A chat with

Sandy van Helden

Sandy van Helden is an Amsterdam based illustrator who tries to make the world more colorful, one illustration at a time.


Sandy graduated from the Willem de Kooning Academy in 2013 and works for brands like Spotify, Google, Nike and Adidas.

Below our favourite work from Sandy 🤩

Hi Sandy, thanks for taking the time to chat with us! For starters, what led you into this creative career?

I've been drawing ever since I was little and always told people I wanted to become a ‘tekenaar’ when I grew up (it’s the Dutch word for draftsmen). So the decision to become an illustrator seemed an easy one. I went to the Willem de Kooning Academy to study illustration, but after graduating I wasn't too sure about the path I had chosen and decided to give advertising a try. But here I came to realise how much of an illustrator I actually was. After this I was determined to make a career out of illustrating, and now I can't imagine doing anything else!


Where do you find inspiration?

I've been drawn to fashion for as long as I can remember, and I think this fascination reflects in my illustrations. I often get inspired by a person's style or personality; that's why fashion and self-expression are often a driving force behind my work. Great painters and colorists like David Hockney, Matisse, or Ellsworth Kelly are a big source of inspiration for me as well.


Can you show us how your studio looks like?

Here's a look into my studio 🙂

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How do you conquer a creative block?

Whenever I have a creative block, I have to force myself to take a step back. For me this means quite literally going outside and doing something different. Once I return to my desk after a walk through the park or a museum visit, I’m often able to view the design problem with a fresh perspective.


What gives you energy outside of work?

Throwing dinner parties for friends! Cooking is still relatively new territory for me, but I love the learning process. It gives me the same feeling drawing used to give me when I was little; I can get lost in it and lose my sense of time. It doesn't matter how tired I am after a day of work, cooking will always give me energy.


What are your 3 favourite Instagram accounts?

1. @designershumor


2. @jahulie


3. @martinparrstudio


What are your 3 favourite spots in The Netherlands?


What have you recently seen that you think is great creative work?

As I mentioned before, I'm a big David Hockney fan. A while ago I visited his big retrospective exhibition at the MET and I was mesmerized by the volume and diversity of his work. 

The variety in techniques, the mix of hyperrealistic and impressionism, and (of course) his stunning colors—it fascinated me all. There's a new exhibition of his that just opened at the Van Gogh Museum. I haven't seen it yet, but I have high expectations, and I'm almost certain that I won't be let down.

David Hockney, 'Bloeiende meidoorns langs de Romeinse weg', 2009, olieverf op 8 doeken, © David Hockney, Foto: Richard Schmidt

Any cool projects you're working on right now?

I have some exciting collaborations on the way, including a new campaign for Spotify. Besides these commissions I’m working on a personal project in which I try to focus on working with physical materials, as my commissioned work is heavily focused on digital. 

At the moment I'm working on a series of drawings and paintings which will hopefully be exhibited sometime this year.


Can you give one piece of advice to young creatives?

Try to embrace the business side of being a freelance creative. They often don't tell you in art school that in order to have a successful artistic career it’s essential to become an entrepreneur. It’s essential to know how to market your work while at same time staying true to your creative views.


Thanks a lot for your time and your answers! Check more work from Sandy on her website or Instagram.