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  Interview with Jasper Rietman
Kwennie Cheng
posted on August 14, 2013 at 9:04

A few months ago we celebrated Illustration Daily’s one year anniversary. In this first year we got to publish a very diverse range of editorial illustrations by an even more diverse group of illustrators: from recently graduated ‘Green Blobs’ to illustrators from all over the world. Time to zoom in on one of them.

Jasper Rietman is someone I've been interested in for a while. Not just because of his often strong, editorial images but also because of the amount of illustrations we have seen coming through, not to mention the interesting clients he has worked for.
I spoke to him in Amsterdam about his short, but busy illustration career, his big gig for New York Times magazine and of course his future plans. 

It’s going pretty well, isn’t it?
Definitely! The last year was great. Before that, I did have nice clients but not enough to live off.  Luckily it went very fast all of a sudden and it has been good since. But I think it is all part of it: start building it up slowly.

Indeed, with a client like New York Times it’s not going bad at all!
True, in 2010 when I graduated I never could have guessed I would be doing this: a weekly assignment for the New York Times magazine, where I have to make an illustration for the ‘It’s the economy' column (by Adam Davidson). I’ve been doing this for half a year now and although I do realise it could end any day, I do hope I can continue doing this for a long time.

The New York Times Magazine, 05-05-2013
The New York Times Magazine, 05-05-2013

Because it’s ‘the’ New York Times?
Not only because of that, also because they have high standards. I think I have become better in what I do because of that. Not neseccarily technically but also conceptually. It needs to be clear, but not obvious. I think that is a difficult combination. Moreover because it’s a column with a clear point of view. A while ago I made an illustration on food trucks in New York for example. If it had been an article about this, you would only need 'food trucks' and 'New York' to start something off. But in a column it goes beyond that, it has a point of view which also needs to be considered in the illustration. That sometimes makes it difficult but also interesting.

Do you experience a difference between Dutch and American clients?
I haven’t really experience any differences when it comes to feedback on my work. With NYT my work is always discussed by 2 others, apart from the art director though. But maybe it’s just because it’s a big newspaper with a bigger budget than others. I have done work for other American clients such as MIT, but as far as I know they were only viewed by the art director himself.

You often make work about current affairs. Is that important for you?
If I’m working on personal projects, not really. I do really enjoy it, but I think it’s the combination of current events and editorial work. On the other hand, I wouldn’t want subjects to be too current. Subjects which aren’t really relevant anymore within a few weeks. I couldn’t for instance do the work of a political cartoonist.

Because your work would disappear relatively fast as well?
Somehow you want your work to have some kind of ‘eternity value’. Question is whether that’s really the case or not. I think people often see illustrations as something nice next to the thing they actually want to read. But I do hope my work will somehow survive that. And I think that is very hard when it’s on something too current, although they do have a very important function, for instance to steer a political debate. On the other hand when you look back, it could also shape a time image.

Back to your personal project: do you still have time for that?
Right now not anymore. I would love to spend more time on my project TR/P where I draw short comics, but I guess that is more of a luxury problem. I do think it’s very important to do something like that, even if it’s very different from your commissioned work. It’s a way of showing your point of view on things, a way to show what you can do when there aren’t any restrictions. TR/P actually got me to work for NYT in a way: It’s Nice That published an article about it on their page and that is how NYT found me.

TR/P 83
TR/P 83

All in all, a lot of things are going on right now. How about plans for the future?
At the end of September I will be going to St. Petersburg for a group exhibition at a festival called Boom Fest. It’s a young comic festival, organised because of this year being the ‘Netherlands-Russia’ year. The group of comic artists I’m exhibiting with is very diverse, so I’m very curious and really looking forward to this.

More about Jasper Rietman:
Jasper Rietman on Illustration Daily