An Interview with Raymond Lemstra


The release of Big Mother # 4 is finally upon us and to celebrate we took the opportunity to touch base with famed Dutch illustrator Raymond Lemstra to probe him about his work, life, inspirations and projects.

NB: Hi Raymond!

RL: Hullo.

NB: So, Raymond, tell us a bit about younger Raymond?

RL: Well, I was born in Groningen, up in the north of the Netherlands. My childhood was filled with tree climbing, secret spy clubs, ninja training and drawing. Luckily, I grew up in a very green area, which allowed me to do most of this outside, in the most adventurous manner. I moved into a houseboat in the center of Groningen and attended art school. When I finished I moved to Amsterdam, where I still live and work today.

NB: So, did you realise from quite a young age that you wanted to become an artist?

RL: The concept of being an artist never really came to mind when I was younger, I just enjoyed drawing a lot. But I have always been sure I wanted to continue drawing in my life. I do remember that at one point I wanted to be a car designer. This was during my phase of drawing dinosaurs and fighter jets.

NB: How would you describe your work?

RL: I mostly make small sized drawings with graphite on paper. It’s important to me that there’s a strong sense of dedication to the basic materials I use in my drawings. In most of my work I play with facial recognition. In other words, the human urge to recognise life in inanimate objects. Geometrical shapes in the right context are easily interpreted as facial features and start to express emotions in this way. Like how a car front can look grumpy, or a façade of a house can be in a good mood.

NB: You certainly have a visually powerful and recognisable style, can you tell us a bit about how you developed this? Was it something that came quite soon into your career or was it something that developed gradually?

RL: I stopped drawing for a few years (2006-2010) and, when I picked it up again, I deliberately chose to leave all computers behind and these drawings came out of my hands. Embracing real materials again I ended up with physical results, in contrast to digital files on a hard drive. I developed a big interest in geometry and loved to use the (suggestion of a) face as a starting point to build up compositions.

NB: What’s the most difficult part of the process for you?

RL: Finishing a piece of work and having to make peace with the result.

NB: And finally, any exciting projects your working on right now?

RL: I just finished a wooden sculpture for the 10th anniversary of Pictoplasma. Very much looking forward to seeing it displayed properly in Berlin, Mexico and whereever it will travel afterwards.

And right now I am working on some exhibitions and new ideas for a children’s book…