There are no terms or conditions for becoming an illustrator. There is no perfect line or curve to be drawn. Geran Knol knew it from the beginning. Everything can take time and the right amount of inspiration. The mission, with this Antwerp based illustrator, is just one: to find a poetic silence with humour. The result would be as graceful as the thrill of a child discovering new things. And his work simply never gets old.
Let’s go back in time a little bit. Do you remember when you realised that you wanted to become an illustrator? How was the reaction of your family and friends?
For as long as I can remember I knew I wanted to draw. I didn’t grow up in an artistic environment, but my parents always supported me in doing what I liked. When I was 16, I started an introduction course at the art school in Groningen, a city close to where I grew up. It just made sense to me to study Art, I had no other interests at that time. After the introduction course I went to two other schools: in Zwolle, where I studied for four years and received my BA, and the last one here in Antwerp, where I received a Master in Visual Arts this year.
After a degree and a master, how do you feel about the educational system for young artists?
I think art schools are a way to develop interests and skills, but they aren’t necessary to become a ‘good’ artist. Though knowledge about art history and context are mandatory in any artistic practice, I believe it’s mainly up to each person to push themselves to develop, in any way, either inside an art institution or out.
Why do you draw, in the majority of your illustrations, side-faced characters? Is there any reason for it?
It’s how I started back in the first years of art school, and to me it always felt forced to draw something more life-like. It’s not something I do very consciously, but somehow I often end up in flat lines.
And how would you describe the aesthetic of your work?
What I make is often a combination of figurative and abstract lines and shapes. I don’t necessarily tell stories, but I often use my own persona to visualise things. I like to bring an element of humour into it, together with a sort of poetic silence. My comics are not really story-based either, but tend to give a certain feeling. A small sketch or a more detailed work can have the same importance, as they are all part of an artistic practice that I try to keep as broad as possible.
Who are your living and dead inspirations?
Apart from outsider art, where the person who made it is not so much in focus, but rather the piece itself, I always go back to the work of David Hockney. His artistic practice has made a long way and I’m really inspired by how he looks at the world. His personal life is very important in his work, but he uses it in a way that it’s quite easy to relate to. Hockney wrote that he found the freedom to create a painting with only one brushstroke, but it can fit into his body of work. I aspire to have this kind of freedom too one day. I also enjoy the work of Klaas Gubbels, a Dutch painter. He usually has one specific object –a tea or coffee-pot– that he continuously uses in his paintings. The repetition and research on shape is very interesting. I believe his work is not so much about the subject, but more an outcome of his on-going obsession about a shape and its possibilities. And also Jockum Nordström, and Matisse.
How much of the Netherlands’ essence lives in your work?
I think the simplistic, clear lines could be quite Dutch. Apart from that, I don’t really feel like I carry any Dutch essence. But I’m proud a lot of good design comes from there.
And how has been living in Antwerp so far? What is a regular day like in this city for you?
I really like Antwerp, it is well located and has enough to offer to stay interesting. I have a job three days a week and work a lot from home the other days. When my boyfriend, who lives in France, is here, he takes me to galleries, etc. That’s the time I actually see most of the city.
Do you have a particular place that you always enjoy drawing in?
I have a separate workspace in my apartment. It’s not big but it has a round-shaped window with a nice view of the city. This is where I mostly work at my desk, but I walk around a lot and procrastinate even more, I always tell myself thinking is an important part of working. When I travel by train I often take a sketchbook and try to draw, only when no one’s looking.
Tell us a little bit more about having your work selected for exhibitions and museums. How does it feel?
Of course it’s exciting, especially since I come from a more illustrative background. I’m happy my work is apparently suitable for both print and exhibition.
Have you ever sell an illustration and then regretted?
Last year I impulsively sold a lot of original drawings online for really low prices and they sold out in one night, which was kind of stupid, but I don’t regret it – I needed the money at that time. When I sell something that I’m pleased with, I’m glad its owner will hopefully be as happy with it as I was while making it.
In your own words, you are half part of Park Pardon. How did you start this project and what does it mean to you?
Park Pardon is a collaboration I do with Bloeme Van Bon, it started in 2012 while studying together. It has always been an escape for us to work in a freer manner, to give up any expectations and create things we couldn’t do only by ourselves. In 2014 we released our first book which made us realise that we want to keep working together more extensively. We live a 10 minute walk from each other so we spend a lot of time together, and we soon will start on our second book. It’s very inspiring working with someone who levels so well, we have a very similar way of thinking and by working together we both get inspired for our own projects too.
What do you want to achieve before you turn 30 years old?
I would like to, at least, make a living from what I love to do, as anyone would want! I think I’m still at the beginning of a career and I haven’t done so much yet. A solo-exhibition would be great as I want to start to working on a bigger scale and maybe pick up painting again. I also have this sound-project on the side called Oval Angle, I will release my second tape this month on the Slovenian publication platform Look Back and Laugh. To me, music is a way to take a break from drawing, and I try to imagine what sounds would go with them. I would like to combine this more with my visual work in any way possible.
And now that New Year’s Eve is approaching, how has the year 2015 been for you? And what do you aspire for next year?
This was a good year, I hope 2016 will be even better. I haven’t set real goals yet, except for being even more productive and just work really hard and see where it takes me.