Career StoriesPassion 11 May 2015
Career Stories: Illustrator Milou Neelen

Illustrator and graphic designer Milou Neelen took a leap of faith a few years ago, which resulted in a thriving business of her own. With a growing buzz around her, and secretly being massive fans ourselves, we were curious to find out where her girly themed work was being made. CHAPTER FRIDAY ended up in a big studio (including an awesome courtyard!), somewhere in the heart of Amsterdam, to catch up with Milou.

How did you turn your illustration hobby into a job?
Milou: “A couple of years ago I found myself completely broke during Christmas time, so I decided to make everyone a painting. At the time, I worked in a bar and decided to show my work to my boss. He thought it was awesome and put it on display. When someone who worked at a gallery dropped in, they asked me if I wanted to exhibit my work. Then all of a sudden, on my twenty-fifth birthday, I got a phone call from ELLE if they could use one of my illustrations in the magazine. That was a question that didn’t take long to answer!”

Sounds like faith! What is the most valuable lesson in your career you’ve learned so far?
Milou: “After working at Scotch & Soda for three years, I created a financial buffer. That gave me the courage to start for myself. My advice would be to create some financial room, so you can free your head from stress and worries. Then take the plunge and figure out what you really  like to do.”

Can you describe your personal style in your work?
Milou: “I love working by hand, create drawings that are clearly made by me and not by a computer. Sometimes I’m afraid it’s too childish, so I always look to combine my playful feminine drawings with an edge.”

Do you find it hard that everything seems to be made with computers nowadays?
Milou: “No, I always think that people are looking for that little bit extra. Everybody can take a Photoshop course, but that doesn’t make you an artist.”


Is there something that always finds it’s way back in your work?
Milou: “A simple black and white print can always win my heart. And all my prints are imperfect, there is always something a little off. For me, that’s what makes them interesting.”

There are a lot of books on your desk. Do you have a particular one that inspires you when you’re stuck?
Milou: “It’s not one book that inspires me; it’s always a different one. When I’m looking for colour combinations I flip through ‘Gentleman of Bacongo’ and I look at books from Andy Warhol to get inspired by his original train of thought.”

What is your morning office ritual?
Milou: “I always take my dog for an hour-long walk, and then I start my workday. I’m not really a morning person though… I love to work at night. If I had my way, I would only work nights, but that’s becoming a lot harder than it used to be…”

CHAPTER FRIDAY CHAPTER FRIDAY Where do you get your coffee?
Milou: “At the Coffee Company or at Stach: I know everyone who works there by now, so it’s become a social visit as well.”

What kind of materials do you use?
Milou: “I love to work with Indian ink, fine pens and a lot of different brushes. I make a lot of my work in one hue if it’s for print, or in black and then use my computer to add colour. That’s what you always have to keep in mind; what am I making, and for what use?”

What is one thing in your office you can’t live without?
Milou: “I can’t live without my computer, scanner and jar of black ink.”

Do you have a favourite store where you shop for art supplies?
Milou: “I love Vlieger, and Van Der Linde at the Rozengracht. They have everything I need.”Def_IMG_4196klein 4What on your desk makes you happy?
Milou: “My books! And I’m a Pinterest addict; it’s my happy place. I just love the never-ending flow of pretty images.”

How do you keep your desk organized?
Milou: “I don’t, haha. When I’m working a job, it’s total chaos. I smear a lot of paint everywhere, so when I knew when you guys came, I had a very big clean up.”

What is your big creative dream for the future?
Milou: “To move abroad: my boyfriend is from Indonesia and we’re planning a big move in a couple of years, probably to Bali or somewhere close. I was in Ibiza last week to work and in a place like that it’s always clear to me that I don’t need a lot. I also want to start a web shop where I sell my own work.”

Psssst… Are you curious about the workplace of other creatives? Here you can find more about the desk 0f Marie-Stella-Maris creative Edith Beurskens, blogger Desirée from VosgesParis and from jewellery designer Lenneke.

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    […] best stories behind piles of books and Sharpie pens. Want to see more? See the desk of illustrator Milou Neelen, Marie-Stella-Maris creative Edith Beurskens, blogger Desirée from VosgesParis and jewellery […]

    I love this series! So interesting to get some inside info from such creative individuals, doing what they love! Super inspiring!


    Such a lovely and talented lady, who I just met last week here in San Francisco.

    I love your posts!

    I hope she starts a web shop soon – her work is gorgeous and I love her personality. i think art is even more special when you feel like you want to know the artist – and I can tell we’d make great friends! i love her thoughts about living abroad.

    Warm Regards,

    So nice to hear you can relate Alexandra! Milou is a true joy to be around.

    Sounds like she has my dream job! What a lucky twist of fate, I’m so happy that Milou has made a living from what she loves, something so many people are unable to do. What a charming and inspiring story, I hope to one day have her success and drive to create something beautiful.

    With love ♥︎ » Paris by Friday

    Success is a story of trial and error… Keep believe in your dream(s) and you’ll achieve great things! :)

    Amazing work space, my dog would approve it too :D
    Also, love her work so much and what a great career story! :)

    I love her work space!

    Amazing! Following Milou for a couple of months on Instagram and I love allll her work so much!

    Such an inspiring feed!

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