Deborah’s Drawing Tip

Saturday is illustration day. Each week, we put one of our favorite illustrators in the spotlight, and ask them to share a golden tip to help us get started with drawing. Today, it’s the turn of Deborah van der Schaaf.



Can you tell us a bit about these illustrations? These are three of the “Tiny Pleasures” illustrations I created for Flow’s A Year of Tiny Pleasures 2016 Tear Calendar. I really enjoyed that project. Two songs kept being played when I was working on it: “Simple Things” by Paolo Nutini and “My Favorite Things” from the movie, The Sound of Music, and I found myself singing the lyrics “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens / Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens” out loud very often.

What do you enjoy most about your job? I love the variation in techniques, subject matter and assignments. One project could involve making collages for a series of children’s books; the next could be creating photo-illustrations for a newspaper. Or, like for Flow, making hand-lettering tutorials.

Where do you find inspiration? Everywhere: at the market, on the street, in the museum. I really admire creatives such as Maira Kalman, Leanne Shapton and Brecht Evens: they’re not mere makers of images, they are storytellers. I was born in the Italian Alps, my grandparents had a farm there. Every summer, we would go to stay with them and the freedom that I experienced whilst there – picking wild flowers, berries and mushrooms, collecting eggs, building tree houses – still inspires me.

What does your workplace look like? I have a table, with my computer on it, and next to that is a pink kitchen cupboard. If my desk disappears under the clutter and junk (think coffee mugs, sketches, admin paperwork, etc.), I can pull out the shelves of the cupboard, and carry on working there. The cabinet is home to lots of lovely things: a drawer full of paper treasures and handmade books; a shelf with exotic candies and packaging, vases, old photos. Chispa, a neighbor’s cat, sneaks into my room every morning to sleep (and snore!), which is very nice.

Got a golden drawing tip for us? When I’m tracing over pencil sketches, I use the window and some washi tape instead of a light box: I often make a series of scribbled pencil sketches first, to figure out what should be where and what is important. It’s a process I do with my illustrations and with hand lettering, too.