Dutch-illustrator Frederique Matti lives and works in the Netherlands capital, Amsterdam; a 24-hour city known for its artistic heritage, narrow houses and authentic character. Although today she is a well-known illustrator with a vibrant portfolio under her arm, which captures the essence of everyday life through exaggerated figures and decorative patterns, becoming an illustrator was never on the cards for her. More wildly, there was a time when she battled with the idea that she “couldn’t draw well enough” to consider a career in it.
Her path into illustration started when she was working full time as a digital designer in an agency, where she wanted to begin broadening her skill set and learn something new. By going through the intense process of learning, she quickly realised that she enjoyed illustrating more than she did design, “it was a painful realisation at the beginning because I felt bad abandoning my career as a designer; something I had studied for and put so much time and effort in… looking back at that now makes me chuckle a little bit, I was for sure taking stuff a bit too seriously”, she reflects.
“The fact that I know that industry well from another side has helped me a lot as a freelancer.”
Naturally, the decision to change her path meant further developing her skills, and so she went on to look for new opportunities in the industry where she could deep dive into her new-found career. After working in an agency, she went on to switch her job and decided to join a tech-startup where she gained enough experience to go on to become a full-time freelance illustrator. Today, Frederique explains her role as “drawing for money” which for many of us sounds like an absolute dream but she shows us how it can become a reality. It also means running your own business which she enjoys a lot, she tells us.
After flicking through her portfolio, she explains how her work is usually for clients in the tech industry; an industry that she is fondly aware of because of her past experiences as a designer. “The fact that I know that industry well from another side has helped me a lot as a freelancer,” she tells us. A nugget of insight for many who may be considering a career change from one side of an industry to another. Although scary, coming into an industry with a different perspective and background has proven to have its benefits and might just be the catalyst in enabling your work to be stand-out in the same way Frederique’s is.
“I wanted to learn but I felt so insecure, so I kept my work to myself most of the time…”
As with many careers, success simply doesn’t happen overnight. Intrigued to hear about Frederique’s journey, I ask her how she got to where she is today, “things grew organically and with baby steps!” she reflects. “I guess it started when I began to share my illustration work a few years ago… I wanted to learn but I felt so insecure, so I kept my work to myself most of the time. It felt like such a big step to share the work that I was doing but I knew I had to, so I came up with an exercise for myself to improve my illustration skills and that exercise was to share my work and ask for help and feedback from others.”
She began by creating a low-key Tumblr page where she made and shared one small illustration per day, after that she shared her illustrations with friends and then on Dribbble, “and you know what? Nothing bad happens when you do that! Rather, its the opposite” she shares.
“I love it when a tool has room for ‘happy accidents’ to happen.”
Later in her career somebody shared the advice ‘no one knows what they are doing’, and this alone liberated Frederique to just give herself permission to try stuff, fail and then try again. “There’s no harm in doing a thing that in retrospect you didn’t like as it will hopefully bring you to a place where you will find something that you do enjoy!”
A common theme pops up throughout my conversation with Frederique and that’s the notion of it being ok to make mistakes. Even when asking her what tools she uses for her practice, she answers; “the main software I use is good old Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Following that, I have an iPad Pro on which I use the app Procreate a lot. The iPad has improved my drawing skills and creativity so much as it provides so much freedom… I love it when a tool has room for ‘happy accidents’ to happen. You know, when something goes wrong on your canvas and it turns out to look beautiful, totally by accident.”
“I’m very addicted to playing the latest Zelda, Breath of the Wild on my Nintendo Switch.”
Taking time out from your creative practice to recharge is often left neglected, particularly when your practice is something you find deep enjoyment in. Over the years, Frederique has spent many nights creating illustrations for herself which she admits is not the best way for her to spend her spare time and now recognises how taking a day off, cleaning her home, petting her cat, or doing yoga can all contribute to overcoming creative blocks and sparking new ideas.
When she isn’t immersing herself in the worlds that she has created through her illustrations, you can too find her outside wandering around Amsterdam and taking full advantage of her arthouse cinema subscription and immersing herself in films.“I love films and the cinema, and I’m very addicted to playing the latest Zelda, Breath of the Wild on my Nintendo Switch.” Aren’t we all, Frederique, aren’t we all.
“I am very ambitious and hardworking, and for me, success is about being able to be lazy sometimes…”
Hearing Frederique’s journey is as much reassuring as it is inspiring. This career she has built for herself is not one that she has simply stumbled in to, she has been persistent and intentional every step of the way; which is a soft reminder for us all that to do what you love takes a lot of effort, and isn’t always easy.
Before I draw our conversation to a close I ask what her idea of success looks like, “big question” she meditates. “I am very ambitious and hardworking, and for me, success is about being able to be lazy sometimes, in the most positive sense of the word. It would mean that I’m doing the kinds of jobs that I love the most without feeling stressed! I need to be able to take that day off when I’m in a creative block. And go on a holiday without guilt so I can have a fresh source of inspiration.”