5 Questions for Marloes de Vries
Having gotten into art school at the age of 18, her teachers told her that she couldn’t draw. As a result, she buried her dreams and focused on graphic design for several years, until she found herself growing more and more unhappy in her career as an art director. She decided to leave the advertising agency she was working for and began freelancing - as a graphic designer at first, then gradually transitioning to illustration.
For the past ten years, Marloes has been working as a full-time illustrator, but when the pandemic reduced her usually whopping workload last year, she decided to finally make good on the promise she had given her 4-year old self and she’s now happily taking her first steps on her journey to becoming a painter.
1. You have been on quite a journey over the last decade - from depression and sleeping on friends’ couches to leading a successful life with a thriving career, a wonderful partner, and a beautiful home that you have created together. What would you say were some of the essential steps you had to take, and mind shifts you had to make to get to where you are today?
It’s been quite a ride indeed! My life isn’t perfect, and I hope it never will be. The imperfections make life interesting, and they will teach you important life lessons. Getting older really helps to see things in perspective. People say that you should treasure the time when you’re young (usually meaning your twenties), but I don’t agree. Beyond 30 is where it’s at! Since turning 30 I feel so much more peace and have less anxiety. I also don’t worry about the little things so much anymore. Life has become less complex in many ways and I am excited to gather more wisdom.
An important step I took was caring less about what others think of me. It’s the most liberating thing you can do for yourself. When you don’t care about what others think of you, you are free to follow your own intuition and path. It always leads to the things that are most suited for you and brings you the most happiness. Caring about what others think of you is an utter waste of time as it’s something you can’t control, yet it can steer you in a completely wrong direction.
2. You started building websites as a teen and were a Beta tester for Instagram when they first launched and thus, have been part of the social media world from the word go. As a result, and thanks in no small part to the honesty with which you share yourself online and the authentic work you create, you have built a huge online community. And yet, you have started unplugging from social media in recent months. How have your feelings about the online world changed?
Social media started out relatively small and safe, but it has grown to massive proportions. In the last year I’ve sensed a change on Instagram. Back in 2010 it was mostly creative people there, so you’re always amongst your own ‘tribe’. Now that pretty much the whole planet is on Instagram it’s harder to connect with like-minded people, it’s harder to find them amongst the crowd. Creating and posting something on Instagram now often gets lost in the mass but also in translation. Quite literally at times. It’s harder to connect with those you want to reach.
The criticism of my work has gotten worse over the past year. As people are frustrated and tired of the crisis, they tend to lash out online. It’s understandable, but to protect myself I sometimes retreat from social media for a bit. It helps me to reconnect to myself and not be involved with the opinions or productivity of others. I genuinely feel that our generation receives too much input. That being said, Instagram is still my favorite social media and the platform that offered me many opportunities to grow as an artist. It just takes adjusting to the changes and that often takes a bit of time for me.
I always hope people understand that there’s more to a person than what they share online, but if they don’t, that’s their problem. When I post something, I often imagine I’m talking to a dear friend, but before I hit ‘send’ I ask myself: “would I be comfortable with it if a complete stranger on the street would see or read this?”. That’s my rule of thumb basically. I know intuitively what I can share and what I can’t share. I don’t share personal issues of friends or family, but if it’s about my life, it’s my story to tell. I’ve been blogging and active online since 1999, so it’s also something I grew up with. That definitely helps.
Having worked as an illustrator for over ten years, Marloes is used to translating ideas into images. Last year, as part of her new painting journey, she started doing observational drawings. The challenge, she says, is ignoring her mind that always immediately wonders what can be 'done' with the image.
4. You recently said somewhere that you’ve spent so many years producing work for others, that you had forgotten to listen to yourself. Through painting, you have started tuning in again. What are you learning through this process of creating solely for yourself?
That it’s really hard to unlearn doing work for others. Clients have been my ignition key for about two decades and all of a sudden, I need to start the car myself. When I envision the client or when I make something for a particular group of people, I know how to go about it to make it work. I’ve realised that I'm pretty good at translating thoughts, feelings, problems and stories of others to images and words. I often call myself ‘the human funnel’: people drop all their information on me, and out comes a message or illustration. But I’ve learned that just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. I have my own stories to tell, and I feel now is the time to honour those. I now have to check in with myself constantly: “what do I need and want right now?” It’s not something I’m used to but I’m learning to listen to myself more.
I really long for a simple life. I’d love to write and illustrate my own books in the mornings, make paintings, produce the work I’d love to put out in the world, take care of my home, go for hikes and have meaningful conversations with loved ones. That’s perfection to me!
Lastly, what is your spirit animal and why did you choose it?
I don’t really have one (I’m not religious), but I really love ladybugs. Seeing one instantly reminds me that we’re all just a small part in this big world and to not let my ego run my life. Ladybugs walk to the highest point of the object they’re maneuvering on, and at the last moment they free their wings and fly off. That’s something I resonate with. I’ve done a lot of walking over the past 20 years and I’m ready to fly off.
5 Questions for ... is a blog series featuring creative self-starters, artistic late bloomers and those who have created a thriving career by following their passion.
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Hi, I'm Chantal Valerie. I'm a writer and self-taught illustrator. I am inspired by late bloomers and creative self-starters (I only started drawing at the age of 34) and since I believe they deserve more visibility, I started my blog series ‘5 Questions for …’.