Vincent Bal, shadowologist and filmmaker from Belgium. Photo © Courtesy of the artist
1.Tell us what you do and your beginnings.
Since I was a kid, I have been drawing little comics strips, which is quite normal when you grow up in Belgium, the birthplace of Tintin, the Smurfs, Lucky Luke and many more. After high school, I decided to study directing, and went on to write and direct films. My love for drawing kept coming in handy to make storyboards, but I never imagined I would do it professionally one day.
It all changed one spring day in 2016, when I saw the shadow of a teacup on my desk, which looked a bit like an elephant. I gave the shadow creature eyes and legs, took a picture and shared it on social media. People seemed to like it, so I decided to make 100 of these shadow doodles, and I haven’t stopped since…
In my images I always use the shadow of an everyday object and add a little drawing to turn it into something else. I gave this technique the very serious name ‘Shadowology’. So far, it had been an incredible journey, more than 1 million people follow me on social media and I have had exhibitions in Paris, London, Taiwan and Korea.
2.What does your work aim to say?
My work never starts from a message I want to convey, but I guess the main point is the use of imagination. How our imagination has the power to see the world in a new light. Besides that, humour is very important in my work. Sometimes people write me how I make them smile every day, and I think that’s a nice thing to contribute to this world.
3.Where do you find inspiration for your art?
When I was a film student, I read a quote from Picasso who says ‘I don’t search, I find’. At the time, as I was struggling with writing scripts, I always found Picasso to be a very pretentious guy, but I think I understand what he means now.
When you start without expectations, you can be surprised by the things that appear in your mind. It is like watching the clouds.
4.Could you give us some insight into your creative process?
It always start with finding a nice object and then playing around with its shadows until something ‘appears’. Sometimes that can happen very quickly, sometimes nothing happens. I have to be relaxed to work, so I always put on some music to put me in the right mood. Once I see a possibility I try and bring the image to the foreground by drawing a few lines and take a photo or make a little video of it.
In the latter case, I have a lot of fun creating a soundtrack to accompany it. Sound effects can really bring the image to life. The more recognizable the object, the better the image. Part of the joy for the audience is to be able to switch between reality and fantasy. Now you see the glass, now you see an ocean…
5.What are your future projects?
In 2023 I will start directing an animated feature film, called ‘Miss Moxy’, which is a road movie about a cat, a dog and a bird. Besides that, I will keep creating my Shadowology images. A solo exhibition opened in Seoul last November and that will probably travel in Asia in the next few years, so I’m looking forward to that.