OPEN DOOR CONVERSATIONS WITH DAGMAR BOIJENS
“Most of the surrealistic things I draw, they’re based on a dream or something that I had. Like I dreamt about a snake or something for instance, and then I just merge it with something else. And that’s why for me it’s also quite scary because it’s very personal if you draw your own dreams.”
I’m Dagmar and I’m 23 years old and I grew up in a little town near Maastricht, it’s Bemelen. It’s like really small, it’s like 200 people or something. Since I was young I was just playing around in the woods. My school was very small, we only had 50 students, so it was really small. So a lot of the activities and stuff were just go outside and play in the woods and I really loved that.
I moved to Maastricht four years ago. I studied Communication and Multimedia Design in the Hoge School Zuid and I just graduated last week, so that chapter is closed. I make illustrations, but my main thing that I do is graphic design and digital illustration because that’s what my study is focused on. So the illustrations were more like a side project. I stopped doing it for a little while…because when I was small I used to draw a lot and just make little things like with empty toilet rolls, I used to make little projects. And when I went to school my mum would just throw it away and the next day I would just start all over again. I’ve always been drawing a lot but then around 14 to 18, I just didn’t do those things. I just did things that young girls did, like shopping and stuff and then I started again with the illustrations and I’ve been doing them ever since then.
I made one illustration that was with the little dot work and then I didn’t do it for a while and then at my internship they asked if I could make illustrations and put them into branding so it was a bit of a combination. So then I made some flowers and I thought: ‘Oh, this is a really nice thing to do.’ Because it takes a really long time to finish an illustration but it’s very mindful in a way. You’re just dotting the whole time so I thought I should just do this more often and then it really started.
The dot work started three years ago and then it went bigger and then I started my Instagram and that was when it all started I think. I thought it myself so I just figured it out all myself and doing it my own way. Because you have a lot of techniques that you could put in…people have their own ways that they prefer to do it and I just figured out just by myself. I didn’t really get lessons. I really have an eye for detail so I think that makes it a bit easier because then you notice the little things more and you can translate that better into a drawing.
Behind her drawings
Most of the surrealistic things I draw, they’re based on a dream or something that I had. Like I dreamt about a snake or something for instance, and then I just merge it with something else. And that’s why for me it’s also quite scary because it’s very personal if you draw your own dreams. For instance, that drawing with the head and the ‘No Diving’, for me it’s very personal but if you see it, then it wouldn’t be very personal (for you). That’s why for me it’s quite scary for me to make surreal things because if you make something that already exists, then it’s not scary because it’s like: ‘Oh yeah, it’s a butterfly or something.’ So that’s a bit different but yeah, the inspiration is mostly from dreams or I also really like fantasy books, I’ve always liked the mystical creature things and that’s why I always like to draw dragons and those things. But it’s mostly dreams.
I’m very good at remembering my dreams, I’m really good at that and I’ve kind of always had that. Also for my graduation project I made an app where you can teach yourself how to get lucid dreams. Lucid dreams are dreams in which you become aware that you are dreaming, so in the dream you are like: ‘Ok I’m dreaming’, so you are aware of that. If you train yourself, you can create your own story lines kind of, so you can say I want to go and get some ice cream and in your dream you go and get ice cream.
My app is called “Oneironaut”, it means like the travellers of the dream worlds. I’ve been working on that for the past year. To train yourself (to remember your dreams), you have a few steps that you have to follow and the first step is keeping a dream diary because you have to remember first. Because otherwise you could have had about 1,000 lucid dreams and you just don’t remember, so that’s the first step. The second step, you have to do some reality checks to check if you’re awake or asleep and if you do that multiple times a day you will keep that habit and you bring it into your dreams so you will check if you’re awake or asleep in your dream. It’s like the movie Inception, yeah, that’s also about lucid dreams. So then you can become aware of the fact that you’re dreaming and then you can do fun stuff.
On her interest in dreams
When I was young I used to have really bad nightmares and I was afraid to go to sleep because I was afraid to have nightmares so now when I’m studying it (lucid dreams), I was thinking, oh I really should have had this when I was younger because also with the nightmares, it could help to stop with the nightmares. It’s really good in a lot of ways. But dreams have always had a very big impact on me so that’s why I think it’s very fascinating.
On finding her path
When I finished high school I really didn’t know what I was going to do and I wanted to do something with architecture but…I’m not really sure what the name is called in English..it’s kind of like architecture and then I had to take more classes because I didn’t take the right classes in high school and when I was taking these classes I was like: ‘No, I’m not going to do this now.’
Then I found out about Communication and Multimedia design because I’ve always liked design, but in multiple forms. I like interior design, I like graphic design, I like product design, I like every way of design but with this study you get a lot of different things. So you also got photography and coding so it was a lot of things. I also got the graphic design and I was like I really like this and also digital illustrations and making stuff like that. I just thought it was very cool to take my creativity and make something that brands could use, yeah I think that’s really nice so that’s when I took that road.
Right now I’m really into people making block printing stuff, it’s totally different from what I make right now. As you might have noticed, my interests are like, all over the place. I really like old stuff, so like very old books. I don’t necessarily look at just dot work things, but a lot of different things that I can get inspiration from. So this one, I think it’s really cool. I’m really interested in drawing plants but for me it is creative, but it’s not like I can…with my surrealist illustrations I can build my own world so to speak, and make something that isn’t there already. And with the botanical illustrations or the animals that I draw, it’s more like I really enjoy the process and I’m very curious about plants and animals but I see it as a different thing than as my surrealist drawings because it’s more of a challenge and more personal for me. So I see them as kind of separate. I also take inspiration from vintage drawings. I always look those up. Also for the botanical illustration but also with the drawing of animals and more scientific illustrations I always look close up.
On whats next
I wanted to do a Masters, but the one I applied for was very hard to get into. It was the Design Academy in Eindhoven and it was the Masters called Geo-Design but they have very small classes so it was very hard. Geo-Design is a bit hard to explain, you take a problem that’s in the world and then you design something for it, so it’s very broad. Like with plastic or something and then you have to find a design solution to it, so it’s like applying design thinking to a real world problem. The Eindhoven Design Academy is just a really good school for design people but I didn’t get in so now I’m just trying to…I just want to find a job over here for now and then maybe next year I want to do a Masters, but maybe somewhere else but I’m really not sure yet. I’m going to stay here but I’m not sure for next year, maybe, I want to go somewhere else. I think that Maastricht is very small and you can get some other opportunities but I think not as much as when you go to Amsterdam or some other city but I don’t really like Dutch cities so…. I would love to move to Copenhagen or something because I’m really into Scandinavia. My name is also Scandinavian. My parents really like Scandinavia so I think I just got it from them.