Illustration, Interview

Libby VanderPloeg’s Love of Cooking Leads to a Career in Animated GIFs


Libby Vanderploeg illustration

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.”

Animated GIF by Libby Vanderploeg

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.”

Animated GIF by Libby Vanderploeg

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.

Animated GIF by Libby Vanderploeg

Animated GIF by Libby Vanderploeg

Map illustration by Libby VanderPloeg

Map of Guéthary, for Glamour France

illustration by Libby VanderPloeg

NYC Holiday Shopping Map, for T Brand Studio

Animated GIF by Libby Vanderploeg

Scream Bloom, for Pollen Midwest

illustration by Libby VanderPloeg

Ada Colau, for Got a Girl Crush

illustration by Libby VanderPloeg

Sunshine Ready for LOFT

Animated GIF by Libby Vanderploeg

Libby Vanderploeg illustration

Libby Vanderploeg illustration

Libby Vanderploeg illustration