Meet Eric van den Boom: An Illustrator and Lettering Artist

By Iva Mikles •  Updated: Jan 02, 2022 •  Interviews

Eric van den Boom is a Dutch illustrator, designer, and lettering artist from Utrecht. Since childhood, he’s been inspired by the illustrations and logos associated with skate culture – on skateboards, album sleeves, t-shirts, and gig posters. This inspires his work to this day.

“… I like to combine all the skills I’ve learned over the years and add these to my illustration and lettering projects

(c)Eric-van-den-Boom-1
Artwork by Eric van den Boom

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Can you please tell us a bit about your background?

Hi! I’m Eric van den Boom. I’m an illustrator, designer, and lettering artist from Utrecht, The Netherlands. 

A childhood love for the graphics on skateboards, album sleeves, t-shirts, and gig posters has influenced me ever since. This inspired me to study multimedia design first and then illustration at the School of Arts. 

I’ve been freelancing under the name BoomArtwork since 2005 and have been lucky to catch the eye of clients like Ray-Ban, Netflix, Rivella, Subway Restaurants, Warsteiner, and others.

Over the years I’ve switched a couple of times between freelancing and working as an employed in-house designer. When I was employed I still kept doing freelance jobs in my spare time, but I became veeeeery picky and only took on the really cool jobs 🙂

At the times I was employed I’ve gained a lot of experience in different areas. For example, I’ve worked as an in-house textile print designer at Vlisco, a print and graphic designer at board sports brand Brunotti. The last time I was employed, I worked as an in-house designer at the Leisure Expert Group where I worked with a team on creating graphic design, brand identity, and illustration work for theme parks, festivals & events.

At the moment I’m fully freelance.

I’ve worked as an in-house designer for a variety of companies in multimedia, graphic design, theme parks and event design, and fashion and textile design. I like to combine all the skills I’ve learned over the years and add these to my illustration and lettering projects. 

I like to start my projects with quick rough thumbnail composition sketches to get the ideas out of my head and on paper. Then I move on to sketching digitally as this gives me a lot of freedom to quickly experiment and endlessly try out things without destroying the original sketch. After the sketch is approved I move on to inking the lines digitally and adding powerful colors and pattern work to make them pop off either page or screen.

My style is characterized by vintage comic book style line work, bright colors, abstract patterns, and details, and a bit of nostalgia. 

When I’m not working I  enjoy being with my two kids and my wife, or spending time on one of my hobbies making music, or doing sports like running and cross-fit.

What inspired you to make art?

I grew up in the 80s.

I was really inspired by all the cool graphics and logos on skateboards, album covers, and movie posters. I never thought that I would make a living from being an illustrator and designer. I was doing a lot of flyers for the local punk scene and one thing led to another, from band logos to website illustrations, album covers, etc. 

I’ve got many artists I’m influenced by, and this constantly changes all the time. But I’ve always been inspired by the amazing crisp line work of Charles Burns and illustrations of Jim Phillips (screaming hand).

As for mentors, I think my grandpa was a great mentor. I remember being a child and visiting my grandpa, he used to do a lot of oil paintings in his studio, my brother and all my nieces and nephews were always drawing in his studio when we went over. 

Most of us ended up working in the creative industry. 

Did you study at art school(s) or are you self-taught? What did you study? What were the “aha” moments? What did you find the most beneficial?

I studied multimedia design, in Eindhoven, the Netherlands.

After I graduated I worked as a graphic designer for a couple of years and then went back to school to study illustration at the School of Arts in Utrecht, the Netherlands.

I gave up my day job, car, and apartment to become a student again, but this was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. 

(c)Eric-van-den-Boom-2
Artwork by Eric van den Boom

How did you develop your own art style? Where do you go for inspiration? How do you keep your creativity flowing?

I just go to my studio every day after I’ve brought the kids to school.

Then I just start doodling and googling and this always leads to something interesting. I keep ideas in my notes on my phone for when I might need one. I also have a folder filled with inspiring images that I use as desktop backgrounds, they change every 5 minutes.

You can’t wait for inspiration to come, ideas come out of the process when you just start trying out different things.

As for my style, I’m constantly inspired by all sorts of new and old styles, I take tiny bits of those styles and subtly add these to my own style. Of course not trying to copy something, but just trying to be true to my style and trying to keep things fresh and interesting. That way I’m never doing the same thing over and over all the time and it is always fun and challenging to work on a new piece.

How did you start making a living as an artist? What was your first paid art job?

I started out designing flyers for the local punk scene in exchange for free entrance to gigs and beers. 

I had a steady day job, so at that time I wasn’t trying to make a living of it, it was just for the fun of it.

Back in 2001, I was asked to create a horror illustrative style website for a small company in Arizona that produces buttons for their local punk scene. There was no real budget and in exchange for the artwork, we agreed on a bag of buttons with the logo of my punk band on it :).

Finally, these jobs slowly led to more commercial and international work and I got really busy.

What do you live from as an artist now? What are your main income streams and what is the approximate % split of each?

I’ve got a couple of house clients and they come back with requests every now and then. Some come back every month. So this is great for some stability. Most of these clients are in the festival or music-related industry.

Then I have new clients coming in and the jobs from my agency IllustrationX which is a great source of incoming jobs as well. The jobs from the agency are mainly advertising/design agencies.

So overall there is always a good range of work coming in luckily. I don’t take on every job. When I feel no connection with the job/client or when the budget is below industry standards, or the deadline is too tight, I politely decline the job.

I think this is important to take care of yourself and take your business seriously. It is sometimes better to decline a poorly paid job and work on self-initiated projects instead and show this to clients you like to work for.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a lettering project for a pharmaceutical company that works on research for chronic kidney disease.

I’ve got to illustrate a sentence in 7 different languages. Most of them I don’t speak, so it is interesting to work with.

I’m also working designing a rum label, which is a great job to work on. I love doing label design as it combines all the things I like, lettering, logo design, and illustration.

I’ve just finished a job doing artwork for a dance event in Vegas which was also very interesting to work on.

Around Christmas and New Year I take some time off to be with my family and in January I start working on a cocktail label and a guitar pedal print design.

I’m so grateful to have all those cool jobs lined up. 

What do you think are the most important characteristics of an artist?

I think being disciplined, organized, and structured really helps.

Also to have some sort of feeling for doing business.

Patience and motivation and a bit of talent as well.

Some people are born with a lot of talent, others aren’t and they just have to work a bit harder to get there, but when you’re really motivated you can come a long way.

(c)Eric-van-den-Boom-3
Artwork by Eric van den Boom

What are the art tools and other products and services you can’t live without?

Since a couple of years, I’ve made the switch to working digitally, as this gives me a lot of freedom.

Also, I can work quicker and more efficiently. I work on a Wacom Cintiq (drawing on a screen basically) and I’ve got an iPad Pro for when I’m on the go.

I love working with Photoshop and Illustrator and Clip Studio Paint.

What are your favorite art and other books (fiction, non-fiction)?

At the moment my favorite book is still Donna Tartt’s Goldfinch. We named one of our kids after one of the characters in her book.

What advice would you give yourself as a beginner artist? Or alternatively please include your favorite quote and the author.

‘Don’t believe everything you think’ by Allan Lokos. I even made a print of it which is available in my webshop at boomartwork.bigcartel.com

Thanks for the interview Iva and good luck with your art adventures!

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Get in touch with Eric

Thank you, Eric, for joining us today!

All artworks by Eric van den Boom, used with permission.

Hi, I am Iva (rhymes with “viva”). I am an artist, illustrator, founder of Art Side of Life®, and Top Teacher on Skillshare. Since 2009 I've worked as an illustrator, character designer, art director, and branding specialist focusing on storytelling, concepts, and animation. I believe that we are all creative in infinite numbers of ways, so I've made it my mission to teach you everything I know and help wake up your creative genius. Learn more about me.

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