Cast a Shadow:
Glasses and Stumps in the Illustrations of Vincent Bal
Vincent Bal defines himself as a film director. He makes movies for children — several of his films were featured at the Berlinale.
Two years ago, while working on a script, Vincent Bal noticed a shadow from a teacup on a piece of paper — and it reminded him of an elephant’s head. Bal quickly added eyes and a smile, photographed the resulting image and posted it online. And his subscribers loved it. Since then, the film director decided to create one doodle a day.
Today, working on illustrations takes up more and more of the director’s time. Bal’s drawings may seem naive, but he is okay with that — the most important thing is that they remain popular: Bal’s Instagram account has over 300,000 subscribers.
Film director and illustrator.
— The object I use in my work has to appeal to me, by it’s form or color. It’s always unpredictable what kind of shadow a glass will give, and most of the time they are so full of nuances. We have a lot of glasses now, because I buy a lot of them. But our closet is very full. I must have looked in all the drawers in our house already and tried everything.
Sometimes an idea appears quickly, and a drawing just flows out. It might not be technically perfect, but there is always a freshness that you cannot get back afterwards. At other moments I sit and play with an object for an hour and nothing comes out.
Sometimes I feel that the drawing is successful right away, but only after it is finished. On some occasions I make drawings that I really like myself, and they are not so successful. I don’t post everything I make. Sometimes I put a drawing I think is funny, but not great, only on my Instagram stories. I try not to follow the taste of the audience too much.
I just draw what comes to my mind. Sometimes it’s gentle, sometimes darker. I try not to think too much about categories when I make the drawings.
I am definitely not a schooled artist, but ever since I could hold a pencil I have been drawing. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a comic strip artist. Not so strange if you consider that I am from Belgium, home of Tintin, The Smurfs, and Lucky Luke.
I am currently working on a 10 minute short film where a shadow character comes to life, and we hope to finish somewhere near the end of this year. But it is rather an exception. I kind of like the simplicity of telling a little story in one image. Developing a story, for comics or for film and television is something I do for a living, and it takes a lot of structuring, planning and thinking. What attracts me in my Shadowology work is just that I can let the shadows inspire me. I let my hands do the thinking. The shadows guide me, I don’t try to force them into something, and I like to keep it that way.
Drawing takes more and more time that I could have spent making films. But not so much the drawing as answering emails, interviews, sending the parcels to people who order prints, etc. It has slowly become a half-time job. But I love it.
It’s very interesting for me to try and draw realistically, because my normal style is so cartoony. This year I am taking a drawing course. Every Tuesday night for the last couple of weeks I have been drawing. Lots of different things: fruit, landscapes, nudes.
I stopped wondering whether I am an illustrator or a director. I’m just a guy who makes stuff.
Vincent Bal’s illustrations are available at his online shop.