Meet the printmaker: Petra Verkade on creative exploration and process

Petra Verkade is an illustrator, graphic designer and printmaker.

As a student at the University of Arts Utrecht (HKU) she combines different techniques including riso and screen printing. She’s always on the lookout for new approaches and ways to explore possibilities in the fields of graphic design and illustration. 

Petra Verkade in the studio

Below she shares a little about how she approaches a new piece of work. To hear more about her process, inspirations and challenges, and join in with the conversation, get your ticket to join us at EXCHANGE #2 on Tuesday 14 Jan at Rabarber in Utrecht.

Tell us a little bit about yourself 

I’m a designer, artist, maker, printmaker, and explorer. I love to work with my hands. Experimentation is one of the most important steps for me, and allows me to challenge myself, and explore media.

I started exploring my creative world as a teenager through drawings, photography and by making lots and lots of things. That’s how I started to learn more about myself and my creative process.

What are you working on at the moment?

In my design projects I’m always looking for a way to narrate ideas through visuals or to respond to human emotions. But in my current school project, on the theme of ‘non-human centred design’, my approach is completely the opposite, because the theme is about nature’s perspective, rather than a human perspective. 

What’s your favourite way to transform your ideas into visuals?

Risograph print is my favourite print technique, there are so many interesting things about the process and the outcome. I really like to use bold and fluorescent colours, and to combine several effects, such as graintouch and dot effects in one design. 

My favourite colours to use are fluorescent pink, blue and yellow. With these colours you can make almost every colour tone. I really enjoy playing with layers of colour and trying to find the most extreme combinations along the way.

I really enjoy playing with layers of colour and trying to find the most extreme combinations along the way.

The challenge with risograph is that you never know how the colours will merge and in that way you never really know the outcome of your design. I get really excited with every layer that comes out and I’m almost never disappointed with the outcome. 

What’s your first step when starting on a new project?

Most of my illustrations I draw by hand first – I really like sketching and the feeling of holding a pencil instead of working directly into digital. If there were enough hours in the world, I would convert all my sketches into riso or screen prints. But there isn’t, so I pick the sketches that I think have potential or are humorous.

Where do you find inspiration? 

I get my inspiration from the world around me. People, emotions, events and stories are a big part of this. I like to think of myself as a visual storyteller: there is always a message behind my work, sometimes visible and sometimes invisible. I keep all of my sketchbooks to look back at when I get stuck, or when I just get curious to see what I used to work on. So my process is influenced by old sketchbooks as well. 

I keep all of my sketchbooks to look back at when I get stuck.

I don’t like to admit it, but Instagram is also a big part of my inspiration. A place where I subconsciously get influenced by the process and work of other designers. Sometimes when I’m a bit out of inspiration I look through my saved posts and get many ideas already by looking at the way other designers make. 

Do you ever get stuck?

Working on a school project with big themes like the current one mentioned above, I tend to bump into a creative block. Because the subject is really big, I get stuck on simplifying it and converting it to my interests. 

What rarely happens, is that I have no inspiration at all in the making phase. It’s always the research phase where I get stuck. When that happens, I put the whole school project aside and start working on my own projects, something that takes my mind off the big things. Maybe I don’t even look at it for a whole week. After I have distanced myself, I talk with other students about it, discuss the directions and the process. Often the fresh look and new ideas are what leads me to the next step.

Get your ticket to hear more from Petra at EXCHANGE #2 on 14 January, visit her website and follow her on Instagram

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