Us: Michiel de Kraker and Angella King,
Rhys a sweet and funny boy, and 2 feral cats,
make up the Pickle Punch Bunch.
This interview in 2016 with the New York Examiner paints a nice picture of who we are.
Q: What influenced you to become an illustrator?
Mike: The desire to tell a story through pictures is prevalent to all my illustration. However, I think it all really started when we were living in London, England. Being a classically trained Animator has always been an ongoing passion of mine, but seeing all the art going on there, on the streets, museums, magazines & such really opened my eyes. Expanding my horizons to all the different styles, subjects and colors was amazing! Nowadays of course, you can find everything with a couple of clicks on the internet, but then it was not so readily available, and you had to get outdoors and experience the arts first hand. This is still my first preference. Art is better absorbed through a tangible experience, using all the senses.
Q: In terms of subject matter, what are your illustrations about and what inspired the ideas for them?
With Pickle Punch we’re trying to keep the themes fairly simple, innocent and a bit cheeky. Although I want our characters to be emotive and soulful, so that the the viewer (often children) can create a story or imagine a personality for each character on their own. I’m trying to reflect that in keeping the art on the simple side, clear shapes and bright colors, for the most part. Many of the characters in our illustrations I have been drawing for years and they come with their own set of baggage (Haha!) and personality traits that run deeper then you see in a single print. Richard Scarry and more older illustrators are definitely influences.
Together we decided that Pickle Punch illustrations should embrace a deeper meaning and eventually have a greater purpose than just being pictures of animals. Compassion towards others and our planet are key to moving forward and progressing as a society and within our communities, so I want our illustrations to always embellish qualities that encourage kindness and love for one another and nature. So if you look closer at our artwork, you will see that animals are never in compromising situations or held captive, they are free spirits!
Q: As far as working in illustration, what has been your most rewarding experience so far?
It’s been the whole experience of jumping into it! The learning curve has been steep and really enjoyable, experimenting and trying to get comfortable in a style or medium. Coming from hand drawn animation there’s the tendency to be very line centric, so it’s been a lot of fun experimenting with colors and shapes and see where it ends up. And of course getting a reaction from people with our artwork. It can be a bit nerve wracking at times, but I love the reactions of customers when they come in to see the cards and prints at a market. With animation it can take years before anyone gets to see it on the screen, and you can feel quite removed from your audience. In a market the reaction is instant!
Yes, I have to agree with Mike here. When customers tell us our artwork makes them feel joy and happiness, I feel intensely satisfied, like we did our job well. Also when stores re-order because they tell us the cards are going out the door like hotcakes, I also get a huge sense of satisfaction and it provides motivation to keep creating and sharing Pickle Punch artwork with as many people as possible! I mean what could be better then spreading joy and happiness?
Q: How did you get into greeting cards? Was it hard to break into the stationary field?
We actually started illustrating archival art prints for children’s rooms first before we decided to turn many of our prints in to greeting cards. We started with only 10 cards, and naively started to hit up shops locally in Vancouver, Canada to carry them. One of the very first places we went to advised, “ You need at least 20 cards before I’ll look at your line”. So we went back to our home studio and started designing another 10, and then approached more stores, and also started selling our prints and cards at local arts and craft markets where we started to do well. We were picked up by a few shops on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, and that gave us the confidence to keep on with our cards, because they sold very quickly and the stores ordered more. Eventually, after reading a blog that suggested a good card line will have at the very minimum 50 cards, we started taking the card side of our business more seriously and we really examined what categories a card line has, and started designing again. At this year’s National Stationery show we showed 80 of our cards and 20 prints, as well as tote bags and note pads.
Q: What would be your “dream project” if you could work on anything?
Angela: Designing toys, games and puzzles for children and also writing and illustrating children’s books for a major publishing house. Ideally I’d love to see Pickle Punch designs in the homes of every kid in North America and beyond. I’d love us to be a positive influence on kids everywhere.
Mike: I’d love to get involved with illustrating children’s books, or even better, to illustrate some of our own ideas for kid’s books. Also it would be great to incorporate animation back in to our designs somehow, and to get some more personal experimental projects going.
Q: Are there any up and coming projects that you would like to mention?
Mike: In my off hours I’m trying to get some kid’s book projects going. I’ve started a bunch, but now getting them into a decent shape and finding a great publisher is the next step!
Angela: A handful of new retailers in the USA and Canada are going to be carrying our prints and cards very soon.
We will also be launching a new freelance website that will include art styles outside of the Pickle Punch style for commissions and collaboration possibilities.
Q: Where do you hope to be, career wise, in ten years?
Mike: Eventually we’d like to evolve in to more of a deeper purpose our business.. Some kind of involvement with a charity close to our heart, or in some way getting more involved with a community. I’ve started teaching Animation at Capilano University, where we both got our Animation education, not too long ago and that has been very gratifying. I’d love to progress along this path in conjunction with creating art for Pickle Punch.
I’d like to see Pickle Punch designs in the homes of all kids! Whether it be books, prints for their walls, wall paper, duvets, puzzles or figurines.
Having time to spend with family, the outdoors and working on art together in many forms, from stationery, prints, fine art, product design and to give back in a big way to the art community would be ideal!
***These fine days, you can find us in our studio being creative in one way or another, or filling orders, or chatting to our lovely customers and friends at craft shows. Maybe we'll even run in to you in the ravine where we go for walks and shenanigans everyday. Life is good!