Violence, gore, erotica & nature with the Copenhagen based Illustrator.
Erik Pontoppidan is responsible for the illustrations of issue 29’s “A-Z of Social Media Influencers” feature. If you try to google Erik your first result will be namesake Danish author, bishop, historian and antiquary Erik Pontoppidan. So will the second and the third. And while being an outspoken believer in unicorns and other mythical creatures in the 18th century seems like an interesting thing to talk about, it was easier to get ahold of 21st century Erik. It is what it is.
I’m a 31 year old illustrator based in Copenhagen. My educational background is in art history and cultural studies, and purely theoretical, so I am mostly self taught when it comes to illustration work.
Any kinship with 18th century Erik Pontoppidan?
Yes! He is my ancestor (Erik Pontoppidan, the younger). But — believe it or not — there is another bishop from the 17th century also named Erik Pontoppidan. They are both burying me on Google. If I’m lucky someday they will allow me to climb into the top five search results with them.
Point out 3 key differences between you and bishop Erik?
Well first of all he has a wikipedia page. Secondly I’m not a christian; I’m not religious in any way. I don’t believe in the Kraken and the a big sea serpent either as he did. Thirdly Erik Pontoppidan, The Bishop of Bergen was a very strict and disciplined man with a strong determination and work ethic. I am afraid I am the complete opposite.
When did you start doing what you do and how did you break into the industry.
I have only worked as an illustrator for a couple of years, but I have been drawing ever since I can remember, and I have gone through a lot of different phases with it. In the late 00’s and early 10’s — during the big street graffiti wave in Copenhagen—all I drew was graffiti sketches. I also had a fairly long MS Paint phase drawing with a mouse. And a collage phase. When I was a kid all I wanted was to draw like the famous Belgian and French cartoonists or the old Disney animators. I drew the same thing over and over again like a maniac. But somewhere down the line I completely forgot about that dream, as I began to aspire more towards fine arts, still occasionally and casually doodling with my cartoony hand-style though.
Then 2 and a half years ago, when I was approaching graduation from the University of Copenhagen, my friend Lars Jellestad, who is an editor at Vice DK, asked me if I could write a piece; a more detailed account of a story that I had shared in a Facebook forum. It was an experience with my upstairs neighbour. He had died from a stroke in his apartment without anyone noticing. Lying there for more than a week in a July heat wave, his skin had turned purple to black. I found out when the police asked me to identify him. Lars asked me if I could illustrate the article as well. Back then I didn’t even have a scanner or a light table. I can’t even remember if I had any Adobe apps installed on my computer, but I said yes right away.
As I got more requests for illustrations I realised that this kind of work came very natural to me, but also that I had to rely on my old hand-style in order to deliver on short notice. So in a way I had to rediscover my old childhood fascination although I had learned a great deal since. In the beginning it felt like a compromise, like I was taking a step back in terms of my artistic ambitions, in order to take a leap forward gaining some attention and experience, but that feeling faded very quickly, as I noticed how fast I was developing my drawing skills, and how much fun I had doing the work.
I can always do the hardest part of the job using only my phone, a regular ballpoint, and a stack of A4s.
What’s your most important tool?
My most important tool is my computer, that is the boring truth, but in some ways I don’t like working on the computer and I hate Wacom boards, so I still make a hand drawing for every illustration. I also try to minimise the time working in Photoshop by preparing the original, so that I go through as few steps as possible in the colouring phase.
My favourite tool however — at least right now—is the Pilot V5 Hi-tecpoint 0.5 ink pen. I like to use simple, standardised means. I like to know that I can do most of the work wherever I am, without relying on the computer or any rare, messy, specialised tools. Just like a writer. I can always do the hardest part of the job using only my phone, a regular ballpoint, and a stack of A4s. These are all very powerful technologies, we just don’t acknowledge them as such, because they are always within reach and expected to be at our service.
Did you know the Queen of Denmark was published illustrator in the danish 1977 “Lord of the Rings” edition? That’s pretty bad ass!
I didn’t know that! I know her paintings and decoupage work though. She’s not bad at all.
What’s your favourite stuff to illustrate? (aka what sparks your interest?)
Violence, gore, erotica, nature.
At some point in the process of making a drawing, it won’t matter to me what I’m illustrating though. Socks, palm trees, quarrels about immigration laws, it doesn’t really matter. When I’m done concerning myself with the things that would interest the reader and editor most, my concerns will begin to evolve purely around form, colour and composition, as if they were not the means of illustrating any content at all. This part of the process is when I am most absorbed and enjoy myself the most. However it is much easier to reach that point if the content speaks to my imagination, my memory and my senses to begin with. Oddly though, I am never able to skip the content phase, moving directly into the absorbed state of dealing with pure form. I need the content as a starting point.
What do you waste too much time on?
Instagram, worrying and not drawing.
What other illustrators work is worth checking out?
There are so many, it’s always hard to make a list, but quickly going through the top of the list of posts that I liked on Instagram, these are the illustrators/cartoonists that stand out the most in my eyes:
Paul Paetzel, Paul Waak, Pete Sharp, Ben Marcuz, Joakim Drescher, Jonny Negron, Zven Balslev, Halfdan Pisket, Joo Hee Yoon, Ben O’neil, Kyle Platts, Josh Ccochran, David Jien, Jon Boam, Miro Denck, Alex Jenkins.