Ten Questions for: Tony Meeuwissen

Artist and illustrator Tony Meeuwissen has worked since the mid-1950s for clients including the Sunday Times Magazine and Penguin Books. He was also a regular contributor to the Radio Times and in 2001 his Royal Mail weather stamps were voted the most popular stamps of the year. He has won two D&AD Silver Awards and two Gold Awards and last month was made a Royal Designer for Industry. Now aged 75, he continues to work and is currently involved in a ‘lengthy’ book projects

Remarkable Animals
Remarkable Animals

When did you realise you wanted to be a designer?

When I was about 20 I became interested in typefaces and the beauty and diversity of alphabets.

Tony Meeuwissen accepts his Royal Designer for Industry award from RSA chief executive Matthew Taylor
Tony Meeuwissen accepts his Royal Designer for Industry award from RSA chief executive Matthew Taylor

What was your first job?

I started work at 16, in a ‘commercial art’ studio where we made short 15-second cinema commercials. I was an apprentice commercial artist for five years. I hated the phrase ‘commercial artist’!

How would you describe what you currently do?

I still use the same materials (gouache and water colour) that I learned about in my first job. The things I draw and paint look like the real things – they have highlights and shadows – but I stylise them and put them into unexpected or ‘unreal’ situations. I try to create beautiful images with some wit or humour.

What has been the biggest change in design since you started?

Computer art.

The Key of the Kingdom  Transformation playing cards
The Key of the Kingdom Transformation playing cards

What is your favourite project, that you’ve worked on?

The Key of the Kingdom – a pack of Transformation playing cards. They won the D&AD gold award and the V&A illustration award in 1994.

What is your favourite project, that you haven’t worked on?

A series of Still Life paintings. An illustrated collection of my own favourite stories.

Billy Liar
Billy Liar

What was your biggest mistake?

Selling my flat after falling into debt, thanks to spending too long finishing a book.

What is your greatest ambition?

To be healthy in mind and body for as long as is possible.

The Key of the Kingdom  Transformation playing cards
The Key of the Kingdom Transformation playing cards

Who is the most inspirational person you have worked with?

Al Vandenberg, an American photographer/art director, who encouraged me not to do as others do, but to strive for my own originality.

What piece of advice would you give to people starting out in design?

The same as my friend Al Vandenberg gave me.

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