Interview: Mr. Nelson Design

First few basic questions, who are you, what are you doing, where are you coming from?

I’m Wouter Tjeenk Willink aka Mr. Nelson design. I’m from Blaricum, a small village near Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I’m working as a graphic designer and illustrator, and a tiny little bit as an animator.

I’ve been doing a lot of video experimenting lately, trying to learn this too. I used to work as an audio designer before diving into graphic design, so with animation I can combine these two crafts.

How would you describe your style? And how quickly did you find your ”style”?

My style is very rough. A combination of analog and digital materials. I use collage techniques a lot in my works and also like to include some hand-lettering every now and then. It took me a long time to find my style. Perfectionism got in the way. I used to have all of those nice Moleskine sketchbooks, which I didn’t want to ruin with bad sketches. I really admired people with those perfect sketchbooks filled with sketches that were artworks by themselves. I wanted mine to be like that too, but that just held me from using them at all. I then was watching an online course by James Victore one day about working with a free mind and suddenly I got it. I switched to a new mindset of trying to wreck as many sketchbooks as possible ignoring the critical voice in my head. Quantity over quality. That really removed a barrier for me. Producing more and more very rough rubbish I slowly started to notice my style evolving.

Your works are super colorful, vivid, and hectic, where there is you? Which elements do you feel reflect you
the most?

I think the hectic part is definitely me. It’s quite busy in my head all the time and I’m very chaotic. Besides I’m quite an introvert so the vivid colors are maybe in a way some kind of compensation for that.

Can you tell me about the process of making your work?

I work very intuitively and organically. I’m experimenting all the time, both in digital and analog ways. I love to buy tools like all kinds of pens, markers, paint, etc, and try them out. Oftentimes parts of these experiments are ending up in my work one way or another. Also what works for me very well, especially in case of the inevitable creative block, is starting from an existing work. I then just pick an existing work of mine and start remixing it. This really helps me fight the fear of the blank canvas and get my creativity going. Having something to work from gives me a kickstart. In a way collage is kind of the same. It gives you some visual elements to start from.

“Most of the time I have no clue where I’m going, to be honest.”

When you begin to work on a piece, do you have a clear vision of what you are going to do or where to start? How much do your works ”live”/change from the original vision? How much do you improvise?

Most of the time I have no clue where I’m going, to be honest. I’m just sampling/collecting raw materials and then go from there. It takes quite some time until there’s a moment where all of a sudden something ‘clicks’ and pieces are starting to come together, seemingly by themselves.

For my commercial commissions most of the time I have at least some basic vision of where I want to go. I start with making a list or mindmap with keywords and start collecting visual elements that fit with them. From there it’s just a matter of putting some of them on my canvas and start messing around with them until I notice something starting to happen. I go with the flow until I’ve got something that feels right.

What inspires you and your works? And how does that inspiration show up in your works?

There is so much inspiration to be found online nowadays that I often suffer from inspiration overload. I try not to surf around too much looking for inspiration because seeing all those great works of others I also notice that I start to feel less confident about my own work. Looking for inspiration most of the time has the opposite effect on me. There is so much talent that if you start comparing yourself (which you automatically do) there are always a lot of others that are way better. I instantly want to be as good as them but I have to remember the fact that they may have come a long way to get where they are.

When I’m looking for visual inspiration for a specific commission, sometimes I sample a part of an image and use that as a starting point. When the work develops I may remove the initial visual reference from it altogether. Then the image isn’t present anymore in the final artwork, but still, it has been the foundation for it.
Also, music is a great source of inspiration for me. Well, maybe not literally inspiration but more a way for me to get into the zone and come into a state of flow.

Do you have any artistic guilty pleasures you’d like to admit?

Haha, that’s a good one. Maybe I could be secretly inserting inappropriate images into my works that people won’t notice… Who knows…

What drives you forward as a creative?

Don’t know really. And to be honest I don’t think about it too much at all. It’s some kind of an intangible force. I’m automatically creating, whether I want it or not. I think it has to do something with wanting to be seen or heard. As I mentioned before I’m an introvert, so I guess this is just my way of expressing myself and getting my message across. Apart from that I just want to learn new techniques and use different materials all the time to further develop my creativity.

Can you point out any particular turning points/moments on your career?

As I mentioned earlier, my big breakthrough in the process of finding my style and discovering myself was an online course by James Victore. I learned to let go of perfectionism (actually I’m still in the middle of learning this, it’s a hard process). When I switched to a ‘quantity over quality’-mode I managed to make more and more sketches, and in doing so also some nicer pieces were starting to show up. By building a database of sketches and visual elements I started to notice something that looked like a style, which I then developed further in a more conscious way. My confidence started growing as well. Although I still have days when I don’t like my work at all, I notice that I am increasingly satisfied with some works.

If you should describe your art in one word, what would it be?


Mr. Nelson Design around the internet

Instagram: @mrnelsondesign
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