Angelea Van Dam aka ‘Hello Angel’ is a self professed creative explorer, dabbling in a number of creative pursuits but always returning to her true passion with ink and color.
Working from her home in New Zealand, with the support of her partner, daughter and troublesome studio pets. Angelea spends her days creating by hand intricate and intriguing illustrations and boldly colored masterpieces packed full of flowers, animals, patterns, doodles and layers of details.
In anticipation of the release of her newest books Majestic Animals, Big Blossoms, and Mindfulness, we sat down with Angelea and chatted about her life as an illustrator.
1. Tell us a little bit about you and how you got started.
I’m a creative explorer. I’ve tried a little of everything – sewing, painting, clay modelling, rock painting, jewellery making and all sorts of other things but I’ve always come back to drawing and colouring. It’s my thing. I used to work as a graphic designer, I did that for 12 years. I don’t have any other hobbies or play any sports, just draw, shop and dream about colouring supplies. I dream about them a lot because I’m a kiwi from the bottom of the world. In New Zealand we don’t enjoy half the cool colouring supplies that the top of the world is lucky enough to play with! My daughter grounds me, she’s 7 and is beautiful, funny, naughty and loving and why I work so hard to show her achieving your dream is possible. I used to draw to have something to colour, now I draw so many others have pictures to colour. It’s my dream.
2. What is your earliest creative memory from your childhood?
I was the only child in our family for a long time before I got siblings and cousins to play with so found all sorts of creative things to keep myself occupied from digging cave homes in the back yard for my small toys (not sure my Dad was ever pleased with that one) to drawing and colouring on everything, even murals on bedroom walls. My family has always been very supportive, we’re quite a creative bunch – signwriters, airbrush artists, muralists, illustrators & sculptures.
3. What inspires your illustrations?
Nothing and everything at the same time. I create a lot of abstract doodles, shapes filled with shapes that fill up the page, these are very organic and natural for me and need no inspiration. My illustartions that are recognisable as animals, flowers etc I draw mostly from my imagination more than from anything real. I do find that I study things more closely these days to find new patterns and shapes that I can then explore and expand on in my drawings and doodles. I’m a night owl, my best ideas tend to come when I’m just about to drift off to sleep and once they come I have to get up and make a start at getting them down on paper. I’ve been told to keep a sketch pad by my bed but it just doesn’t work for me.
4. What is your favorite subject to draw?
The more I draw the more I find I can draw, but my favourite things would be flowers, mandalas, organic doodles, birds and animals.
5. Do you have a favorite pencil, marker or pens that you like to use?
Yes, I have my favourites that I always use for drawing. For colouring I like to try new products when I can but generally use alcohol markers, they’re so versatile. I’m a bit of a supply hoarder, I never have enough!
6. What are your favorite drawing and coloring materials to use?
I use a Staedtler Mars Micro mechanical pencil for all my sketches and layout lines. It always has a nice point and I don’t need to sharpen it. My favourite pen for drawing is a Staedtler Mars Matic with a .25 nib, it’s super fine but I like that the lines nearly disappear when the image is fully coloured. In 2010 I brought 4 Copic Caio markers and I’ve loved them ever since. I have a couple of 100 markers now! Not all Copic, as I said previously I am a supply hoarder and I’ve found various other markers that I like too. I also love using liquid water colours and acrylic inks and recently coloured pencils. My colour works are full of little details that I add after I’ve put down what I call a ‘base coat’ with markers and inks, I use fine liners, gel & paint pens for these. I can’t call a piece finished till it has it’s embellishments.
7. Do you draw every day?
Yes. I’ve been known to draw all night too!
8. How long on average does it take you to complete a book?
It really depends on the theme, type and size of book I’m working on. If the theme is something I’m familiar with like flowers, owls or mandalas, they just about flow straight out of my pen so don’t take a lot of planning, probably around 4-6 weeks. If the book has a story through it and I need to work in special elements like a hide and seek book I do a lot of planning and it could take up to 12 weeks.
9. Do you ever get “writer’s block”?
Yes, sometimes my brain puts up the “out to lunch” sign for longer than I’d like. When it happens I find staring a white page willing something to comes just makes it worse. So this is when I usually get the housework done or go for a swim or walk. Any activity that makes me stop thinking about it, then something usually just pops up. Thankfully when I’m really busy it doesn’t strike me so much as it does when I’ve got time on my hands.
10. How has drawing changed your life?
I’ve been incredibly blessed. My drawing has allowed me to give up my 9-5 office job and work from home with my own hours and spend more time with my family doing the things we love.
11. What advice can you offer to aspiring artists?
Just keep doing what you do the way you do it. Believe in yourself and share, share, share. If I had kept all my doodlings to myself inside my sketchbook I would never have had the wonderful opportunities I’m having.
12. What’s next for you?
Lots more drawing, colouring and books!