Bram Vanhaeren was expelled from his first art school for a lack of talent. Fast-forward a few years, and he’s one of Adobe’s 25 Under 25
Bram Vanhaeren is clearly ambitious, and keen to create as much art as he can. “I’m working on an artwork with my girlfriend,” he says of his next project. “It’s all canvas-based – it’s fun to step aside from the computer!” We caught up with him to find out about his influences and the story behind his career.
When I was 13. We’d just got the internet and I found gaming forums where people had profile images. One user told me he used Photoshop to create these. I quit gaming and got into design forums, and showcased my small creations. Then DeviantArt and not so long after Behance followed.
Yes, and from a young age. I chose to stay with my grandma for two weeks to learn to paint when I was five. I went to art school, but they kicked me out after six months! After your exams, you have to present your work in front of a panel of ten professors and professionals from the industry. They literally started to laugh at my work, and eight out of ten of them told me that art wasn’t for me. I worked on my attitude and grew as a person; eventually I studied a degree in cross-media design.
Since I was terrible at art school, I never got around to studying specific artists, so I don’t have many artistic influences. I just look for the true stories behind creatives; I want to know about their struggles, how they live life, what inspires them. I’m just influenced I guess by people who want to show their passion in creative ways, no matter their field.
I aim to capture energetic moments and emotion with colours. I want people to easily relate to my work and not think about it too much. My style is still evolving every day though. That’s the best part of living a fast-paced, creative life. Every week I discover a new twist within my work. I stick to basics in Photoshop but it allows me to really explore these basic tools and get the most out of all of them.
The Pencil tool for a start; I draw everything by hand with my mouse. The Gradient tool too. I stopped wasting my time struggling with techniques and tools I didn’t understand, and focused on the things I can do really well. Why spend time doing something you’re not good at, when you can be an expert in something you are good at?
Originally, I accidentally deleted the email – I thought it was spam! I had to introduce myself to them, tell them my story, and two weeks later they invited me to do a portrait and some awesome ambassador stuff in Europe. Creatively, they insisted I did my own thing and really focus on the fun of making the portrait rather than the pressure of the project. I had complete freedom and 100 per cent support from a huge company with an audience of 7 million, to do something I’d do for fun on a Saturday afternoon!
In January I did 16 illustrations for a huge sport event in Spain – I love sport illustrations! I really enjoyed my personal Nike CopOrDrop project too. I had the honour to assist an amazing project called Fontself, doing #AlphaWall Type, which aimed to make type sexy again. And I’ve had some great collaborations with magazines – in particular, it was a dream come true working with Rolling Stone.
Not really, to be honest! I struggle placing online exposure. I feel just as happy when I can show something to two friends, as when I see it on Adobe’s Twitter feed. The reaction of my work with Adobe was particularly amazing when I went to AdobeMax and had the pleasure of meeting people who appreciated my work in the flesh.
Everyone goes through a phase where you know what you want to create, but the results are disappointing. Don’t give up. By working and working at your passion, you’ll get better at what you do.