How would you describe yourself – who is Tim Boelaars?
Hello, I’m Tim and I grew up in The Netherlands in a little town close to the city of Haarlem. I’ve been living and working as an illustrator and graphic designer in Amsterdam since 2009.
Could you tell us a bit about your journey into illustration & design?
As a kid, I wasn’t very interested in many of the sports that my parents encouraged me to do. My mother wanted to get me excited about something. When my mother noticed how much I enjoyed drawing and crafts, she asked her father for help. My grandfather, who was a banker, made art during his life’s in-between moments. Every Wednesday afternoon he set aside time to draw and paint with me. Surrounded by art books, I would sit in his work-room behind his desk. He would tell and teach me all about drawing and painting. I was only five at the time, but looking back on it now, I think this period of my life is the anchor for what I do today.
During high school I got interested in the dynamic letterforms and colourful world of graffiti. I got obsessed with hip-hop culture, and my school notebooks were filled with drawings instead of notes. In college my love for illustration grew and I started to use Illustrator and Photoshop.
After graduating, I briefly worked for a web-design company. In 2010 I started my own studio to continue as an independent illustrator and designer.
Can we say geometry is the primary element in your works or how would like to describe it?
Absolutely. I use a lot of geometric shapes in my work. I pretty much always work on a grid, which helps me keep my work coherent and restrained. For me, it’s a means to an end. It’s a way to make sense of my own style and it sets a perimeter in which this style can grow.
Why do you do what you do? What do you love about it?
This will sound completely cliché, but first and foremost I feel very lucky that I’m able to make a living out of doing something that I love.
One of the things I love is when I’m working on something and I get into a state of complete focus. It’s almost meditative. It’s rare and I really appreciate when it happens. It shuts me off from any distractions and gets me into a fluent flow of putting shapes together.
I also love being my own boss and being responsible for every part of the process. This is very liberating to me. I love that I can work directly with clients, translate their thoughts using illustrations or design and to see them happy at the end is a very rewarding feeling.
What I probably love most about it, is what it taught me about myself. By finding and refining my own voice in illustration, I’ve been able to define myself better as a person and seeing my own strengths and weaknesses more clearly.
Can the creativity be learned later, or is it a feeling that is always within the human being?
I personally believe it’s within anyone. I like to think of creativity as a plant. It needs water, care and the right conditions to grow. If you’re not watering a plant, it will not grow new leaves. If it’s not getting enough attention, it will die. The sooner a plant is looked after and cared for right, the bigger it will grow. This is the same for creativity.
Besides illustration & design, you co-founded a store in Amsterdam called Concrete Matter which we really love everything about it. You are also founder of Plant22 which is a co-working space. How do you make time for those kinds of things after working hard as a designer?Besides illustration and design, I always enjoy to work on side projects. Some of them are personal work and others become more serious. I’ve left Concrete Matter a few years ago, but it started out as a branding project. This branding project became a webshop which later on became a store here in Amsterdam.
Setting up a storefront was something completely new to me, and I’ve learned many valuable things from it. After being involved for a few years, I realized it was taking too much of my time and I had to make a difficult choice between illustration or the store. Since illustration has always been my biggest passion, I decided to leave the store in the hands of the two friend I set up the store with. My friends Tomas and Jacob continued working on the store and are still doing a killer job at it.
Two years ago, I had to leave my studio when the company I was renting it from was expanding and needed my space. I worked from home for a bit and really didn’t like it. When I learned this wasn’t for me, I decided I want to set up a small co-working space.
At the end of 2016 I found a suitable space. Together with an interior designer I set out to create a clean and intimate co-working space ideal for 8 creative freelancers to grow, share ideas and merge talents. While being anxious about the big investment, I tried to focus on the result and setting it up the way I envisioned it. By the end of 2016 the space was finished and people started to join the studio.
About a year later all open spots were filled by 7 amazing people. I didn’t anticipate that it would bring together a group of such warm, uplifting and creative individuals. In a short amount of time, we’ve all become close and being at the studio feels like a second home.
What does your daily routine look like?
I usually do sports in the morning and then bike to work. I have a little dachshund, who I bring with me and take for a walk on the way to work. I try to use my mornings for replying emails and coming up with ideas and then spend the afternoon actually working on any ongoing projects.
What other illustrators/designers are you digging these days?
Lately I’m really enjoying the work of Nadine Redlich, Kyle Patts, Seb Agresti and Jocelyn Tsaih.
If you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be?
I’m a really big fan of James Turrell. Not sure how this collaboration could possibly work, but I’d love to learn more about his way of working.
Who are your creative heroes? Writers, artists, musicians, family members or friends who influenced you as you were growing up? Have they changed over time?
Definitely my grandfather, for who I’m forever grateful sparking my interest in illustration. Unfortunately he passed away in 2006 and I’m sometimes sad that I’m not able to show him where I am now creatively. He will always be my biggest creative hero.
Where are your favorite spots in Amsterdam? Food, coffee, shops, etc.
There are so many, and at some point I had so many friends from other countries visit me I decided to make a personal Google Maps with all of my favorite spots in Amsterdam. You can find it here.
What are your top five songs on your playlist?
Here are a few songs I’ve been listening to a lot lately:
Andras – POETS Day
Arthur Russell – That’s Us/Wild Combination
Cigarettes After Sex – K.
Blue Gas – Shadows from Nowhere
Roberto Musci – Nexus On The Beach
Could you give us three fun facts about yourself?
I have a little dachshund named Fred
I like gardening
I used to breakdance
Finally, is there something you wish interviewers would ask you — but never do?
Haha, great question. I actually really enjoyed answering all of your questions, so I have nothing to add. Thanks a lot for having me!