Illustrating The Therapeutic Power Of Nature, Surfing And Summer - Interview With Isabelle Vandeplassche
When not creating her calming illustrations and patterns, Portugal-based illustrator and surfing enthusiast Isabelle Vandeplassche is probably at the sea enjoying the sun or surfing. What a blast, living by the incredible Atlantic coast of Portugal! After pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism, Isabelle ventured into the world of art — and sunny Portugal, where she had set her heart on during an exchange program. Now she draws inspiration from its natural surroundings. Isabelle transforms her observations from travel, nature and everyday life into refreshing details of birds, surfers, jungles and summer landscapes, bringing sun-kissed joy to others. For those who are stuck at home, fix yourself a cocktail, surf this interview and ride on the wave of her therapeutic happiness!
AWW: Hi Isabelle, thank you for taking the time to have a chat with us! We love how therapeutic your illustrations are: the infinite landscapes, plants and animals have reminded us of the soothing quality of nature. What messages or feelings did you want your work to convey?
Isabelle Vandeplassche: Hi there! Thank you so much for having me here. With my work, I like to awaken the mind and want to bring a little bit of happiness to the daily life of people. Sometimes, it’s good to escape from the real world into a painting. During lockdown especially, when we could not really travel I made some new work including places I have never been. Above all, I want to inspire others.
AWW: When was the moment when you chose to follow your passion for drawing, to become an illustrator and designer?
Isabelle: I have always been a creative person, busy making things. In 2016, I started posting my paintings on Instagram. It was always a dream to work for myself but at first I could not imagine making a living from my art. All of this evolved naturally. My Instagram started growing, people and companies were asking for commissions such as package design and book illustrations. I worked on those jobs after my full-time day job. I began to really love the thought of drawing for a living and working on my own business. After a while, I felt like it was time to go full-time with my illustration work when I signed a contract with a publishing house to illustrate a book series.
AWW: We saw a beautiful picture of you sketching by the sea! Can you talk us through your creative process, from finding inspiration to producing these incredible illustrations?
Isabelle: I love being surrounded by nature, it gives me endless ideas for finding new color palettes and patterns. Travelling, and other cultures in general, are also a big source of inspiration. They give me the opportunity to discover new colors, cultures, landscapes, plants and much more. Aside from that, I try to be attentive to the details around me in my daily life and consider everything as a potential source of inspiration. I take pictures of every little detail I see so usually I save a lot of photos on my camera roll and mix images together. Everything I create is hand-painted with gouache and watercolor and is later finalized digitally on my iPad and computer.
AWW: You are living our dream by the beautiful Atlantic coast of Portugal! What is it like to live by the beach?
Isabelle: There is something very therapeutic about living by the seaside. I find the ocean and surfing very inspiring, and it is definitely a running theme through my paintings. It’s a place I feel really at ease with myself and I am very glad I made the step to move here almost 3 years ago now.
AWW: What made you move from Belgium and start your life in Portugal? Any great spots you’d recommend for a relaxing day in these two places?
Isabelle: Two years before moving here I had done an Erasmus exchange program in Portugal, and that same year I did an internship in the Galapagos Islands. Arriving home and pursuing my Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism, I realized even more that I wanted to discover different places to live. Since both my boyfriend and I started to work full-time freelance, we thought it was the perfect timing to start exploring and it brought us here to sunny Portugal!
For a relaxing day in Portugal you have endless options. I like going to Sintra for a day trip since it is only 17km away from my house. You can bring a picnic and go for a walk in the lush fern gardens of the Pena Palace. End the day with a colorful sunset by the ocean. In Belgium I love cities like Ghent and Bruges. They have so much history and are perfect for a day trip.
AWW: Ericeira is known as the surfing capital of Europe and we know that you enjoy surfing a lot! What is your perfect summer day like? Can you share with us a lovely holiday you had recently?
Isabelle: Yes it totally is! My perfect summer day starts with having a nice breakfast, painting a bit and later on going for a surf-beach day. Last summer I did a little road trip down the South of Portugal. We explored many new places and camped in different locations. Probably we will do this again this year because there is so much freedom when you go camping.
AWW: What is the forthcoming project you are most excited about? And your next travelling destination to be?
Isabelle: I am working on some personal projects at the moment and am creating a lot since summer is often a bit slower workwise and I have the time for it now. I am also excited to see the patterns come to life that I created for some brands this year. It’s always lovely to see your work on the final product. Probably I will travel to my family in Belgium which I haven’t seen so much lately due to the pandemic. A road trip in Portugal is on my wish list for this summer and maybe later a surf trip to Madeira. Let’s see!
To find out more about Isabelle, please visit the artist’s IG account | @isabellevandeplassche
All images provided by Isabelle Vandeplassche.