Sebastiaan van Doninck

Warning: the moment you encounter
Sebastiaan van Doninck’s drawings, you might be tempted to cuddle
them. There seems to be nothing in the world he can’t make into an
adorable dancing creature—a bee, an apple, the Eiffel Tower, a
bottle of poison. His children’s-book and commercial illustrations
are wonders of lively and elegant composition and friendly fantasy; even
his more realistic drawings are imbued with tender charm. Van Doninck
began his life in Herentals, Belgium. As he writes on his blog, “I
was born from idealistic hippies in a small village between cows, lots
of trees, and 12 hyperactive brothers and sisters. No wonder I became an
illustrator!” Later, he studied illustration and graphic design at
the Sint Lucas school in Antwerp (where he now lives). He doesn’t
see his work as typically Belgian. “I love the Japanese culture
and prints from the Edo period, but I’m also influenced by
popular American culture and contemporary art,” he says. “I
think it’s a mixture of different things, a multicultural
influence! A global, urban feeling.”

What’s your most
essential tool?

My ink. I have a set of wonderful inks in many
different colors, and painting with them can be hypnotizing. The second
stage—and tool I couldn’t do without—is Photoshop. At
first I really went wild with the software. I did all kinds of tricks
and filters. But now, I only use the basics. I also love crayons and
pens in different colors; sometimes I feel like a little girl in a
supermarket, dreaming in front of the crayon and pen sets about rainbows
and ponies.


What would you be doing if you weren’t doing

Probably working as a classical dancer or a biologist. As a
teenager, I had a box with thousands of cards with all the known animals
in the world. Every night, I read as many cards as I could before I fell
asleep. And now, when I see a creature on a documentary, I almost always
know its name. So maybe, if I weren’t an illustrator, I would be
investigating the strange behavior of unknown animals, maybe deep in the
jungle of Indonesia.


What are some of the strangest jobs
you’ve had?

At the age of 14, I was working on the
weekends in a frituur, a small place where you can buy all kinds
of fried meat and chips. I was the dishwasher, and I also had to cut the
potatoes. It was a stinking job! Later on, working as a freelance
illustrator, I was asked to make illustrations for a frituur
museum in Bruges.


What do you like most about being an
illustrator? What do you like least?

I love to work for
magazines and children’s books. When reading the text, things
start to “bubble” inside. If it feels right, I instantly
imagine images and start sketching. What I like the most is the freedom
as a creator; you’re not bound to reality. You can make surreal
images and still make it believable. What I don’t like is the
isolation. After a week of work I have to get out and see some

What’s your favorite museum in the world?
My favorite museum is the British Museum—it’s packed with
treasures, and the mixture of old and contemporary architecture works
very well. The African section is especially stunning. When I look at
these old, dark wooden masks of demons and ghosts, my imagination takes
over. These primitive masks have a very modern

What’s the number-one thing that gives you energy
and inspiration to keep making art?

My collection of music! Just
the feeling of a good song can be enough to get my engine going.
Sometimes I’m dancing between two drawings!