We recently sat down with him to talk about his incredible career and how he came to designing watches…
Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m an Illustrator, an Author, a Designer and an Art Teacher. They sound like four jobs but they are actually one to me. I create whatever it is I create and for the past two years I have been teaching and it is really fun for me to pass on what I have learnt during creation to my students.
I have been an independent illustrator for 10 years and a graphic designer for around 16 - 17 years. I live in a very rural area of Belgium where it's very quiet, which is something I really need to work.
When did your love of drawing and illustration begin?
I think it began like every child, when you’re about two years old and you start drawing. You hold a pencil or a crayon in your hand and you see the magic of touching paper and seeing this line unfold. I then fell in love with it and have never stopped drawing since then.
It has always been a great love and not only drawings but since I can remember it’s always been stories that I drew, not just a scene. That’s what illustration is all about, it's about the narrative, it’s about putting a story into your drawing.
How did you start your illustrating career?
It was a bumpy road. The first thing I knew that I wanted to do was to draw children's books. I never studied illustration, I took a Master's Degree in Graphic Design. There was a moment when I finished the degree that I thought I’d rather do illustration but it was too late for me to start studying again so I thought I would do it on my own.
A couple of years later I was on holiday in Germany with my now wife and a couple of friends who were newlyweds. The holiday was a wedding gift from me and my partner to them. We had a really big car accident and my friend Tina passed away. We were all 26, we were all too young to die at that age. Nobody expects to lose someone, especially another friend. It was a really hard time. It was really heavy, it’s still really hard, and still is heavy at times, even after 15 years have now passed.
It took me another five years but I was thinking of making a book from what I experienced. Not my story but a story about a boy who loses his sister. The accident was in 2008 and my first book was published in 2013, so 10 years ago now, and that launched me into becoming an illustrator.
Why did you want to design watches?
Well, I didn’t and still don’t know a lot about watches. I’m starting to learn that it's a very interesting, niche world just like children's books. I came across Mr Jones Watches and I saw that they work with artists worldwide and I started thinking how cool would it be to wear your own watch!
I had just won a couple of international competitions back then, I’m normally not the most confident person on earth, but then I had a little bit of confidence to email Crispin and say "Hey, I'm this person and I have just won this so I’m serious as an illustrator, can I like design a watch for you?”
I started working on the design on an aeroplane when I was flying to Bulgaria. I always have a sketchbook with me and a lot of Post-its notes. The flight was around two hours and I drew four or five different watch designs. I did a lot of the finishing touches when I was back home and sent it to Crispin, which included A perfectly useless afternoon and A perfectly useless morning.
How does designing a watch differ from children’s books?
For me, there is not much of a difference. It's all about the narrative and the story. If I’m working on a children's book, it's literally a story but a watch also tells a story, it’s also a narrative. Some ideas work better on a watch, and some work better as a book or as editorial, which I also do.
What I’m really trying to accomplish with my work is connecting with people and letting people connect with stories and ultimately with each other. How an idea behind a watch or a book touches someone, it is always beautiful that it does.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I’m lucky enough to say that my work time and free time are much alike. I have my sketchbook with me now, so I also draw when I’m on holiday and I don’t have any assignments planned. It still very much doesn’t feel like work. I really love that, and I am really grateful that I can live this way, which hasn’t always been the case!
The other thing I also like - except for spending a lot of time with my wife and children, of course - is baking. I love baking, it feels a lot like drawing. I like baking bread and difficult things. I’m not the best baker but I like to take on the difficult things that take three to four hours that most people run away from because they require so much patience.
It’s the same focus you have when you are illustrating. When you are baking, if you take one step wrong in a three-hour bake, it’s ruined - similar to illustration - so it's something I really like. It's slow and I like slow things.
Have you enjoyed getting to know Kristof? Make sure to follow him on social media here and keep an eye out for more designers that we will be introducing on our blog soon!