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Meet Erik Kriek, illustrator extraordinaire

June 18, 2011


I first met Erik at the Periscopages festival of comic art in Rennes, France, in 2009, where he was one of the featured artists. He’s a big, funny, lovable dude with a wicked sense of humour, but he’s also a serious and highly professional illustrator and comic artist with a huge portfolio and some seriously high-profile work to his name.


After Periscopages, I paid him a visit in his studio in the old part of Amsterdam, which he shares with a couple of other artists and designers.

Erik’s comic book series Gutsman is a whimsical parody about a superhero with no powers (or at least, very few), who has no interest in saving the world, but lives only to please his girlfriend Tigra. He is thwarted by Eric himself, who invades the strip and tries to get the shapely Tigra out of her tiger suit and into bed with him. Accosted by the jilted Gutsman, Eric has to resort to Tippex to obliterate the hero. It’s a neat ruse but it comes undone when Eric starts drawing again and Gutsman reappears to reclaim his bride.


I caught up with Erik over email and asked him a few questions:

AM: Your mind seems to be populated with iconic images from the history of pulp, sci-fi and horror comics and movies. Where does fantasy leave off and reality begin?  

EK: Oh, for me the distinction is very clear. Fantasy and fiction are way more manageable than reality. As long as it’s not real you have control over it. Reality itself is not fantastic. It is often horrible and nasty.

 AM: You feature a very benign version of yourself in your Gutsman comics. And yet when it comes to your female character Tigra, your nice-guy image gets replaced by a crafty schemer, intent on getting Tigra for yourself. Will she remain forever out of reach?

 EK: For the Erik character? Yes, he will never get Tigra. She is the epitomization of the perfect girl, hence the one you can never have. As for being a schemer: I’m in a long relationship now, but at the time I drew most of the Gutsman strips I wasn’t. I was always attracted to the wrong girls, the girls who were in relationships with friends of mine. I tried to steal them now and again (with mixed success) which was, looking back, not a very nice thing to do. I was a different person back then I guess. Although the Erik character is based on the real me, he’s an exaggeration, of course.

 AM: Or maybe Erik and Gutsman are just two versions of yourself. If the two were to battle to the death, who would win?

EK: Gutsman is more a general archetype. Sure, there’s a lot of ‘me’ in him, but I’m a much more of a shy guy. In a battle I would win of course, I can erase him with one sweep!

 AM: Most of the illustrations in our Co/Mix selection touch on social, cultural and political topics, albeit in subtle ways. Are you a closet agitprop activist?

 EK: Well, I tend to steer clear from overtly taking a stand in my illustrations.  I like my subjects to be more on a general human interest level than touching a political nerve or making a particular point. Around 90% of my work is editorial illustration, so very often I get asked to comment on a particular article or situation. I tend to take a more aloof standpoint and use an ironical way of approaching my subject material. As a person I tend to entertain very nuanced views, so I would never call myself an agitprop activist!

 AM: Thanks Eric. Looking forward to seeing you in Grahamstown. And to see your 9 images blown up to A2 and framed. They look fantastic at that scale.

EK: Thanks. I’m thrilled to be coming over to SA and meeting you again, as well as the rest of the Co/Mix folks.



MONSTERHEADS. Eric says: This is a selection from 40-odd monster head designs I did for Yummy Industries in Basel, Switzerland, for a project called ‘Woven Drawings”. The designs were woven on a loom and attached to a cloth belt. I’ll bring a few along with me.

ME, ME, ME. Eric says: this is an editorial illustration for the daily newspaper de Volkskrant, accompanying an article about the way some people use social media on the internet as an endless self-advertisement.

GUTSMAN AND TIGRA. Eric says: This is a self-promotional image depicting the Masked Defender of Male Inadequacy and Tigra, his graceful muse.

BALLBUSTERS! Eric says: This was an illustration for a satirical magazine called P.I.M (Politically Incorrect Magazine), which only lasted for 5 issues.

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