An Interview With... Aniek Bartels

An Interview With... Aniek Bartels

When I start with an illustration I always try to think like a child. Looking for that twist that brings a smile on your face. I think the power of drawing is that you can change reality, just like the imagination of kids.

Photo of Aniek , standing in front on the camera with her head tilted and holding a paintbrush between her upper lip and nose. in blue dungarees

Hi Aniek! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your journey to becoming a full-time illustrator?

I’m Aniek Bartels, born and raised in a small town in the Netherlands called Blaricum. As a little girl, you could always find me drawing somewhere in the house. I was a pretty shy kid, but drawing gave me self-confidence. That is when I decided that become an illustrator is my dream! This never changed, and I’ve worked really hard to make it happen. In 2010, I graduated as designer at the Graphic Lyceum in Utrecht and four years later I also graduated as an illustrator at the Art Academy Willem De Kooning in Rotterdam. Now-a-days, you can find me working from my little home studio as a full-time illustrator. Where I live with my boyfriend Ziggy and bossy cat Tante Lien.


What illustrated children's books did you love?

There was this one called “Rupsje Nooit Genoeg”. It means "Never Enough Caterpillar." It's a tale about a ravenous caterpillar who devours everything in sight.


Who was your favourite illustrator?

Ah, let me tell you, I had every single book of Jip and Janneke. The illustrations were crafted by the magnificent Dutch illustrator Fiep Westerdorp. Her drawings always had a rebellious streak, that's what drew me in.


Was there someone you looked up to in your family that was also an artist?

My mother had this secret talent for drawing. In my old keepsake album, there's a beautiful illustration she made. Sadly, she never pursued it any further.


Are there any family stories about how they knew you was creative?

Drawing was my ultimate passtime. I'd sketch away to my heart's content. During lunch breaks, after school, in my school notebooks—every chance I got. That's when my parents decided to enrol me in art classes after school. It was absolutely marvellous! I could unleash all my creativity there. Back when I was little, falling asleep was quite a challenge. So, I'd create an illustration on several sheets of paper glued together and hang it above my bed. Before drifting off, I'd gaze at it for ages, letting my imagination run wild. The illustration would come to life, distracting me from any worries. Even now, I occasionally do the same with delightful drawings I've made that day.


Was there someone who encouraged your creativity?

I owe a tremendous debt to my parents for the fact that I now earn my bread as an illustrator. They always encouraged me to pursue my dreams. They weren't the typical parents who'd raise a ruckus at the thought of their child studying at an art academy. They even financed all my studies. To this day, they remain my biggest fans.


What kind of things did you love to draw as a child and is that still the case?

I had this book that taught you how to illustrate all sorts of animals using basic shapes. Animals have always been my favourite subjects to depict. There's something so delightful about giving them humorous human qualities. Plus, I genuinely adore animals. They always bring me joy. I suppose that's something I've felt since I was a child.


When you was little, what did you want to be when you grew up?

You know, I've always dreamt of becoming an illustrator. That never changed, really.


When did you know that you wanted to become an illustrator/artist?

As a child, I was always immersed in illustrations. Whenever people looked at my drawings, they'd shower me with kind compliments. I think that's when a tiny spark ignited within me.


Tell us one thing from your childhood bedroom that you treasured...

My little sister... Okay, she's not exactly a thing. But we shared a bedroom until I was twelve, and it was always so cosy! Our room had that typical '90s vibe, with shades of red, green, blue, and yellow. And let's not forget the clown wallpaper. Not as appealing as it sounds, looking back on it.


Tell us about your workspace: is there anything you keep around you while you work to inspire you?

Colours! Whenever I create illustrations, the colours around me ignite a spark of inspiration. I just moved to my new studio last week, and while setting up my workspace, I made sure colours played a significant role in the room. For example, I have a pink desk.


What inspired you to create your 'Less Plastic, More Love' design?

My beloved Minibeau design is the badger titled "Less Plastic, More Love." It's an illustration meant to inspire people to care for our Mother Earth. The design exudes a bit of hippie vibes. It's my favourite because it possesses both sweetness and a rebellious, activist spirit.


What are three things you cannot live without as an illustrator?

Gouache, my beloved artistic medium. My laptop, where I bring all my illustrations to life. And kickboxing, because illustrating can be quite taxing on the body. I spend a lot of time seated, and when I'm focused on drawing, my head tends to bend forward. Staying active is crucial to keeping my body healthy. Besides, kickboxing helps me clear my mind and boosts my confidence.


When or where do you feel most creative?

When the sun casts its warm glow on my desk. It fills me with joy and gives me a sense of eagerness to dive in. It's a shame the sun doesn't always grace us with its presence in the Netherlands… hihi.


Who is your illustration hero?

This changes frequently. I love observing my surroundings and discovering new illustrators. At the moment, I'm absolutely enthralled by Mark Janssen's artwork! He creates stunning illustrations for children's books.


How does your working process usually start?

With a cup of tea. Then, the process unfolds within my mind. When I receive an assignment or need to illustrate a particular text, a flood of ideas immediately rushes through my head. Being a visual person, I can literally envision the illustration I'm about to create.


Talk us through your inspirations for your M i N i B E A U design.

Scouting, living in harmony with nature, spreading kindness, and embracing our wild side—these elements inspired my favourite Minibeau design. 



To learn more about Aniek’s work, visit

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