JASPER VAN GESTEL on Colours, Tattoos and selling mouse mats.

by Ryo Sanada

“The world is becoming a grey and over-regulated robotic place. Illustration brings colour.”

The fusion of geometric shapes and animals (in a playful sense) has been the predominant element in your work, where do you draw inspiration? 

I think animals are great metaphors for human behavior and emotions. The geometric shapes in my work often are minimized symbols like a moon & stars, a vase, a face, spots in the fur of an animal, they can be anything and I love them because of their timeless simplicity. 

When was it you developed an interest in illustration and animation?

I liked drawing since I was a kid but the first time illustration and animation really got my attention was as a student in Antwerp, when my wife (still my neighbour back then) showed me her books and DVD’s from Pictoplasma, Taschen, and yes, also Stickerbomb 🙂 That’s about ten years ago. I didn’t know a lot of good artists and references before, coming from a small village where all dudes played soccer and drank beer. I only did the last part. Then I moved to Antwerp and never went back. 

And do you remember your very first paid job?

Yes, it was for a bike store from Antwerp. Made a little hand-drawn stop-motion animation for them. I remember I animated it on my floor with a camera I borrowed from my art-school. 

Aside from illustration, animation, and painting, you are now tattooing. Can you tell us a bit more about it and why?

I’ve been in love with tattoos since the day I can remember – I used to stick these fake ones on as a kid. In high school all I did was draw on arms. 

When I was 17 I took the train to Antwerp and got my first tattoo. Many tattoos and years later Nathalie, my wife, traded her LP decks with Younes from Brabo’s Hand Tattoo and gave me a backpiece tattoo as a gift. Yes, Nathalie is very nice. During these long tattoo sessions Younes and I got along well – the guys at the shop also seemed to like my illustration work and Younes offered me an apprenticeship at Brabo’s Hand in Antwerp.

I thought I was too old, but he convinced me and taught me all the stuff. Together with the other tattooers at the shop, I got great tips and advice on this craft and it’s the hardest skill I ever tried to learn and the first steps were pretty nerve-wracking. But today I’m in my second year as an apprentice, tattooing 1 day per week at the shop, which has a great creative vibe to it. And I like it a lot. We’ll see what the future brings.

What is your favorite piece of (commissioned) work you’ve done and why?

I tend to always like my recent work the most. So right now I like the stuff I did for the Museum Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp. The 2 new books I made for kids, editorial illustrations for the English Fare Magazine and the illustrated/animated campaign I got to do for the city of Antwerp. 

How has the pandemic affected your current and future projects?

Living from creativity wasn’t easy before and it sure will not get any easier in the future.

I notice that business is quieter than normal and also that budgets are smaller. Tattoo-wise, I have enough work in the coming months but of course, I’m afraid of lockdowns like the government has pulled before. Which makes nothing I do for a living a certainty – ever! I have to get used to that, I guess. The pandemic also made me realize the importance of family and friends. And that happiness is in simple daily stuff. Sorry for the corniness, just trying to be honest 🙂

What are you working on right now? 

Mainly raising a 1 and 5-year-old daughter with my wife. Then learning how to pull a decent tattoo. There’s still a lot to learn!  Also making personal paintings, tattoo flash, and statues. Working part-time as an animator at the video studio of my brother: TheBlackbox.  And I’m also working on some clothing & merch collabs right now.

What is the most difficult part of being an independent artist?

Looking for the balance between the stuff you want (and need!) to make and being able to pay your bills while doing that. For me personally that has been a struggle since the day I came out of art-school. 

Sometimes I wish I could just be happy with working a 9 to 5 at some multinational company selling computer mouse mats or something. It would make things easier. But I can’t. 

What challenges do you face today that are different than when you started?

I have a family and small children now. Which comes with a lot of crazy responsibilities. My wife and I also chose to live with less money in order to have some more time for our kids and chase our true ideals in life which are pretty much the opposite of materialism. Doing that in combo with my personal work, commissions, a part-time animation dayjob and tattooing can be pretty intense. Not to mention corona lockdowns with kids and so on. But we also have a lot of fun while doing that and I’m very lucky they are in my life. 

And why does illustration matter more now than ever?

Because I think the world is becoming a grey and over-regulated robotic place. And illustration brings color.  

Is there anything that you want to share with other independent artists across the globe?

Yes,  let’s never let the grey people take our creativity away. And try to spend less time on social media, it’s just a tool (also note to self, that is :-).

Makes sure to check out Jasper’s Instagram and website, for more of his work. If you need to commission him or you need some creative video, motion graphics / animation / shooting, or editing please email us here or schedule a conversation with us.