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Photo: Loes van Duijvendijk


Michael van Kekem specialises in illustrative design and printmaking. Like with so many artists, I came across Michael’s work on Instagram and he kindly agreed to an interview. I have so many questions!


Photo: Loes van Duijvendijk


Hi Michael, would you share some background of yourself and your work?

Hi! My name is Michael van Kekem, born in the magical year of 1985, I currently live and work in Rotterdam with my wife and cat. I’ve studied graphic design and illustration, graduated in 2010, and I have been working as a freelancer since then.

My work consists of illustrative design and printmaking: which basically means: I make and do ALOT. Illustration, graphic design and graphics(screen printing, etching and linocut printing) are the fields my work can be identified with. I love the diversity.



Is there something in particular you’re very proud of so far?

I love doing lots of different kind of projects, and luckily I’ve made it to the point where people ask for me all types of things. Also the kind of work they haven’t seen anything like it within my current portfolio. I am probably most proud of being able to live this life, getting to do what I like doing the most.



What made you decide to become self-employed? Do you feel there could be more focus on the business-side of art and design in education?

Becoming self-employed just happened, really. Never really decided it. I just rolled with the punches. I started out with two friends in a collective, working on various fun projects, and after that I just stayed working as a freelancer. I think it’s a good place to be in, it’s tough from time to time, having to deal with yourself 24/7. Therefore I always like to push myself to phone a friend or a fellow designer to check in with or talk about work in progress. It helps keeping you sane.



I believe the focus on the business side of art and design is happening more and more at some academies. Hearing that from students when we compare notes on school. When I was studying illustration we didn’t get the best focus on the entrepreneurship that is being a designer/illustrator/creative.

I am all for letting young people know that it IS quite hard in the real world. A lot of people romanticize being a designer. They think we draw all day, every day. And there are a lot of people who quit, because it is not what they signed up for in their belief.



How important is having a good balance between working alone and teaching workshops or collaborating with other creatives to you?

In my opinion, I think working with other designers or teaching a craftsmanship to others can be very rewarding and keeps you sharp at times you didn’t expect it or thought you’d needed it. I’d like to try and see myself meeting people and when there’s a good click, something real good can come out of it.



Your work is both digital and hand drawn. Do you distinguish between uncommissioned versus commissioned work for a certain process or are there crossovers?

There are definitively crossovers. Not as many as I would like, but I find myself sometimes pushing commissioned pieces more towards the hand drawn, whilst knowing the client would like to see more of the digital based work. I like to play around with that. How far can I go, and am I able to convince clients to have them play around with some of the ideas. It keeps me focused as well, the most fresh ideas happen during the moments of sketching and trying out other skills.



Any news to share?

I recently did a mural, which has been on my bucket list for a while. I have done some murals for exhibitions of my own work, but this time around I got asked specifically for something abstract. That was fun. And there are some exhibitions coming up with some more abstract work.

Currently I am also working on an idea for a book featuring a series of linocut prints and poetic texts, hopefully I will be able to release that project somewhere next year. My initital idea was to finalize a series of 20 linocuts, together telling a story, and I am now working on my seventh linocut for this particular series. So we’ll see how it goes. This is definitively a project without stress or deadline and it can go in any direction.



Find more about Michael van Kekem by visiting his website: