We had a quick chat with the talented Xaviera Altena who constantly offer us bold and colorful illustrations. She loves what she does and no one can take that from her, that’s a thing! Drawing has always been a part of her since she is 4 years old, and today she draws to fight against exclusion and make sure that all cultures are represented in her artwork.
Could you tell us a little about yourself? What do you do, studies, work …
I am a young freelance illustrator from Rotterdam. I have grown up in the most diversity cultural city of the Netherlands, in a neighborhood where all kinds of cultures and religions are living. So from a young age I was fascinated by all these colors, and different kind of people. I also started drawing from a young age, and in my drawings you saw the colors from the streets. When I grew older I started to get inspired by womanhood and feminism. I want to give women a stronger voice, and feel represented. No matter what background. I saw few woman of color in illustrations, or girls with hijabs, and also wanted to change that.
Now I am working on a freelance base as an illustrator for all sorts of clients, but always with girls and women in my mind.Do they feel represented by this illustrations? And can they empathize with this situation? Is a question I always ask myself. I truly believe that we can change the world by drawings and storytelling, so I try to do just that every day, so hopefully everyone feels included.
At what moment of your life did you decide to start illustrating?
When I was young, around the age of four, I would already make little comic books. Even before I could read them. I made little stories out of my adventures in the back garden or about my family. I even made a whole comic collection where I took empty pistachio shells and made them into faces, and drew the rest around it. There is a whole pistacchio-face comic collection at my dad’s house. super limited edition. I’ve also been always very bad in math and science topics, eventually reading, drawing and other forms of art were my outlets. Ever since I can remember. So there was not much as a different option to start drawing.
What is art for you?
Art for me is a feeling and an opinion. So there is no good or bad art, or pretty or ugly art. Art is definitely as personal as someone’s opinion. It’s all just feelings.
What your illustrations have that make you different from the rest?
I think that I use very bold colors with thick bold lines, which is not a common combination. Often it is only bold colors, but with no outlines, or there are outlines but the colors are more pastel or neutral.
So it is this combination of two extremes that makes the work stand out I guess. I also don’t mind to get political in my illustrations. Art is just an opinion right?
How do you see the people of your generation?
I have so much faith in my generation and the generation that comes after me. It feels like they are kinder, have more open minds towards each other and aren’t afraid to learn to know each other. It is the generation of the internet. The generation that know no boundaries or borders. But maybe that is the same thought my grandma had about my mother and me haha. Every older generation puts their faith in the younger generation.
What advice would you give to an artist who has just started?
Work hard, and then, work even harder. have a goal in mind. Visualize where you want to go and where you want to be. Even write it down, pin it on a wall and look at it every day. Don’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Strive. Be better, and be very very critical on your own work. When you feel satisfied about your work, that’s the worst. You always need to feel like you can do better. Only that way you can keep growing and learning.
Another profession that you would have liked to have?
I have three actually: a very good FBI detective, a good chef with my own show or an animal-doctor.
In the world of illustration, where do you see yourself in a few years?
Still in Rotterdam, illustrating, and also frequently traveling the world. Having a lot of nice and cool clients which I have fruitful collaborations with. Happy and satisfied with my decision to be a 100% full time illustrator.