How to create a modern design inspired by art history

Roman statues and famous paintings were given an irreverent makeover for this big, bold and humorous illustration by the super-talented Dutch designer.

Rick Berkelmans’ work consists of a vibrant mix of images, typography and colour. As a finishing touch, he loves to use different printing techniques, particuarly screen printing, to get a unique vintage look. It’s a style that set off this project perfectly.

Q: Tell us a bit about the project...

It’s a wallpaper for one of my favourite design blogs, The Fox Is Black. The site has a weekly series in which it showcases the work of designers as a free downloadable wallpaper.

Q: Where did your inspiration come from?

I wanted to create a surreal, chic, luxurious look. My wallpaper was featured in August, so I made a sunbathing woman the main character and started building from there. The lying-down Roman statue is based on the one on the cover of Hot Chip’s album One Life Stand. I really like the vibe of that cover.

Q: You mentioned that well-known paintings are included in the image. Tell us more...

I’ve been looking for inspiration from art history a lot lately. I look for paintings, characters and statues that I can use in my own work, then start by redrawing them from the picture. After that I trace and adjust my own drawing until I’m happy with the result. Most of the time it ends up looking very different to the original, but in this case the woman still looks like the sunbathing woman in the painting The Bather by Belgian surrealist René Magritte.

Q: What’s your favourite thing about it?

The Roman statue. Most of my images are portrait but wallpapers are landscape, so having the statue vertical didn’t work well. By rotating him I discovered a composition I liked – as well as a new way of looking at things.

Q: Any unusual inspirations?

A couple of times I’ve dreamt about someone with a great idea, but then woken up to realise it’s my own. I actually keep a notebook and pen by my bed. I have lots of weird notes such as ‘Lassie legs’ and ‘beekeeper upside down’.

Rick Berkelmans lives and works in Breda in the Netherlands where he runs his one-man design studio, Hedof. Clients include Heineken, Kangaroos, Sony PlayStation, Lipton Tea, Mini, Google and Red Bull.

This article originally appeared in Computer Arts issue 219.

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