August 1, 2022


As the latest issue of Applied Arts, the Awards Annual featuring the 2022 Winners from the Photography, Illustration and Design Awards, drops we caught up with cover artist and illustrator Steven Van Hasten. Steven is one of our 2022 Illustration Awards winners and a first-time entrant based out of Lederberg, Belgium. We wanted to learn more about Steven's artistic process and creative approach.

What is your creative process (from idea to finished product)?

When I receive a new assignment, I start by reading through the brief, then I'll summarize the brief by making a list of the most important keywords of the project. If necessary, I will research the subject and, if time permits, I let the project sink in for a while (since I have a reasonably labour-intensive technique, my assignments are usually not ready in 1 day). 

From this initial step, I create small sketches illustrating several of my ideas which lead me to the one I feel fits what I want to express. And finally, I arrive at the last stage, creating the final piece, which I do with acrylic paint. I begin with a darker base colour and then build upon it with lighter colours. This process can take up to 10 layers which is why it usually takes me a while to complete an illustration.

Can you walk us through the specifics of creating this piece?

These illustrations were created for a monthly financial magazine about the CFO (Chief Finance Manager), specifically for a section on the CFO and sustainability/innovation. With those 2 keywords combined with the financial aspect, I worked on different story angles every month to create a catchy image. Above all, it was an ongoing quest to tell an original story, a story that raised questions or challenged the viewer.

What are you working on professionally? Anything outside of the usual?

I just finished a series of 21 illustrations destined for the biography of a back specialist. My approach to this project became more personal and emotional than usual as I formed a bond with him. He revealed the was terminally ill and requested End of Life. I pushed up the timeline giving me 2 weeks to complete 21 illustrations (I usually work 3 to 6 days on one illustration). I had to change strategies from paint to mixed-media—painting, drawing, digital collage and one space—resulting in powerful images we were incredibly proud of. This was one of the most intense assignments ever for me, personally and artistically; I’m glad I got to do it.

If you could buy any work from any artist, who would it be?

There are many artists I would like to buy a piece from, choosing one is not easy. If I could only buy one then I would choose the work of a still living artist. A painting, drawing or illustration by Shaun Tan is always welcome to illuminate my studio. I admire his creativity, his diversity and fantastic mastery of technique, no matter which technique he chooses. He has such an idiosyncratic imagination and recognizable visual language that you always recognize the man behind the different styles.

How do you stay creative/inspired?

My biggest source of inspiration are the people you meet every day on the street, in the market, in the supermarket or in a cafe. I can sit in a cafe for hours and watch people, their behaviour, how they dress and behave. This always inspires me, if I'm completely stuck, going for a coffee somewhere often helps to give me a new impulse.

Model drawing is also at the top of my list since it often provides me with new ideas, I use all kinds of materials, pushing me out of my usual practice, my comfort zone. The advantage of figure drawing is that the result is not important, there is no client behind it, so you can experiment. A week without my figure drawing session is a failed week. Post model drawing chats and beer with my friends/colleague artists is a nice extra creative stimulus :)