Get to know experimental illustration duo Rob en Robin

From their studio in Breda, Rob en Robin create illustrations for clients such as The New York Times, Apple and Die Zeit. It’s the same place where experimentation takes centre stage and they reinvent themselves over and over again. We had a chat with the pair.

Rob en Robin would not define themselves as classic illustrators; their working methods differ too much from the usual. For instance, they always work together on the same drawing. No, not with two hands around one pen. What is the process like? The subject of the assignment is the starting point. Both go to work with digital sketches. There is no brainstorming, no memos have ever been stuck on the wall and there is almost no talking. But don’t worry though, the friends have a very good time together.

Rob looks at Robin’s sketches and vice versa, each carefully checking the other’s steps. As ideas from both sketches come together, a concept emerges. The basis of their illustrations is always the same: thinking from an object that is being estranged. It has to be something no one has ever seen before, which ensures a high level of originality. These ‘absurd but understandable drawings’ excite the viewer and play with everyday objects. The illustration contains just enough detail to get the message across. No “hahaha factor” but a clever “ha!”.

Photo by Rob Lipsius

Big playground
The duo has figured out the familiar drawing programmes by now. By constantly experimenting, Rob en Robin discover new ways of illustration and animation. Deep empirical research teaches them innovative techniques, which they use to show potential clients what they are capable of. And as soon as they master a new skill, the playground opens again.

Having defined agreements allows them both to draw in the same style. Nonetheless, Rob en Robin themselves see very well what has been drawn by whom. Sometimes they feel more like ‘constructor’ than draughtsman. There is no freehand drawing; each sketch is based on a reference image that is traced over. The process involves drawing lines, fitting, measuring and assembling. A nice term considered during the conversation is ‘builders of imagery’. Although they eventually decide to stick to illustrators.

If the work becomes repetitive, the challenge disappears for Rob en Robin. Playing endlessly in 3D software, rooting in each other’s sketches, alienating objects and dreaming big: they are far from done with that. This experimental illustration duo is going to provide many more ha!’s.

Photo by Rob Lipsius

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