We had the good fortune of connecting with Zoe van Dijk and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Zoe, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
At the beginning of my career, I had a general rule of “say yes to every job.” I would take any job offered my way, any budget, any prompt no matter how bizarre or how tenuous a fit it was for my style or what I knew how to draw. I was hungry for clients and trying to gain as much experience as fast as possible, not to mention pay my bills. Freelance editorial illustration can be feast or famine and I felt an immense pressure to take every single job because I had no idea when the next assignment would be coming my way. I worked seven days a week and when I was on deadline I barely left my studio, sometimes working 12-15 hour days. I know that sounds absolutely absurd, and it was, but I don’t regret it. I learned a lot, I honed my craft, I met a lot of great clients and more than anything I sustained myself on freelance alone. Now that I am years deep on my career, with established clients, awards and accolades under my belt, I have eased back on the break neck pace: I say no to job offers just as much as I say yes, I push back on tight deadlines and request more time, I negotiate for better rates. I’m trying to make more space for myself and my own interests. I fully believe that personal growth and hobbies enrich one’s professional experience. And I still work a lot, probably more than I should, but I think that work life balance depends on the person, and mine is in a pretty solid space for now.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I am a freelance illustrator, specializing primarily in editorial, advertising and most recently tabletop game illustration. I love to explore the mystery in the mundane, and use a lot of moody magical realism in my concepts. My mother is also an artist and an illustrator and my brother is a studio musician, so you could say I come from a family of creatives. You’d think it would have been a natural step for me to pursue but I took many detours to get where I am. I dropped out of the first art school I went to, didn’t draw for nearly five years and then returned to art college after almost six years away. If I learned anything from my path it’s to be patient with yourself, learn from your setbacks and keep your eye on the prize.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Unfortunately I had only just lived in Los Angeles for barely a year before The Great Pandemic Stay Homening happened, so I haven’t truly had a chance to explore the great expanses of LA. I don’t even have a favorite taco place yet! But I would take them to eat some of of the LA favorites I did accrue, like Waxpaper, Casa Bianca Pizza Pie, Belle’s Bagels, Mh Zh, Same Same Thai, Kismet, Dune, Badmaash, Konbi, Honey’s Kettle Fried Chicken, Mini Kabob, Salazar. I would definitely drag them on some hikes, because it’s against the Law to visit Los Angeles and not be forced to exercise against your will, either a hike up around Griffith park or in the Angeles National Forest. I live near the Americana so you know I am taking 20 embarrassing mom photos of them in front of that fountain. Hopefully this friend’s trip falls around the second Sunday of the month so we can fill out this trip with some shopping at the Rose Bowl Flea Market. And only because I presumably love this hypothetical person am I driving the 45 minutes to an hour across all of Los Angeles in order to take them to THE BEACH, assuredly Venice, where we will buy each other novelty velour shorts with each other’s names airbrushed on the butts. On the way back we will go to the Museum of Jurassic Technology and have a cup of tea on the roof. And then the following day I will gently put them in an uber to the airport, because while I love them, I don’t love them enough to drive through LAX traffic.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I have been incredibly privileged to have had the kindness of teachers that follow my career and continue to mentor me years after I graduated from their schools. A special thank you in particular to Yuko Shimizu, a former professor of mine who taught me a lot, and still teaches me a lot to this day.