IlluXcon Roundup: Interview with Iris Compiet

Witch, by Iris Compiet. Image copyright Iris Compiet

Hi, my name is Iris Compiet, I’m a Dutch illustrator and artist also known under the name Eyeris. I like to see myself as a visual storyteller. Using pencils and paints as my language – I try to tell my stories to all who are interested in reading them. But I also illustrate other people’s stories, I’ve done artwork for several books now in Europe and slowly but surely I’m gaining ground in the illustration world.

Iris in Medusa makeup. Image copyright Iris Compiet

AS: You’ve been working on a few illustrated children’s books lately, tell us a bit about those!

Iris Compeit: I have been working on several books, mostly cover artwork and some picture books for children. One is called Princess Nina. It has just been printed and has already been sold to France as well. The writer is Marlise Achterbergh, it’s her first book. The story is about a little princess whose parents want her to marry a prince, but all the princes are just not very interesting to her, they are nice but there’s no spark… and that’s when she falls in love with another princess.

I think it’s one of the first ever children’s picture books about this issue of same-sex marriages and it’s not a moment too soon. It was a lot of fun to work on, totally different to what I’m used to working on. It’s much brighter and lighter in ‘voice’.

Illustration for ‘Princess Nina’, by Iris Compiet. Image copyright Iris Compiet

I always try to adapt my style to the story, or the project. So a book about ghost stories will get a lot of darkness, ink splashes and what not. The illustrations are an extra tool to get the kids ‘into’ the story. Books don’t have the sounds and moving images television has, so they rely largely on the imagination of the child. When you try to make illustrations that will feed on that imagination, the child will be able to make the book come to live. And it’s way more fun than any television programme!

Then there are several other book projects that I’m not yet at liberty to talk about, it’s all very hush hush but in a few weeks we will be able to lift the veil a bit and show the world what’s going on… and I’m very excited about it, I can tell you the characters are all lined up and ready to go!

Cover illustration for ‘Spookbeld’, by Iris Compiet. Image copyright Iris Compiet

AS: What fascinates you most about illustration?

IC: I think it’s the storytelling. I’m not very good with words, but stories have always been a big part of my life. I grew up in the Netherlands and we have this amusement park which is way cooler than Disneyland (trust me, it is!), it’s called the Efteling. There’s this fairytale forest, and you can walk around in the forest and meet all these amazing stories I used to listen to or read when I was a kid. It is so magical, I always said that one day I’d work there.

Sadly I never made it to the Efteling, but the storytelling sticked. Stories by Grimm, Andersen, all the myths and legends have a profound influence on my art and I tap into that source every now and then. There’s a wealth there, it’s unbelievable!

I like to drift away in thought, just see what my imagination comes up with. Anything and everything is possible, you create worlds and you are able to take people with you to those worlds. So in a sense, illustrating is like travelling the world, only there are no limits! Anything is possible.

The Doll Shop, by Iris Compiet. Image copyright Iris Compiet

This being said, this is something that ‘happens’, as in I need to have a ‘click’ with the story I’m asked to illustrate. If that click is not there I will not take the job. I need to see the characters, the landscape and everything when I read the story. If I don’t, then it is not my kind of story, my imagination isn’t sparked and I cannot translate it into images for other people.

So it’s challeging from time to time, you sometimes feel a bit like a loser. But it is the best job, I get to read books/stories, I get to paint and draw and it rocks. And when the book is finished and you meet the readers, the people and kids who bought the book and they come up to you and tell you they really enjoyed the story and the drawings, that is a very big compliment. And that to me is a job well done.

Oracle, by Iris Compiet. Image copyright Iris Compiet

AS: You’ve been exhibiting at Illuxcon this year, your first time I take it – what was it like?

IC: This was the second time I went to IlluXCon. My first time was two years ago, when the event was held in Altoona Pennsylvania. That first time was a real shock, suddenly I found myself in amongst artists I looked up to. Artists I had books of in my bookcase. People I admired and they talked to ME! I was blown away and for the first time I felt ‘at home’ in amongst artists. They were the people that had the same thought processes as I did. And I suddenly realised I wasn’t all that weird, as people in my village thought I was.

It was a good experience, and it opened my eyes to what it was I wanted to do. It cost me an arm and a leg to get there, but it was worth every penny. So I decided to go back, that was this year and again no regrets. I was more prepared, less blown away. I felt more at home than ever and it was an amazing opportunity to meet up with old friends and make a lot of new ones.

IlluXcon to me is like extended family, all these inspiring artists, art-directors, collectors, interesting lovely people all in one place, and you get to pick their brain. You get the opportunity to learn from the best. Hear their stories about failure and success, and peek over their shoulders to watch them paint.

This time it was in Allentown, in a museum, and it felt like that’s where it should’ve been all along, fantasy art = ART…. something many critics still debate about. Saying that an illustration isn’t art since it’s created for a book cover is just plain stupid.

For 2014 I submitted artwork to be judged to get into the Salon. They have the Main Show, Salon (which is only the weekend) and the Showcase (you can buy a table and showcase your work). So fingers crossed for that! But one thing is for certain, I will try and go to IlluXcon every year from now on.

Sakura, by Iris Compiet. Image copyright Iris Compiet
Weeping Angel, by Iris Compiet. Image copyright Iris Compiet

AS: Did you meet any artists who particularly impressed you?

IC: Yes… all of them. Each and every artist there is interesting in their own right. There wasn’t one artist that felt ‘better’ than anyone else, no ego here!

I felt over the moon when Mr Hildebrandt came up to me to say he liked my work… I forgot what he said exactly, I was a bit star struck but a friend said it was a very good compliment, so I will take his word for it.

If anything that’s what I took from the trip, a more determined mindset… I might not be the best artist but I will become the best Eyeris. And everyday, every line, every splash of paint will take me closer to that point.

Death and his Beloved Bride, by Iris Compiet. Image copyright Iris Compiet

AS: Where to from here?

IC: Well you know I never want to look to far into the future, I do not own a crystal ball, and it is impossible to say what I will be doing in 5 years from now. I might do something completly different. So I will take it as it comes, keep working on stuff I want to work on. Do the things I find inspiring to do. Travel a lot, meet new people listen to their stories and use those stories to create new ones.

So where from here? I guess it’ll be more storytelling…. lots and lots more storytelling, think the world needs stories of wonders and woe.

Eyeris on Facebook

Mermaid in a Fancy Hat, by Iris Compiet. Image copyright Iris Compiet

All images are © Iris Compiet and may not be reproduced in any form without the artist’s permission.

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