The Insider’s Guide: Illustrator, Merrit Koek

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Illustrator, Merrit Koek, has a wonderful way of capturing the whimsical feel of Paris in her drawings. I have been dying to chat with her about her work, her inspirations and how she brings these wonderful Parisian moments to life through her illustrations. On her recent trip to Paris, I sat down with her to find out about the secrets behind her unique drawings. Here, Merrit shares how her drawings began, her creative process and her dreams of working for Dior…

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How did your passion for illustration start?

It all started with a fashion illustration book that my grandmother gave me three years ago. I took the book with me on holiday and started working through the notes, sketching legs, arms, faces and then moving on to poses. I then started combining what I had learned from the booklet and started to find my own style. That was really the beginning. Shortly after, my mother got an iPad with a pen (to make notes) for work. I started to experiment drawing illustrations with the pen and loved the fluid movement of it.

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Do you work mainly with an ipad?

The ipad works really well for me, as it allows me to work freely. When I have a piece of paper in front of me, I feel I am going to ruin it and I will have to crumple up the paper and start again. I am also thinking of the environment! Drawing on the ipad is different to drawing with a pencil and paper, it’s a fluid movement, where with paper and pencil it’s a very precise drawing. I start with a quick sketch with paper and pencil and then move on to the i-pad.

What inspires your drawings?

I always try to create a certain image in my head. I try to create a story, if it’s a girl in Paris sitting in a café – I start to think about that scene, what is the attitude of the girl? What is she wearing? What suits her best? Mostly the drawings are really about seeing the beautiful things around me and capturing that moment.

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You live in Utrecht but you have a wonderful way of capturing the atmosphere of Paris in your drawings, how do you do this?

I do love Utrecht, it`s like a little Amsterdam with the canals and the bicycles and I love taking pictures there. But there`s just something about Paris that I am drawn to. It has this whimsical feel…just walking around, with the balconies, the café life, the chic style, it`s an existing fairy tale. I really try to visit as often as I can and soak up these moments. So when I am drawing, I can really imagine that scene and then bring it to life through my illustrations.

Who are your favourite illustrators?

I do love Rene Gruau, I came across him two years ago – there was a beautiful documentary about him on TV. I love the classical, feminine feel of his drawings – it has this Paris feeling which of course I love.

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A similar kind of feeling you bring to your own illustrations?

I love the classical, elegant, feminine feel of his drawings. In developing my own style I try to take this classical whimsical feeling but interpret it in my own modern way.

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Do you see yourself combining a career as a fashion designer and as an illustrator?

After completing my fashion degree at ArtEZ Arnhem, my dream is to intern at Dior in Paris. I think the fashion illustration will be a really big part of how I can convey an idea or design. The two will go hand in hand I think.

Your favourite Paris addresses?

I love city life but I am drawn to wide open spaces. I just love to wander along the Seine in no particular direction. I really love to just walk the backstreets and soak up the atmosphere. The Jardin du Luxembourg is my favourite garden. I love the Boutique Dries Van Noten overlooking La Seine. I like to eat lunch at Merci and breakfast at the Used Book Café. I really would like to visit the Louis Vuitton Foundation next.

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