Have a look at Marni’s SS13 menswear and you’ll encounter T-shirts and button downs with unusual, charming prints of wild animals: parrots, tigers, donkeys. The prints are reproductions of watercolors by Rop Van Mierlo, an artist in Amsterdam whose book WILD ANIMALS won the Dutch Design Awards in 2010. SSENSE talked to him about the paintings featured in this excellent Marni collaboration, self-publising, and the dog who bit off the tip of his ear.
What technique do you use to create your wild animals?
Wild Animals started as a concept, as an attempt to create animals I couldn't control. I use a technique that I learned as a kid at the art classes I sat through during my education at a Dutch Steiner school. We learned to draw on wet paper and it was a really difficult technique. I never forgot about it, or that feeling of never quite knowing how an image would turn out.
Do you start with an image or animal in mind?
Yes. Although sometimes people think I paint colorful ink spots first, and find out afterwards which animal looks like it the most. In reality I always have a very clear idea of the animal I want. I search the library and web for images of animals and look for postures that I like to paint.
Why did you decide to self-publish WILD ANIMALS?
I sent a manuscript to a few children's book publishers, but none of them were interested. I had contact with one independent art book publisher in Amsterdam that was interested, yet they weren't able to publish the book within a year. Making the book had already taken me ages so I didn't want to wait any longer and decided to self-publish the whole thing. The first edition of 500 books was sold, mostly via my website, in three to four months.
Has winning the Dutch Design Awards changed your career?
It certainly gave it a boost, but it's hard to tell what comes from winning an award and what comes from other stuff. One great project directly came out of winning the award – a project I recently finished for the Children's Eye Hospital in Rotterdam commissioned by Bureau Van der Wijst.
I read that a dog once bit off the tip of your ear. Are you missing some of your ear now? Why did the dog do that?
Yes, I lost a poker game to a Pomeranian dog. A really nasty one.
Your animals seem soft, gentle and sweet. In the world of the wild animals you paint, would a tiger ever eat a pig? Would a dog ever bite an ear?
I sure hope so. Otherwise the pig bites the tiger in the rear.