Belgian illustrator Ellen van Engelen’s colourfully psychedelic images make us think of hazy summer days, with a touch of 70s nostalgia. With loose linework and curvy figures, comic books have been a big inspiration to Ellen. “I’m a big fan of the older Franco-Belgian comic books, some of my favourite artists are Gérard Lauzier, Moebius, Tito Topin, Tardi, Miguel Calatayud, and Claire Bretécher,” she says.
We last featured Ellen’s work three years ago and since then she’s refined her style and has been commissioned by The New York Times, The Guardian, Uniqlo and The New Yorker among others. The illustrator enjoys the challenges commercial and editorial projects provide: “They make me check out stuff and find interesting angles in things I would never consider myself.”
To get that crispness of colour, Ellen’s process is thorough. “After sketching, I draw the final illustration in pen and ink, then I scan it, clean it up, print it out, stretch the print, colour it in with liquid watercolour, scan again and then finally clean it up,” she explains. Depicting domestic scenes like a family in the kitchen to a crowded cafe scene, Ellen also pushes her work into more surreal territory where we see her wide-eyed characters pull scarves through their noses, float above people and sit in forests filled with pink trees. “My illustrations are definitely colourful and I always hope they can make people chuckle. I just want things to look good and be fun,” says Ellen.
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