Lienke Raben is one of the illustrators whose work I’ve been following for years and she inspired me more than once.
Lienke is from Amsterdam, The Netherlands and she does these amazing doodles of anything you can think of. She uses simple lines and vibrant colors that can quickly animate any object, from skateboards and surfboards, to coffee mugs, chairs and now walls.
I say walls, because because her new business, Wallnuts Murals, is all about illustrating walls. She has a blast doing murals and shares her work process in this interview!
I’ve been following your work for a few years now and I’m wondering, how did you get here? How did you start drawing, what is your story?
Thanks for following me! I always loved to draw, but I didn’t really think about creating an income with illustrations. I was more focused on graphic design. I think I developed my drawings a lot in the past few years. I now work full time as an illustrator which forces me into drawing every day. And I really can see I improved myself, so that’s very motivating.
Do you also do freelance work?
I’m a full time illustrator, but I’m combining freelance work with working for an agency.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
It’s the combination of many things. I really enjoy making murals. We recently started Wallnuts and that’s making me really happy! We got some nice projects to work on and hopefully there are many more to follow.
But I also like working for the agency, in a big team for big clients. I also enjoy giving workshops about communicating (about complex subjects or changes in companies) with visuals. So, it really is the combination of many different things that motivates me and makes me happy.
The Amsterdam map is also a reflection of places me and my colleagues like
The Great Places of Amsterdam map is one of your most promoted designs. Was this a collaboration? How did it happen, what is the story?
At one of the agencies where I work, in60seconds, we have 180 hours per year to spend on a personal project. I always loved maps and I wanted to make one of Amsterdam, but it felt like a really big project and I didn’t know where to start. So, when I heard of these 180 hours, I immediately knew I wanted to make a map of Amsterdam.
What was your process for designing the map?
First, I collected some maps I liked and I got the book “A Map of the World” as a birthday present. I wanted to draw it by hand, but I needed to make changes so I decided to draw it on a Cintiq. “I know this Great Little Place in Amsterdam” had a list of nice places and me and my colleagues complemented the list. When I had a gap, I asked someone if they knew a nice place over there. So the map is also a reflection of places me and my colleagues like.
At the agency I spend a lot of time in front of a screen, so, for my freelance projects, I like to do more analogue things. Like murals
Other than that, what kind of projects do you usually take?
Murals! At the agency I spend a lot of time in front of a screen, so, for my freelance projects, I like to do more analogue things. And now that I’ve done some murals, people have an easier time finding me (or Wallnuts) and so I get nice new projects.
What was your favorite/most challenging project so far? And why?
The map of Amsterdam was a really big project that got a lot of attention in Amsterdam. And, also, the time I got to do a mural in San Francisco was crazy! I was so surprised and excited that they wanted to fly me over for this, it was an awesome experience.
I know you started doing screen printing. I’m curious, what is your experience so far?
I started screen printing because I wanted to learn a new technique where I can make posters/prints that are handmade and limited, but don’t take up to 20 or more hours for just one piece. If I screen print them myself, it still feels authentic, as opposed to digital print.
Is it difficult, what do you need to know when you first start?
Well, it’s not really difficult, it just takes a lot of time and patience. I recommend to follow a (2 day) workshop to learn it 🙂 And just keep practising, I should really do that more often.
Tell me about the new business you just started with your partner, Wallnuts Murals.
Esther and I did a few murals together and when signing them, there were always two names. So we thought: let’s join forces and make one “brand” together, fully focused on murals and customizing. That was the beginning of Wallnuts.
What is the most satisfying part about doing a mural?
A really big and smooth white wall, and then draw your first line… Most scary part, but most satisfying when it turns out nice.
Since I’ve never done murals before, I’m curious: what are the biggest challenges when working on a mural?
Getting the right proportions is the hardest part. Drawing the sketch you made on paper on a big wall.
What is your work process (for murals)? Do you start with a sketch for the client to approve?
At the start of a new project, we make up a list of words together with the client and, later on, we transform that list to a clear sketch on scale. So, before we actually start painting, there is some time for feedback.
What happens if you make mistakes on a mural? You can’t really click “undo” 🙂
Haha, I never made a really big mistake! But when something doesn’t go exactly how I wanted, I have to be creative. Make something else or extra, fill in a part you maybe didn’t want to fill in…
What supplies do you use? Do you use a projector too?
We use Molotow or Posca markers and sometimes acrylic paint. We normally don’t use a projector, but it can be useful if you have to draw a correct logo or font.
How do you set the price for your work? For murals, for example, do you charge by the hour or by the project? And why?
We calculate the amount of hours and we multiply that with our fee. So yes, we charge by the hour because every mural is different and has a different approach.
I know you also sell prints of your illustrations. What is your experience so far, do you feel like you can make a steady income from selling your work, as an artist?
Nope, not at the moment. At society6, you just receive a small part of every product you sell. And I need to make a real webshop first. But even then I know I won’t be able to make a steady income from selling my work.
Do you also have an online shop with your work? (your website is redirecting to Behance at the moment)
No, at the moment I haven’t. My website has been hacked several times which really sucks. Now I only have a landing page with some links to Behance, Instagram and Wallnuts (see links at the end of this article). I have to make a new website first and then maybe I’ll start a webshop too.
Do you spend time and energy promoting yourself? Is this something important for you?
Not really, only by posting stuff on Instagram and sometimes Behance (when I finish a project) or Dribbble. But for Wallnuts, we did promote ourselves because it was a new brand we wanted to tell the world about 😉 We made some free postcards and did a live drawing session in a market in Amsterdam.
Where do you see yourself a few years from now?
I have dreams to get a lot of mural and customisation projects abroad with Wallnuts. To travel and make awesome stuff at the same time. But (at least in the few years from now) I still want to combine it with working at an agency. I want to keep challenging myself visually, but also by learning new things and expanding my knowledge.
Follow Lienke on her: Facebook | Instagram | Behance | Wallnuts Murals | Vimeo