In Philip Hopman’s garden under a perfect Dutch cloudy sky.

“Come back to me when the weather is getting better, then we’ll sit in the garden and draw a tree or a chicken or something”. 4 months later I sat in the sun next to him: Philip Hopman kept his word.

I was a little nervous while sitting in the train, watching the Dutch countryside passing by. I was going to meet the illustrator that was high on my wish list. Yes, I have a wish list with 5 favorite Dutch children’s book illustrators and he was definitely on it!

A illustration from ‘Boer Boris’. photo:


Philip Hopman always loved drawing and he went to the Rietveld academy that was recommended by his art teachers. In 1988 he illustrated many children’s books including the Jubelientje-series with Hans Hagen. In 1999 he won a ‘Zilveren Penseel’ (silver brush) which is an illustrators prize for children’s books illustrations. He is now working on a lovely series ‘Boer Boris’ (farmer Boris) which is very popular among kids.


With his red car we drove from the train station to his house. Damn. Surrounded with dunes, a pond and a piece of land with three horses covered with a beautiful sky with typical Dutch clouds his house was pretty much my dream house. He showed me his art studio (with a lot of the 200+ children’s books he illustrated) and we went outside to sit in the sun. And then later in the shadow, since this day was more beautiful than I expected.

Philip told me about his time at the Rietveld art academy and how he changed from fashion to illustration. After graduating he had a period of time he didn’t get much new commissions. That made him realize he had to be more proactive. He got to work with Okki and Taptoe and books for mathematics. He started to hand in his work at different publishers. With some good results. He has been illustrating for more than 25 years now with some very successful books.


He told me that he also traveled to do research on the books he had to illustrate. Peru, Ghana, Dubai… he used to take a bit of alone time and grab his sketchbook to make some rough sketches of the things he saw. Hans Hagen went to Ghana to a school with Dutch children and got inspired by a drum school. To make sure the drawings for the book would look real and give the right atmosphere: Philip went to Ghana too. He made sketches while in Ghana, back in The Netherlands he made the final works. Using colored paper and acrylics Philip made wonderful illustrations. I really like the book and lucky me: he signed my copy of the book with a little illustration next to it!

Green grass and a blue sky. photo:  a friend of Philip


The book ‘Boer Boris’ was an idea to give to his son, but when he worked with Ted van Lieshout on the story it ended up being a series of multiple books. First, Philip didn’t think of selling the book or making a sequel, but it is a hit! He told me how he was reading the book to some kids on a school. He forgot to read a sentence and a little boy in the audience said this sentence out loud. The kids know the books by heart. I think that is one of the biggest rewards you can get if you work on children’s books. I saw on Philip’s face that he would agree with me.

The illustration I made for Philip. photo: Carmen Groenefelt

I told him that I love how he created illustrations in the book ‘Stimmy of the jungle in the city’ where the sky was not blue and the shadows were not just a darker shade of the same color. I know, I learned this in Australia too: it is an important thing for the quality of the illustration to be more free in color usage. I did choose to paint a blue sky and green grass though, because these colors were so bright that day.


In the beginning Philip also asked me to show works done by me. I brought the book ‘De rode koffer’ that I illustrated and he gave me some feedback. For sure there were still a lot of things to improve. But he also liked a drawing: funny, it wasn’t even my favorite. To me it was interesting to receive feedback from Philip because he knows what he is talking about. He gave me the advice to do some courses in illustration because I am disadvantaged as an illustrator without some academic background. Of course I know this, but it did something with my self-esteem. One important thing is that I did not get too sad about this, because it is very useful and an honor to get feedback from people who know what they are talking about. As an advice to everyone who does something they really like: sometimes people give you a bit of critical comments, don’t see these as negative but as good learning points. For sure: don’t give up.

View from the train window, gorgeous Netherlands. photo: Carmen Groenefelt 



The same butterflies I felt in my stomach during the ride towards Egmond aan Zee, were there when I went back home. Philip is a nice illustrator that works very hard, and creates gorgeous illustrations. I enjoyed meeting him and I am thankful that he found some time to meet up with me. It was also a cool trip that made me appreciate the beauty of the Netherlands even more.

Philip’s work, just like the other works in the Traveling Sketchbook, will not be shown completely. But here you can see a part in progress. You will be able to see the full creation during the Traveling Sketchbook exhibition. But that will take place after I had some more travels in the search for more of these inspiring stories. To stay tuned, sign in for a monthly update. [ ]


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