your own face. I have never heard anyone say that before but I love it so much. Do you ever find that making certain emotions in your characters can bring those emotions out in yourself?

A: Haha, yes, when I’m drawing, for example a sad character, I can empathize with it, especially when I’m drawing the face with that expression.

Q: You certainly understand about both taking risks and being committed to projects. You quit theater (and sold everything you owned) to learn and develop a new career as an illustrator. You’ve also done an epic yearlong project where you create a drawing of a new face and post online each day. Those both require bravery and tenacity. How do you combat your inner critic when you are doing something that feels hard?

A: I try to not listen to it too much and concentrate on the bigger picture. Not always easy, because sometimes it does get loud… But for example in a year long project, it is normal that not every drawing is as strong as the others. Next day, new chance!

Q: The name of your company is Red Cheeks Factory because not only do all of your characters have them but you also have them while you are working. Can you ever have too many red pens, pencils and markers???

A: Hahaha, no NEVER!!!!

Nelleke Verhoeff is an illustrator/artist from the Netherlands. She started her career as a theatrical performer and those influences are found in her work. Nelleke loves to draw characters with a story and is a frequent collaborator on award-winning books. She is the owner and founder of Red Cheeks Factory.

Find more about Nelleke and her work on her website:

2 mins

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