By now, many of you have already encountered the wonderful illustrations by our friend, Zeptonn. Our first edition of Alpha Writer was composed solely of his magnificient creations. We received a ton of positive feedback on how delightful and quirky his illustrations were. Zeptonn is a self-described "Creative entrepreneur, illustrator, graphic design, creative director, and philosopher." Phew. That's quite a list of awesomeness. Well, we recently exchanged transatlantic emails with Zeptonn, and he was nice enough to indulge us in a series of questions, that tried to encompass his interests, including Wittgenstein. We hope you enjoy diving in to his marvelous mind.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Your background, your interests, your dreams?
Sure! I have a lovely girlfriend called Inge and a son called Mees (just over 1 year old right now). We have a nice house near the centre of Groningen, a student-town with a lot of cultural activities. I’m a self taught illustrator/designer and have a strong interest in entrepreneurship. In most of my work I aim to convey a sense of positivity – I’m not just trying to bring a smile to peoples faces, I’m also trying to show that a positive outlook is often much stronger than a negative one. Lastly, a subject that has my interest is living in good harmony with the earth: it’s basically humanity’s home and we have to take good care of it (maybe even more for ourselves than for the planet!). No matter if you believe in global warming, or our role in it, there’s nothing more elegant and beautiful than living in a way that contributes to the earth and the environment rather than takes away from it.
Q: How did you become an artist? Can you describe that journey?
I’ve always been interested in creativity and working on things in creative manners. I think that is what attracted me to the profession in the first place: there are less rules in the creative scene than, for example, in accountancy or law. You get to think outside of the box, and you get to do it together with like-minded people.
I got seriously involved in ‘being a creative professional’ when I finished my second degree: I studied Artificial Intelligence, worked as a consultant for a year, then studied Philosophy, and after that I decided to try out the life of a freelance creative. During my academic studies I started playing around with design software, and started doing logo’s and designs for friends or for little magazines. I kept going at it and enjoyed myself a lot, and learned a lot. Of course, like many designers (schooled or not) I was constantly taking in all sorts of design and illustration – I had a real addiction to street art and art used for board sports (skateboarding and snowboarding in particular). I’m not sure if that influence is still visible in my art, but I often hear people speaking about my work as if it is street art. Also, I liked the creative scene and the people involved, which is part of what attracted me to my current position. I guess it’s how people interact with each other, the honesty, support and freedom that comes with the creative professions. When I finished my degrees, I decided to just give it a try and see what would happen. With hindsight it seems quite a bold decision to just go for it, and it was – and still is – an exciting time!
Q: Who are and were your greatest mentors and inspirations?
Oddly enough one of the biggest inspirations for me has been the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. He was an extremely broad philosopher with an profound insight into philosophical problems. During my time as a student, it was his philosophical method that taught me a lot and sort of set my mind free.
Other than that I’m really interested in entrepreneurship and I tend to arrange meetings with other entrepreneurs. Sometimes they are artists, but often they are active in a completely different field. That can be very refreshing. I find it very inspirational to hear their stories, how their lives ran, and how failures and successes have influenced their careers, but also their thought-patterns.
Q: Where do you find daily inspiration?
This is always a tough question to answer. I believe that most designers are always busy, at some level of their mind, with finding inspiration. All you need to do is look around, and sense the world around you. I believe inspiration can come from many things: other artists, culture, festivals, music, film, books, and so on. I believe at least a part of inspiration is happening on an unconscious level, which is why it is so hard to pin down what inspires you. Sometimes you only realize after the fact that something did in fact inspire you, because with hindsight, you can see that there are similarities in some form or other. Inspiration can often be on a more abstract level as well: you see someone doing something really awesome, and just feel like, wow I wish I had thought of that. So cool!
Q: Do you enjoy listening to music while you work? What are you currently listening to?
Absolutely, most of the time I like upbeat and happy music. This can range from pop to rock to electronic music, but a lot of my playlist for work is filled with electro. At other times I can tune out to very calm music as well though. It really depends on your mood and the type of work involved: writing or concepting requires a different type of music for me than making illustrations. To be honest I feel quite privileged that I can listen to music all day if I want to – a lot of people who work in offices can only play music on their way to and from work!
Q: What's the last book that you read? How about a film?!
I’m currently reading Pandora’s Star by Peter F Hamilton, a science fiction book. And I just finished a very interesting and well-thought through book series by Kim Stanley Robinson about climate change (Forty Signs of Rain, Fifty Degrees Below, Sixty Days and Counting). Quite a daunting series, and, if you are following the news about climate change, it’s accurate and current in an almost scary way.
Q: When you close your eyes late at night, and imagine waking up and starting a new adventure: what is that adventure?
It would be a fantastic journey with my girl and son for a couple of months around the world!
Q: We're there any unique challenges that you discovered while working on this batch of illustrations for Montessorium?
Of course every job is different in the sense that the requirements, style and subject matter always have to fit the client. But at the same time, there are often a lot of similarities as well. A lot of my work is centered around trying to express (complex) ideas in a simple yet stylish manner. Even though the illustrations that are the result often look quite simple, it can take a lot of time to reach this simplicity. You wouldn’t believe how much time I can spend moving around a single line in order for it to ‘feel just right’…
Q: Lastly, can you tell us some more about your thoughts on Wittgenstein!?
Ha, you guys just had to ask this, didn’t you? :) Wittgenstein’s philosophical method is rather complex and really can’t be simplified or summarized – it’s essence is a sort of multi angled viewpoint of matters, so summarizing it as if you can see it from one viewpoint is really selling it short. But, something that struck me in relation to our project is the following: Wittgenstein sees language quite broadly, including signs, gestures, expressions and pictures. The way we use all sorts of things to communicate is what makes our language. So for kids it’s immensely important to not only learn (spoken) words, but also associate these with images, illustrations, photos, sounds and gestures. Learning what a ‘cow’ is in our culture, doesn’t stop with an actual cow. It’s also composed of all our uses of the word or image ‘cow’. So a photo of a cow is part of our culture’s concept, just as an illustration, references in songs, and so on. In that sense, the project we worked on, really teaches kids languages in a Wittgensteinian way.