Graphic artist and illustrator Karim Batoun, aka Karimo, was born and raised in Amsterdam. Known for his sketchy, typographic, black and white style, Karim swings from illustration to graphic design, murals and clothing prints, to his ‘free guerilla action’ posters.
The ambitious 25 year old is currently working hard at getting his name out there through a numbe rof avenues while studying graphic design at the Koninklijke Academie in Den Haag, jotta spoke with Karim about the plethora of projects and his future plans.
Could you tell us something about yourself?
I have been drawing since I was very young but after a while I was in a bit of a rebellious period, hanging out on the street and I did not draw as much any more. After a couple of years I decided to start drawing again and I bought a dummy book in which I have drawn a lot. It helped to explore my creativity and do my own thing.
How would you describe your style?
In my illustrations I use a lot of graphic elements and in my graphic designs I am quite illustrative, because I mostly draw everything by hand and only then I start using the computer. I like it more if it is drawn by hand.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
I am inspired most by other artists. I observe a lot, the colours they use, the lines, patterns, or letters. That makes me think about how to improve my own work, be it in a different way. I am absolutely no copycat but it does inspire me a lot. I am also inspired by classical art from the Medieval ages, such as the Nachtwacht [Rembrandt] and sometimes that is reflected in my drawings. I also like Japanese prints and manga. I am influenced by a lot of things but I won’t let it influence me too much, so that you can develop yourself. If I see a good art work I want to do it even better.
Can you describe your process?
That differs, but sometimes I just start with some letters or a word, such as ILK (I love Karimo), then I just start sketching and eventually complete the drawing with a black stilo. It can take one hour or a whole day or sometimes weeks. But when I work too long on something I don't like it anymore. Just recently I made a large painting for Club 8 in Amsterdam, that took me about 4 days in total. I can draw whenever I have a sort of rest point, be it in the train or in the park, I just start drawing with my headphones on.
What is your favorite subject?
I like myths and mysterious things, about life, death, weird lines, hands or eyes and images from other cultures, such as Japanese symbols, Mexcian skulls or Arabic calligraphy. The Arabic influence also comes back in the patterns in my drawings. I also have made my own calligraphic pattern as a tattoo which means valuable and friendly, I designed it myself with painted lines and had it tattood on my arm.
What are you currently working on?
I have a lot of projects running, I design a poster every month which I print in a limited-edition from 70-100, and I spread them in different places such as stores or magazines. I also send a couple of posters to artists I really admire. So, that is basically my ‘free guerilla action’ and I am just seeing what I can achieve with it. A while ago I put 30 posters in London and about 40 in Amsterdam, before that I put some posters in Paris. I try to spread them everywhere I go, I also give them to people who might mean something for me in the future but also normal people, who aren’t in the art scene. I am just doing my thing, even though some people criticised me, saying I shouldn’t spread these posters for free, but I like it and who knows it may help me further.
You are also part of ‘Vage Gasten’, an art collective, can you tell us more about it?
We are an art collective consisting of about 15 creative people, we do live paintings at parties and festivals. Besides that we also make designs for companies, from web logo’s to photography or film. We are a close group of friends with a lot of different background, from DJ’s to photographers.
Any upcoming exhibitions?
I have made a design for two t-shirts which will be sold in a new store in Amsterdam with Vage Gasten, who are introducing a new clothing line ‘Het is aan’ (It’s on) including a hat, short, flipflops a hoodie and a t shirt. We have made a very large painting and used that for the different garments.
Check outr Karim's work on jotta here