Biennial of Illustration Haarlem 2018

I don’t know why I have never been here before, but I’m sure glad I went this year: the Biennial of Illustration in Haarlem. A festival and meet up for illustrators, but also for lovers of illustration and graphic art. You probably know that feeling when you walk into a small shop somewhere and you stumble upon gorgeous picture books or beautiful prints. Whoever is with me at that point will just have to wait. I can disappear in those books and examine each line and the use of color, imagine it on my shelf and try to figure out if I’m going to regret it if I don’t buy it.

Happiness mixed with greed. I think that’s what it is. Beautiful colorful illustrations everywhere.

Well, I walked into the venue where this illustration festival was held and there was a Boycott Books popup store filled with illustrated books. Happiness mixed with greed. I think that’s what it is. Beautiful colorful illustrations everywhere. I managed to stay strong and not buy a bunch of them (I needed to repeat my less stuff mantra…)

The organization asked 10 illustrators to create artwork for a vinyl album cover of their favorite music. It’s incredible to see the totally different styles of every illustrator. It is so versatile. It makes me feel like there really is a place for everyone in illustration, which is a good thing to remember when you start to doubt yourself.

A few of the vinyl album covers made for the Dutch Biennial of Illustration.
A few of the vinyl album covers made for the Dutch Biennial of Illustration. Left to right (top) you see the artwork of Hedof, Sasa Ostojo, Tjarko van der Pol, (bottom) Bobbye Fermie, Ytje Veenstra and Eline Jetten.

The main program was 3 blocks of 3 illustrators / graphic artists talking about their work and process. It was a nice mix of animation, book- and editorial illustration. I’ve seen 6 of them and was in awe of the work of Medy Oberendorff. She makes the most gorgeous detailed botanical illustrations. She studied Scientific Illustration in Maastricht – seriously, if I knew 18 years ago that that was actually a thing… She told us about the books she illustrated, showed us the beautiful artwork she makes (there were a lot of ohs and wows coming from the audience) and shared a bit of the process behind it.

Medy Oberendorff at the Biennial of Illustration in Haarlem
Medy Oberendorff talking about her work at the Biennial of Illustration in Haarlem / photo by Annemarie Gorissen
Black bird in pencil by Medy Oberendorff
This is one of the incredible illustrations (part of a project called Doug’s Cabin) she showed us / illustration by Medy Oberendorff
Het wonderlijke insectenboek and Johannes de Parkiet / geïllustreerd door Medy Oberendorff
Het wonderlijke insectenboek and Johannes de Parkiet / illustrated by Medy Oberendorff

Check her Instagram account for more stunning illustrations. The (Dutch) books can be found here: Het wonderlijke insectenboek and Johannes de Parkiet.

Another illustrator who blew me away was Ludwig Volbeda, a (childrens-)book illustrator with a love for words. Or more specifically: the combination of words and images. He had such a charming story to tell, funny and touching. He gave us a little peek inside his head and his sketchbooks that are filled with tiny scribbles and small boxes of illustrations. A real treasure. You can find more of his fascinating work at his website and his Instagram. Again a lot of ohs and wows from the audience when he showed them.

Some of Ludwig Volbeda's sketchbooks
Some of Ludwig Volbeda’s sketchbooks / photo and illustration Ludwig Volbeda
One of Ludwig Volbeda's sketchbooks for the book 'De Vogels'
One of Ludwig Volbeda’s sketchbooks for the book ‘De Vogels’ / photo and illustration Ludwig Volbeda

Below is the cover of one of the books he illustrated: ‘Hoe Tortot zijn vissenhart verloor’, written by Benny Lindelauf.

Hoe Tortor zijn vissenhart verloor, written by Benny Lindelauf and illustrated by Ludwig Volbeda
Hoe Tortot zijn vissenhart verloor / illustrated by Ludwig Volbeda

I came home all inspired and full of energy (and without any picture books *patting myself on the shoulder*). Sometimes I forget how extremely lucky I am that I get to be an illustrator, that my job is to draw and create for people who will pay me to do so. Seeing all those talented illustrators out there, I kind of needed to pinch myself that I am one of them. Maybe not thát talented, but still. I am working as a professional illustrator, developing my style, getting better and that’s a really cool thing.

The Dutch Biennial of Illustration is organized – obviously – every two years in the Toneelschuur in Haarlem. So next up is 2020. If you speak Dutch and you love illustration: don’t miss it!


Het wonderlijke insectenboek – Bart Rossel and Medy Oberendorff (€ 24,99 at bol.com)

Johannes de Parkiet – Mark Haayema and Medy Oberendorff (€ 14,99 at bol.com)

De Vogels – Ted van Lieshout and Ludwig Volbeda (€ 14,99 at bol.com)

Hoe Tortot zijn vissenhart verloor – Benny Lindelauf and Ludwig Volbeda (€ 19,99 at bol.com)

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