Zoë Van Dijk is an award winning freelance illustrator who was born and raised in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. She attended the School of Visual Arts and graduated with a BFA in illustration in 2014. Her work has been honored by the Society of Illustrators, the World Illustration Awards, Communication Arts, The American Society of Magazine Editors, American Illustration and 3×3 Magazine. She currently teaches at the Roski School of Fine Arts at The University of Southern California.
Penguin Random House
The Washington Post
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Southern Poverty Law Center
Evil Twin Brewing
The New Republic
I begin all assignments with the same underlying guiding principle, which is to absorb as much information I can about the client, their needs and the content of the project. As I draw a wide range and variety of imagery, researching and reference compiling are very important steps in my ideation process. This research is often represented in the form of reading about my subject or assignment, from any relevant history or iconography to researching similar products or projects to ensure I don’t overlap with well covered visual territory. Specificity and a keen understanding of any subject matter I draw helps me deconstruct concepts and reconstruct them in a visually engaging way.
Once my brain is as full of information as possible, I like to compile word association lists as a way to map my brain, in a way, or create associations I wouldn’t normally find between the various abstract concepts within a given project. Once I have explored through language, I sketch, usually starting with 20-40 rough thumbnails that I cleave down to 3-5 sketches.
Values are the most important element of a sketch for me. I create moody, realistic work, and much of that is achieved through strong value structure and the utilization of light and shadow. Color is less important to me in my sketches, as I tend to choose color rather intuitively as I take images to final and I find colors are easy to adjust throughout my process, all the way to post production edits. As long as I have clear, concise and well planned values in an image, I can make just about any color edit needed.
Once I have the client’s approval on a sketch, I take it to final in Photoshop. I don’t always work the same way – I tend to weave in and out of traditional media components and digital as an assignment needs. Sometimes I approach an illustration in a more painterly way, sometimes I rely more heavily on my linework. I like to combine rendered and graphic elements – that can require experimentation, which takes time, but I think experimentation is an important component of staying engaged and present in my work and, ultimately, guarantees that each of my clients’ assignments get my full attention and care, from start to finish.