Musketon’s foray into illustration is one that many artists likely can relate to. A journey of creative trial and error led him to discover Adobe Illustrator, where he found his feet, and never looked back since. His success can be attributed to the fact he’s remained consistently dedicated to doing what makes him happy, regardless of the fact it can mean turning down big brands, and therefore the big bucks. It’s a decision however that maintains his sense of relatability, humour, and one that’s definitely paid off. We spoke to him to find out more:
ADOBE STOCK: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative background?
My name is Bert, but everybody knows me by my creative alter-ego: Musketon. I’m a 27 year old visual artist from Belgium (the home of great beer, chocolate and fries). I grew up in a small boring town. I bought my first ever computer when I was 16 with the money I made from washing cars in the neighbourhood. This computer was huge, ugly and so incredibly slow. But, it managed to run Adobe Photoshop. This is the moment I decided I wanted to become an artist. Thank you Adobe. I started out with editing photos, but this didn’t fill my creative void. I wanted to created stuff. So I started drawing in Adobe Illustrator. Thanks again Adobe! I very intensely started watching tutorials online and trying to master the different tools in Illustrator. After years of trial and error situations I managed to find my workflow in Illustrator and it’s amazing what you can create with a bit of patience and effort. At age 18 I was creating posters for local dj’s after school. I eventually got a degree in Graphic Design and Illustration. Today, 10 years later, I’m still drawing in Adobe Illustrator as a self-employed artist, Musketon. I like working on stuff that makes me happy. So I don’t limit myself to only working with big brands. If an individual comes up to me with an idea I can appreciate I will do whatever I can to work on the project. Passion and happiness are more important than money.
AS: How would you describe your style?
M: I’ve always been drawing. Scribbling on paper and basically everything I could get my hands on. Drawing on paper is a completely different skill though. My style was completely shaped by Adobe Illustrator. When I started creating in Illustrator I was limited. Limited in a good way. The crisp vector shapes defined me as an artist. Every illustration I make is still vector based. So to put it in a few catchy words: it’s very bold, colorful and accessible.
I always try to create something that I enjoy creating. I’m a very strong believer in doing stuff that makes you happy. That joy and happiness will always be translated in something good that people can relate to. My style is also constantly a work a progress. For me no change equals no progress and I don’t think I would enjoy my work if my style would still be the exact same thing as 10 years ago.
AS: Where do you look for when needing a shot of inspiration?
M: Inspiration is everywhere. But I try to look away as much as possible from my screens and take in as much as possible information from the outside world. I used to travel a lot and when I look back on that period of my life I see a huge increase of creativity in my work.
When travelling is not an option and the outside world isn’t giving me anything to work with I browse the internet. I love using inspiration sites like Pinterest or just scroll through Instagram feeds until I find something that triggers me.
AS: What’s been your biggest challenge to overcome in the design industry?
M: My challenges are variable. When I just started out as a self-employed artist my challenge was basically surviving by doing what I love doing the most: creating illustrations. I basically wanted to do the same as I was doing when I bought that first computer, but do it bigger and better. My main goal was to work with big brands. Brands I looked up to. Like Nike for instance.
Today, years laters, I can look back on that period with a big smile. I worked with the brands that were on my bucket list and did some super fun projects.
My biggest challenge has been playing catch up with myself. I’ve been working non stop ever since I finished school. Everything went from 0 – 100 at an insane pace. Last year I felt like I lost myself. I had no clue what to do and was stuck on every possible level. I was ready to give up when I punched a hole in the wall breaking my own hand. This broken hand forced me to not work for 6 weeks. Something I had never done before. These weeks made me focus on stuff that was important. I regained my lost energy and inspiration. I don’t recommend breaking your hand though. My point: try to look at things from a distance to put them in perspective and try to relax sometimes. It helps your creativity.
Now I still work with small and big brands, but I’m also focussing on personal projects. Projects that shape me as a person. One of my biggest personal projects is Vector City. This started out as a Kickstarter project which ended up being 300% funded. Vector City was eventually also published as a huge and limited edition art book and I did a few expos. I never expected it to grow so big (link to project). It also created a hunger to do more personal projects like this. I’m working on one as we speak, but you’ll see it when it happens!
Don’t go chasing client work, do stuff that you like and client work will present itself to you. Cheesy, but true.
AS: What are your perceptions of stock images, and do you think the perception is changing?
M: I think stock images in general (and their value) are way too underestimated. I’ve huge respect for photographers. It’s a skill like illustrating is a skill. I don’t possess this skill and it shows. My photos are always missing that magic touch a photographer has. Don’t ever ask me to shoot a photo, it triggers a stress effect in my body. I’m also a strong believer in only doing stuff you’re actually good at. So, Adobe Stock relieves me of stress and I can work with photos from talented people that do something they’re good at.
Whenever I feel like I need some inspiration, reference material, eye candy for presentations or the visualize a concept without investing an overdose of time I can count on stock photos.
I feel that Adobe Stock is a game changer. I was kinda sceptical when it came to stock photos because every single stock site was offering the exact same cheesy (and something creepy weird) photos. Adobe Stock is playing on a different level upping the bar by offering quality shots.
AS: What artists and designers should we be following?
M: Bram Vanhaeren: is a very talented multi-disciplinary artist. He’s always improving his style and keeps on finding new ways to grow. He’s known best for his very colourful portraits and illustrations. He also shares a lot of his fitness adventures which motivate me to exercise more. A year ago I couldn’t run 1k, yesterday I finished another 10k run. Thanks Bram.
Average Rob: unlike his name leds you to believe, Rob is the not your average Photoshop master. He’s basically photoshopping himself into photos with celebrities. Sure, this has been done before, but he’s always going the extra mile to make each photo better than the one before. I think his skills are not to be underestimated.
Laurent Beuten: better known as Itsmagichere on Instagram. I see a lot of touching points with my style and I like how he’s always evolving. I did a collaboration once with Laurent and very much enjoyed his insights and creative problem solving.
AS: What features did you most like the most about using Adobe Stock?
M: I love the 3D functions in Project Felix on Adobe Stock. I’m a 2D artist and I always envy people that can create 3D scenes. The 3D models sometimes help me understand lighting and shadow effects on complicated illustrations.
I also love the template options. When I need to mock up something quickly I just use the models available in the Adobe Stock database.
Another good reason to use Adobe Stock is just to be inspired or use certain elements as reference material when I’m working on an illustration.
AS: What’s been your favorite project to work on to date?
M: My all time favourite project I ever did was surely my very own personal project: Vector City. It was so fun to create something from scratch with literally no limitations. The only limitation I had was time and the fact that I had to sleep. I learned so much from this project and my illustration skills grew so much on such a short period of time.
If I need to pick a project that I enjoyed working on the most which isn’t a personal project than I would say I loved working with Mazda. Not just because of the project, but also because of the story behind it. A few years ago I bought my first car ever. A second hand Nissan Almera. This 20-year-old car was actually cheaper than my iPhone, but it got me from point A to point B. After a year of intense usage, this car started to fall apart (literally). So, it was time to move on to a new car.
Long story short: I became a brand ambassador for Mazda. Ambassador? So you’re probably thinking: “a free car in exchange for posts on social media? So you’re an influencer? Right?”.
Wrong. I’m a creator. I don’t believe in influencer-marketing. I do believe in doing something creative with brands so both you and the brand win something from the collaboration. I also believe in long-time partnerships with brands instead of hopping from one brand to the other. I believe in creating strong stories that people care about. Nobody cares if I would post a photo of a Mazda car. My photo would surely be less beautiful than the photos they have on their official website.
So, I used the Mazda 3 as a blank canvas to showcase my skills and created a full wrap art car. I also want to thank the great people at Mazda for supporting talent and thinking outside of the box. (photo of car).
I love all the projects I worked on. If I feel like a project isn’t a good fit for me I don’t take the job since I know it won’t give me any joy.
AS: What music do you currently listen to whilst working (if any!)?
M: I listen to movies while I’m working. How? Illustrator on one screen, a movie on the second screen. Why? The sounds work calming and keep me focussed. I’ve listened to Pulp Fiction over 10 times. I’ve only seen it twice. Listening to movies helps you appreciate them in a different way. A lot of the story is told through little details in audio you probably miss if you watch a movie.
AS: What design trends should we be looking out for in 2018?
M: Not really a design trend, but I think designing live is going to be big. It’s actually happening right now. I’ve started live streaming my screen while I’m working and I noticed people watching how I create my illustrations for hours and hours.
Animation and motion. Oh and gradients. I think. No I honestly have no clue. I always try to stay aways from trends. They die and are replaced with something new one day. Stay true to what you like doing the most.
I’m also really really excited to see what is going to happen over the next couple of years. We’re on a tipping point when it comes to technology. I tested the HTC Vive (virtual reality) for a while and I was absolutely blown away with the content that is being created for this device. It takes over all of your senses. I’ve always created on a screen. 2D and flat. When you step into the world of Google Tilt Brush this screen all of a sudden becomes a 3D environment. You create with you hands and can walk through your creations. Absolute madness.