Chris Versteeg is a dutch artist, illustrator and graphic designer. He is the head of the Rotterdam based graphic design agency Projekt C and the chief editor and publisher of Street and More magazine where out team member Tim Jentsch holds a column – Tim’s Choice. We interviewed him to find out more.
(ISSA) – Introduce yourself to us!
(Chris Versteeg) – I’m Chris Versteeg, born in the late seventies and raised in the Netherlands. I work as a graphic designer and illustrator at Rotterdam based design studio Projekt C and I’m the chief editor and publisher of Street and More magazine. As a kid I loved to draw stuff and go out skateboarding and being up to no good. In the early nineties I got in touch with graffiti and that became my true love for years. I had a great time painting, climbing fences, running, ending up in late night bars, sleeping outside and traveling most of Europe, making friends for life. After graduating from the Grafisch Lyceum Rotterdam I continued studies at the Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, but dropped out after one and a half year to start working. Best choice ever! Nowadays I spent most of my time in the office, working on illustrations, magazines, books and paintings, but from time to time I sneak out to go painting. My current work, both digital and manual, is a good mix between a clean graphic style, mixed with natural and industrial touches without losing some of those important graffiti and big city life elements.
-How do you define yourself? Artist? Street artist? Anything else?
I guess just artist covers it pretty good. I mean, I do stuff in the streets, but also on canvas and paper. I sometimes like to paint a big bubbly letter piece and another day I just spend a whole day in the studio with a nr. 1 brush doing tiny details on a painting. I’m to impatient for screen printing, but I love the outcome and for my regular job I do a lot of digital art work.
– How did it all start for you, and what is it nowadays?
As a kid I always loved to draw, but never thought about becoming an artist. I wanted to be a pilot to be honest, ha ha ha! But you needed to complete highschool at VWO-level and I wasn’t cut out for that type of discipline. And I love to go skateboarding, so the whole school thing kind of got side tracked 😉 A few older friends in high school were already painting graffiti and one day I just joined them and thought it was the coolest thing ever. That was back in 1993. I eventually ended up doing Grafisch Lyceum (School for Graphic Design) which at that time was where all the writers went. From there it was one and a half year of Art Academy, but I quit that because most of the teachers there were just too busy with saying how great they are and how their style is king and everything else is either undeveloped, kitsch or immature. I quickly started working for myself and have been doing that ever since. Got a nice little studio not far from my home close to the city centre and I’m a pretty happy guy.
-What is the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
Kiss my wife, get some coffee, check to see if my bike didn’t get stolen and fix breakfast. And of course one hundred push up and sit ups 😉
-Street art is mostly a visually stimulating form of art. To add one more sense to it, what music would you pick to accompany your art work?
Ow, tough question. I like a lot of different sorts of music. It varies from 90’s hiphop, to funk, seventies stuff, Cash, old reggae, soul but also Mahler, Shostakovich and Prokofiev. Music can really set the mood for working; but old nineties hiphop get’s me in the right rhythm for getting lot’s of work done, while the others are more for relaxed type of work.
-In all forms of art, inspiration is crucial. What is it that inspires you?
Nature in general and all it’s weird diversities, architecture and mechanical design and travelling are massive sources of inspiration. I guess as an artist you always look at things with different eyes, sometimes something really average can spark a light that leads to something cool.
-What is the hardest part while working on a piece of art?
Knowing your own limitations. I’d love to paint all the stuff in my head, but I know that I’m no renaissance master painter and have to work in a way that suits me and is genuine. It’s also difficult to develop a style of your own that feels like you actually invented it. Sometimes your working on something new only to find out it has already been done. And then it’s back to square one, ha ha ha!
Definetly, there are some artist that I admire for either their style or their discipline and perfectionism. I like the work of Kawase Hasui very much, he made woodblock prints and that takes a lot of patience and skill. I also like the work of Amok Island, Charlie Harper and Owen Davey, they know how to translate nature to it’s basic shapes without losing the organic aspect of it. But I also like the work of Dave the Chimp; his work looks so impulsive and loose while it is always spot on and every line and dot is in the right place.
-Which cities are the most inspiring for you?
Cities that have a character of their own. I like places like Bangkok because of their 24-hour activity and chaotic style, I like Singapore for it’s completely organized, clean and neat style and I like Saint Petersburg for it’s overall character. Paris, London and Berlin are always nice because there’s always something new happening while they are also open museums with so much history. Tokyo has been on my wish list for years, I still have to visit one day…
-What other passions do you have apart from art?
I like watching movies, reading books, going out for massive diners with friends and have way to many drinks, diving, hiking and travelling.
-Do you have a wild project that you dream of achieving some day?
Don’t we all? 😉 I guess if I can live from my artwork I’d be a happy man. I have no megalomaniac plans about wanting to paint the biggest wall, I don’t have to be on the front page of the newspaper or be on the eight ‘o clock news. I’d love to go to Tokyo for work one day, that’s it actually. Boring aint it? ha ha ha!
-Tell us about your art, does it include symbolisms, messages or repeated patterns?
Not really, I do use some symbolic stuff like plants or animals in my work, but I don’t have a strong message I want to bring across. Most of my works are just aesthetic compositions with a bit of surrealism to keep it funky. Most works have a mix of nature and machines but that is no cry for a better world or something like that. Sometimes stuff just looks good together.
– How long time does a piece of art work of yours usually survive for?
Depends. Some get cleaned pretty quick, others get destroyed and some are here for ever. Some pieces I painted in the subway tunnels are still here after 20 years and paintings on canvas usually last a good 20 years too, I hope…
-What do people first think of, or feel, when they see one of your works on the street?
I have no idea to be honest. People express their feelings online on facebook or instagram and so far most reactions are positive. But I can imagine there are plenty of people who don’t like my work or hate it because they wanted to paint that spot 😉
-Do you have a secret you would like to share with us? 🙂
Hot sauce goes with everything.
-What are your creative plans for the future?
Trying to improve my painting skills, build up a somewhat representative portfolio and participate in a few shows. Maybe paint a big wall in a sunny place.
-Is there a specific thought or message you would like to pass to our audience out there?
Thank you! It’s been great to get to know more about the mind and person behind such talented and inspiring works.
Interview by Tim Jentsch – I Support Street Art team