Lars Book Club Poster, featuring a quote by Mary Going from In the Company of Women, by Grace Bonney
The animated GIF made its debut to the world in 1987, but it remains even more relevant today. It’s common, especially for illustrations that live only on the web, that they have a motion-based element to them. Libby VanderPloeg is one of my favorite illustrators using this format to enhance her work.
“I’ve always had an interest in time-based work,” she tells me in an email, “and took a couple of video courses in college, although I didn’t really do much with animation until a few years ago.” Getting into animated GIFs was self-initiated. “While writing a recipe column (I love cooking too) for my neighborhood blog, Greenpointers, I started playing around more with gif-making to create funny accompanying illustrations for the recipes.” This opened a whole new door for Libby. “Once I had my animation process worked out, I got kind of hooked on gif-making, and started just doing them for fun. I really enjoy the meticulous, layered process of bringing my drawings to life, frame by frame, and I love using the element of time in building humor.”
The animated GIFs didn’t stop with the Greenpointer. Libby’s work has resnoated with people, and she’s taken on more commissions based around movement. “It’s been really rewarding to see how the work resonates with people, and I’ve been excited to see my personal projects generate commercial work,” she says, “I’m a firm believer that if you take the time to make the kind of work that you want people to hire you for, then you’ll start to see a return on that investment. I love that I love my clients.”
Strength In Unity, for Netflix
Learning new things—especially when you’re comfortable in your own techniques—can be tough. But for Libby, it gave her a whole new direction in her illustrations. And, don’t feel bad about making digital work:
Push yourself to learn new stuff, whether it’s using a new analog medium or a shiny new app. It may take time to master something you’re unfamiliar with, but it feels good to stretch, right? It’s the only way to grow. The beautiful thing about art is it’s flexible boundaries, so appreciate that room you have to explore and see where it takes you. I used to feel bad about myself for relying so heavily on digital media for my illustration work, but then I got over it and started appreciating the strengths of my particular skill set. I’m proud that I’m my own IT department and that I can monkey around on the computer and figure things out on my own. And I love digital media and the particularities of it—there is just something magical about that illuminated RGB color space!
Be sure to follow Libby on Instagram.
Libby VanderPloeg creates animated GIF illustrations that combine a hand-painted aesthetic with the joy of motion. Check out some of her animated and still illustrations below.
Map of Guéthary, for Glamour France
NYC Holiday Shopping Map, for T Brand Studio
Scream Bloom, for Pollen Midwest
Ada Colau, for Got a Girl Crush
Sunshine Ready for LOFT