Off the Page: Beatrijs

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Here’s your chance to get behind the scenes with fanartists who bring your favorite young adult books to life.

Beatrijs is a freelance illustrator from the Netherlands who grew up moving between different countries, lugging books and sketchpads as travel companions. She studied Chinese, loves languages and writing about literature, and drawing makes her happiest. Her fanart features characters from various books and series, including the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordon, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

  • The ladies of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series

What is it about the authors’ writing that inspired your art?
It’s something about how vibrantly the characters are written, with really great friendships, that get you caught up in their story and world. It gives really clear visuals of their expressions, gestures and surroundings. I have very vivid images in my mind for Harry Potter characters, and it’s fun to try and capture those on paper. Some characters, like Cath from Fangirl, are also incredibly relatable. I admire the characters for how they deal with problems and tense action scenes are great. But there’s something about the small, quiet moments when characters are just joking around or relaxing that allows you to feel close to them. I’ve realized I often draw characters when they’re happy and relaxed, because I love seeing them this way, when they’re at their most comfortable and funny. By drawing them, I can share in that feeling or try to pass it on somehow.

Are there any other influences you included in your art?
Definitely. Things from my sketchbook, based on what I pass on the street, outfits I see people wearing, what the weather’s doing, or watching how people move or sit (a bit like very furtive life drawing). And I think about how other artists’ work, line-work, or color or layout choices that left impressions on me.

When I was little, I thought everything in the illustrated books and comics. I loved was drawn in the size it was printed in. So I started drawing in a tiny scale, and it’s stuck.

What’s been your favorite reaction?
Once I painted tiny portraits for my language-course teacher and classmates as a leaving/thank you gift. They all looked really surprised and delighted before they started crying. It was kind of shocking, but also really sweet!

With fanart, it’s so great any time people are enthusiastic or excited about your interpretation of characters. They notice little details or get into the feeling you were trying to convey. And when authors like and reblog your drawings of their characters it’s just the most amazing and fantastic thing! Scott Lynch and Rainbow Rowell retweeted and reblogged my paintings of their characters, and it left me unable to do anything but smile for the rest of the day.

What’s your process?
I pretty much work only in traditional media on paper. I’d like to start getting more savvy with digital work, though. Sometimes I have a very clear image I want to get down, and the pencil moves by itself. Stuff just happens. I usually start with a loose pencil sketch, then ink over the lines in pen or watercolour before colouring the rest. It’s kind of an upside-down way to go about it, but the expressions and movements are most important to me.

Do you have any tools you like to work with?
I love my winsor & newton watercolour set. And I am having fun trying out gouache. I like using rottring radiograph pens since they’re really sensitive, and somehow they give very distinctive, character-filled lines.

Is there any special place where you like to do your work?
At the moment I’m without a desk, so any good table will do like in cafes or friends’ kitchens.

What piece are you most proud of?
I don’t really have a particular favorite. I’m happy if I get close to the image in my head, or if I’ve tried out something new and something surprising happened. I was really happy with this Forbidden Forest one though, as it was the first time I was illustratively painting something bigger with a background and scenery all in watercolor.

Do you have anything fun that you’re working on or would like to do someday?
I’ve been working on illustrations for films for high-school classes on ethics, which were challenging since it’s very different for me. I’ve been thinking about doing something with all my drawings from my year of studying in Taipei, and would really love to get into illustrated story or webcomic writing.

What kind of advice or insight would you give to other artists?
To draw and not get discouraged, because the more you sketch or paint, the better you get without even realizing it. And don’t worry about not having your own style, look at different artists you like and be inspired. Try out similar and new things and gradually your hand starts finding it’s preferred way of moving. Keep a sketchbook with you all the time, and draw things when you see something beautiful or interesting. Look around for things to capture, and you start noticing so much more.Try out new things, new media or subjects, and let yourself draw what you love, have fun with it, and share it!

What encouraged you to share your fanart?
I started a blog to create an online portfolio and have somewhere to store all the stuff I was making. Then I put up some Harry Potter and Game of Thrones drawings, and people’s reactions were so great and enthusiastic! I still feel kind of shy on Tumblr, but I had no idea how much I’d be given back from sharing stuff online, and how much it encourages you to make more. I can’t stop these drawings, they’re too much fun, and now sharing and hearing from others is part of that.

Check out Beatrijs’s work over on her blog, Tumblr, and Twitter.

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About Author

Natasha M. Heck

Natasha believes cats and words are the shiniest things in the 'verse. She has touched Stonehenge, climbed the Glastonbury Tor, walked the Philosopher's Path, and kissed her true love on the Eiffel Tower. She's a fangirl, Jedi Knight, and Gryffindor whose love of unicorns led her to live in the land of geekdom and sunshine. She has an English degree emphasis in Creative Writing, and is using it to follow her dreams.

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