Karlijn van de Wier, the illustrator who does much more than handlettering


Woohoo! I was so excited, I was about to meet Karlijn van de Wier. Even the rain didn’t affect my enthusiasm. Instead of a meet up in the nature, we met in Villa Pastorie in Tilburg where Karlijn and I could have been for hours more if she didn’t have to visit the hairdresser.

Karlijn van de Wier is a friend of Anne Neijnens, who is my friend that joined me on my trip to London to take the photos. I knew I wanted a work by Karlijn in the sketchbook and I was happy that Karlijn found some time in her schedule for me.


Karlijn drawing a mural. Source: karlijnvandewier.nl


Karlijn studied pedagogy and started her own business in this branch. Later she realized that illustration was her thing. During her other study in interior design, drawing happened to be one of her favorite things to do at school. She started making illustrations in commission and some of her clients are now Hema, Jumbo, Hard Rock hotel and Hallmark. She published a book about handlettering and while she presents her mural creations on Dutch television, she keeps aiming for bigger goals.


When I posted a photo on Instagram in my raincoat she answered with ‘Oh so fancy! I’ll just put on my car to protect me from the rain’. Then I knew: this will be fun! And indeed it was. Karlijn is a talkative fun person and very open. I listened with a big smile to her view towards plane rides. She can’t believe how such a machine can carry so many people and suitcases with their wobbly waving wings. She looked at me ‘I don’t know how you do it. I have been to Tenerife and that was my longest flight, long flights are something I rather avoid!’ she said.

Karlijn creating the work.


When Karlijn started her work in the Traveling Sketchbook, she wasn’t using pencil and an eraser. This is her policy against doubters. ‘Using erasers is for erasing mistakes, but mistakes will happen anyway: you can’t prevent yourself from making them.. Look there are already plenty mistakes in this drawing. That’s okay, it doesn’t matter!’. She keeps working on top of the illustration until she likes it. I like this point of view, because in a way, she is right.

Karlijn was drawing the bar and the table with people next to us. She created line work with fineliners and filled it with watercolors. We talked about learning skills. She did learn her skills herself, she didn’t study illustration or anything. ‘You should learn from enthusiasm instead of an insecure feeling’. What she meant is if you are insecure and thinking that you first need to do buy new stuff or need education before you can be someone or before you have the permission to create: you will get stuck in it. The thing you should to is just do it, learn in on the journey. She works with the people participating in her workshops like that too. She teaches them new stuff as an addition to what they are already creating and showing. This suits a quote I found in her sketchbook “Done is better than perfect”.

The quote illustration made by Karlijn in her journal.


It was a great thing to have a look in Karlijn’s journal. She creates things she sees during the day. ‘It can just be the candle, appreciate it and draw it.’ To make the illustrations more dynamic she adds handlettering to them. And let me tell you one thing: she is good at it! Her handlettering is really good and it is a great combination with her works.

But she is not only a ‘handlettering expert’. No, Karlijn creates illustrations that add something to the atmosphere, they are stylish. She does make letters, but she loves drawing and creating things that improve the atmosphere in the living room for example. For a television program in the Netherlands about houses and interior she creates mural illustrations. Important to Karlijn is that the illustrations make sense and have a function, like labels on jars with product in them. She would not just make key-chains for example.

The illustration I made for her.


I was really happy for Karlijn that she got to work with Hallmark, a big greeting cards brand in the Netherlands. She was happy with it too, but she explained that it’s really easy to get used to the success. First it is cool and then it is kind of normal for you. And another thing is that it takes a whole process before it comes online. So followers get very excited, while Karlijn got used to the idea a couple weeks before. But one thing is for sure, she keeps dreaming and aiming for bigger goals.

For my dream she had plenty of advice. She gave me tips on how to improve the Traveling Sketchbook project and how to attract big artists and illustrators. We shall see in the near future if her advice worked! 😉

One of the things Karlijn pointed out is that on the Instagram is not much to see of the works in the sketchbook or about the project. So that is why this blog post about a meet up ends differently. You will see more of the illustrations in the book and it will not stay a secret. But you can see a sneak peek here and feel free to visit the ‘Traveling Sketchbook exhibition’ that will take place in the future to see them for real.


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