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Meet our Survival Illustrator: Timo Kuilder

It has been a tradition at CreativeMornings to work with an artist in our community to create an illustration for the monthly theme. June is all about Survival.

The illustration is everywhere — in 170+ chapters' social media channels and at the events.

While the artwork speaks for itself, we wanted to get to know the artist on a personal level and introduce them to the creative community. We’re delighted to introduce you to…


timo Timo Kuilder is a Dutch designer who works under the moniker Zwartekoffie. His style is characterized by simple, synthetic shapes that enhance the conceptual aspect of his work: less is more, a choice adopted by many illustrators nowadays. However, the rough touch of the digital brush dosed accurately, makes the characters appear active and energetic. Kuilder also combines his personal work with commercial commissions. His clients include Monocle, Adobe, Bloomberg, De Correspondent and WeTransfer.

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How did you get into illustration work?

I was doing websites, drawing alphabets and turning them into fonts, animation, coding and logos for roughly eight years as a freelancer. Where I had the chance I would sneak in my own icons or make a little drawing for the header. I still love doing all of those things, but now my focus is mainly on illustration.

How would you define ’Survival?’ What does that mean to you?

As climate change is such a hot topic right now, when I hear the word survival I think about survival of the human race. Which means for me that we should cherish the earth we live on. And act responsibly. Which means eating less meat (especially beef), use sustainable energy, drive less cars, and throwing less stuff out which still can be fixed or can get a second home.

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Was there a point in your career where you felt like you were just surviving? How did it impact your creativity?

There was never really a point of surviving in my career. Although it can be good not to take on some freelance jobs for a while. It helped me find some balance and explore a more artistic side. Now I work from my own studio, which is definitely a perk. As I can bring my dog as well.

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At what point in your life did you realize that illustration was your calling?

Not sure if it’s my calling. But I love to be drawing most of my day. Especially when you stumble upon something good, which mostly happens by accident. Those moments where you have complete focus and feel you’re on to something. Other days you’re just doing work.

The actual moment when realising pursuing illustration work evolved from posting drawings on Instagram to getting my first commission. I just scrolled back through my Instagram feed, and I think the first real commission was for Misc Store. A beautiful shop in the heart of Amsterdam which has a strong focus on stationary & office supplies. Those Kaweco push pencils are definitely my favourite tool!

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How has your work evolved over time and what were some influences that caused it?

I think my aesthetic can be described as graphic, bold. In my personal work there are mostly characters which often find themselves having to deal with issues of identity and the social effects of new technologies.

What advice would you give to fellow illustrators?

Experiment. Work part time so you can work on your own art. Don’t stress. Don’t sit behind to computer all day. Get enough sleep. Actually an advice for myself.

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What’s something about your city that people should know about?

Amsterdam is the first city that will sink when global warming starts hitting us.

Tell us something about yourself that we can’t find on Google.

I understand a little bit of Russian.


Discover more of Timo’s work on his website and Instagram.

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"Don’t sit behind your computer all day."

Kyle Oswalt • June 1, 2017