March 03, 2011

Inspiration: Fiep Westendorp

I mostly blog about my own work but I want to share other great work with you guys too. So to start off with, my biggest inspiration: Fiep Westendorp.

"Fiep Westendorp (Zaltbommel, December 17, 1916 - Amsterdam, February 3, 2004) was a Dutch illustrator who became especially popular due to her long-term collaboration with writer Annie M.G. Schmidt. Three generations of Dutch people have grown up with her illustrations. The drawings she made for Jip en Janneke, a series of stories which ran in Dutch newspaper Het Parool from 1953 to 1957, now adorn a variety of items sold by Dutch department store HEMA.
Since the regular Dutch awards for illustrations always eluded her, she was given a unique award for her entire oeuvre in 1997. Since 2007, the University of Amsterdam have an endowed chair for illustration in Westendorp's honor."
Source: Wikipedia

Now you know a little about her background, now I would like to add some things :)

I think it's best to tell up front that Fiep Westendorp's work is typically Dutch. It's not very popular outside The Netherlands. It's not very traditional. I hope this will make more people appreciate her work.

I first saw Fiep's work through 'Jip en Janneke', two little kids in black and white. I think I was about 4 years old when my mom read my first Jip and Janneke story.
Why were Jip and Janneke in black and white? Well, the newspapers back then didn't use color so everything had to be printed in black and white. Because the Jip and Janneke stories were printed so small, Fiep decided to make the head in black so there was a good contrast.

She not only drew for children. As you can see above, she made illustrations for adults too. She made drawings for a weekly piece in a Dutch newspaper about women and their households. She mainly used ink at this time.

Later on, when printers could print colours, she started with gouche and pencils.

What I like so much about her work is her sense for colors and her palette. I have a lot of her books and I always see certain colours, like purple and blue and bright greens for plants. A very nice palette.

What I also find amazing is the combination between gouache, ink and colour pencils. She defines hard lines with ink and makes it softer with gouache and adds patterns with pencils. She doesn't outline everything with ink, only certain parts. It's very balanced.

Many Dutch people always talk about her witty noses. I love it. I like how she draws eyes: sometimes only a simple dot and sometimes it's an open round. The way she draws the limbs is witty: no round corners, everything very pointy. It's the way she uses her pens and pencils. Only the heads are round.

Fiep Westendorp is a very gifted artist. That's why I love it even more how she plays with perspective. It's never completely right but it's intentional. It makes the composition playful and interesting.

A while ago, I visited an exhbition with original work of Fiep. It's amazing how many details she drew. What I found also fascinating is that she made mistakes and erased them or painted them over.

Even the best make mistakes. This is a good one for me to remember.


  1. She was awesome. Her style was so unique.
    I would love to go to an exposition of hers sometime.
    Ow waarom typ ik in het engels XD Weet jij toevallig of er nog een expositie is van haar op het moment?

  2. Omdat ik ook in het Engels typte? :D

    Nee, op het moment niet. De expositie 'Fiep in Vogelvlucht' in Eelde is net beÃĢindigt.

  3. Hey, I know her works and have several postcards of it. beaztiful!
    Thankys for the reminder!

    Wish you a nice weekend.

  4. Ah ik heb nu twee boeken van haar op mijn nachtkastje liggen, ze is leuk he.

  5. @ Magadalena
    Her work is really nice and inspiring!

    Ik kan niet zonder een beetje Fiep elke dag :)

  6. Wow!! Thank you for the info!! Her work is amazing! A great discovery for me!

  7. It is very pretty. And your work too.

    Thank you for visiting my small weather diary!

    Snowy spring greetings from Finland.

  8. @ Natascha Rosenberg: I'm happy I got people all over the world interested in Fiep Westendorp. She was an amazing artist!

    @ Anna Emilia: Thank you very much! I love visiting your inspiring blog!

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