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Skulls, Skates & Graphic Skills

Text: Emily Leemput Media: Ramon Schollaardt Graphics: Rik Stable Layout: Alexandra Auer

Imagine surrealistic illustrations featuring Eindhoven buildings and an interesting set of colours. It might look a bit like the background of this article, which was made in collaboration with graphical designer Rik Stabel (@rkstbl on Instagram). He also provided us with various insights, inspirations and an interesting conversation. Through this article, I hope to share a bit of this conversation with you.

We’re sitting inside CoffeelabUC in front of Eindhoven station. He just got off work, I’m still shaking off the rush in which I left an Aesthetics of Interaction feed- back session to make it to this interview. A good place to start seems to be, well, the beginning. When did you get started with design, and how did that lead to what you are doing now?

“It’s always been nice to create art without the actual need to perform behind it. Being able to let your fantasy go loose, not being limited by restrictions or pressure. During my study at the art academy, I focused on media. This taught me a more commercial take on creating. Simply being able to do whatever you want to do, which is what I do in my personal pieces, is so much more fun though.

I also don’t seek out commercial possibilities for the pieces I make. If people are interested in what I do and what I create, that’s great, but I just want to let people come to me through my work – I don’t go looking for it.”

As I am catching up with writing down everything being said, I look at the list of questions I wrote down, and put it away. He continues:

“In a way, everything I do is still a study. Most of my pieces are surrealistic, but I do always try to add real- istic elements. I’m always experimenting with colour combinations, trying to find out what works.

I wouldn’t say I have one standard style. There is a global, overall style, but I also put sketches of other stuff online. Putting work online is interesting in a few differ- ent aspects. It an ideal way to get feedback, but it also visualises a journey. What’s important to me is to always keep experimenting and growing.”

From the topic of putting work online and getting feedback, it’s a small leap to what that feedback is about most of the time.

“I often get asked why I add the skulls and helmets in my work. I’m not trying to create dark, heavy themed pieces. It’s not about making a piece with skulls. I try to create an overall composition, and I think that adding faces takes away from this. Faces always seem to remind people of someone. By abstracting this element of the human body, yet still keeping it recognisable as a hu- man, the focus doesn’t go out to just a face.”

Scrolling through his Instagram posts, there seems to be a clear change in colour use. The more recent posts all use comparable colours, while the earlier pieces are all in black and white.

“I started out with a lot of black and white pieces indeed – I thought pure line art looked really nice. From there, I moved on to adding elements of colour to my pieces. It started with a single-coloured sun, which is something that I still use regularly in work. After the first colour study I posted, I began experimenting with silkscreen printing. More and more colour experiments followed, and eventually I began composing pieces with Eind- hoven icons.”

It’s not until this point that I learn that several of his pieces are actually exposed in the Eindhoven brand- store, about 5 meters from where we are sitting.

“People began asking about buying pieces. Instead of just going to whichever printing company, I decided to look into printing possibilities. I didn’t want to have my work on the standard glossy poster paper – it wouldn’t fit the pieces at all. To get to the right method, looked into different printing techniques and specific types of paper. Eventually I got to an indigo printing technique that worked really well with the colours; a structured 4type of Italian paper; and a printing company that could actually combine these two.”

Our conversation goes on. We go from future free- lancing visions, to working for a company within the commercial limits, to discussing what makes a piece finished, until we slowly start getting to an end.

Most of the lights are switched off already. The people around us have left, and it’s completely dark outside. Checking my phone, I learn that it’s 18:37. It’s time to end the interview, and with that also time to end this article. Since it is the ending, I’d like to close this off with what we ended up talking about – despite it being about beginnings.

“Getting started with something, you never know where it’s going, and that’s where the fun comes in.”

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