Anje Jager

Anje Jager


We are interested to hear about the journey that led you to become an illustrator — was it something you’ve always wanted to do?

As a child I was always drawing, and it was no surprise when after high school I thought about going to art school but coming from a small town and being really young and insecure art school seemed so free spirited and quite scary to me, instead I went to a normal university to become an art teacher. There I soon realized, rather than teaching I wanted to practice art myself. After graduating, now mature enough, I went on to study graphic design at Minerva Art Academy in Groningen, The Netherlands, taking drawing and painting classes on the side. 

After graduating from art school, I left The Netherlands to live and work in Berlin, Germany. There I started working as a graphic designer at a great studio ‘Double Standards,’ meeting lots of great designers and art directors. Still I never quit drawing, always a sketchbook at hand, and through one of my colleges I got my first illustration work which got me in contact with Mario Lombardo who was the art director of the well-known German music magazine, Spex. This landed me with the right people and magazines straight away which makes such a difference. 

I started working as an Art Director for an advertising agency and did my illustration work in the evenings. This was very demanding but I knew I wanted to develop myself further as an illustrator and create my own work. After two years I quit my job and started focusing on drawing again. The first years I kept working as a graphic designer and freelance art-director, finding it hard to pin myself down in one discipline. Slowly though, things shifted from designer to illustrator. 


Has there been a “breakthrough” moment when you felt your work was really taking off? 

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I think it was actually that first serious job with Mario Lombardo who was a young and upcoming art director at the time. I just got my internship turning into first job at Double Standards, and my friend and college Anna asked me to do a drawing for her Art-School project. Mario Lombardo who was teaching there noticed my drawings, based on those he asked me to do an illustration for ‘Dummy magazine’ he was guest- art-directing at the time. This issue ‘Dummy-Juden’ won ‘best art direction’ that year at the Art Directors club and got me connected with the right people straight away. 

Although it’s great to be noticed by the best people in the business, it still meant I had to take on every job I could, and give it my best so that thing that just started would actually carry on. 


Are you able to balance your personal projects with your work projects?

Yes, I am... a little bit. I’ve got ongoing projects I can pick up any time. This enables me to use some spare hours at the end of the day for free work. 

I must admit though in busy times I also have a lot of ideas for free work and feel like I can never get anything for me done. But as soon if I got time, I need at least a few days of administration and boredom before I start making my own work.


Do you have a routine? What is a typical day to day for you?

My routine is, always go to the studio, work or no work. There’s always tons to do, and even better, when all is done, I’ll have to come up with something myself! 

A typical day would be: 8.00 bring a kid to daycare/school maybe coffee with a friend or with my partner (at this morning coffee hour we try to organize our life...) 9.00/30 in the studio 

On the two days where I don’t have to pick up any kids I’ll stay in the studio till about 20.00, I love having these days with an open end. Most free work I create in the late hours of these days, when all emails are answered, all work is done, then there’s space in my head for ideas. (I always stress friends with babies, get yourself at least one day where you don’t pick up. It’s so great to have the freedom to ll up your day without the feeling of having to leave any time soon) 

On the other days where I do have to pick up the kids, I leave the studio at 15.45. And then of course the evenings are filled with wild Berlin clubbing... (or maybe not...)


How are you interacting or collaborating with others in your field?

As I went to art school, and have worked in several design studios, I’m part of a creative scene for quite a while now, most of my friends turn out to be creatives. From the 6 people working at that Berlin studio I started working at the time, I’ve collaborated on Projects with 4 of them through the years. I even still work with people I went to art school with! At the moment for example I’m working on drawings for a column in a Dutch Newspaper, the picture editor is an old friend from Art-school. It’s so nice to stay in contact and interact through work as well. 


Can you tell us about an exciting collaboration you’re working on? 

I’ve just finished a whole lot of drawings for the Annual Programme of the Staatstheater Stuttgart, I’m really curious how they will turn out in the Booklet. For the Dutch Newspaper ‘De Volkskrant’ I’m doing lots of food drawings, illustrating a food column that travels along with the Giro d’Italia, I love these fast turnaround projects, I draw it today, following day it’s in the papers, feeling like I’m running along with the sprinters towards the finish. 

A whole different Project I’m working on at the moment is teaching a course ‘Specific Fashion Drawing’ at the UdK (Universität der Kunste) Berlin. I’ve always taught workshops through the years, but teaching a course it’s a whole different challenge. It also forces me to think about drawing and my own practice again. It keeps me on my toes and it’s great to see what art students are up to at the moment as well as keeping up to date with the latest fashion trends ;) 


Do you have a dream project?

As much as I love fast turnarounds, I would love to be part of more complex projects in which I can combine my art-direction skills with my design / illustration skills. I love starting off with a small idea and slowly building it out into for example a whole new Creative Identity, it’s so satisfying to see every- thing come together in the end. 

As much I love being independent, I would love to be part of teams who search for creative solutions. As much as I love the simplicity of just being me in my studio, I would love to collaborate on free projects more.