Esther van der Drift x Believe by Design

Be yourself.

Social media in the hands of a teenager can be a dangerous thing. Never before have young girls been as bombarded this much with ideas about how they should act and who they should be. I wish I could hug each and everyone one of them and tell them that the only thing they should be, is themselves.

Quote by Virginia Woolf - No need to hurry. No need to sparkle. No need to be anybody but oneself.
Image credit: The Paper Bunny.

Believe by Design.

When Cindy asked me to join a brand new platform she was creating to empower and inspire young girls, I immediately said yes!

Believe by Design supports the empowerment of young girls through a collection of artwork with positive designs and messages. Our mission is for you to feel good about yourself every day and believe your inner strength.

The idea is that artists from all over the world share their love and positivity through their art and design. On their platform they sell various art designed products such as art prints, pillow- and phone cases, travel tumblers and clipboards.

Bedroom with 4 art prints on the wall
Combine several prints for a fun look!

My collection.

I created five unique artworks specifically for Believe by Design. Each of them depicting a different girl with her own strength.

  • Rock Star – She lives for the sound of music! Dressed in black and strumming her electric guitar, she’s a rock star!
  • Girl Boss – She’s not one to follow orders. Instead she pursues her own ambitions with an air of confidence, she’s a girl boss!
  • Dancing in the Rain – She faces life’s challenges head on and enjoys the journey. She doesn’t wait for the storm to pass, she’s dancing in the rain!
  • Have a Big Heart – She cares for others and puts their needs before her own. Kind, generous and compassionate, she has a big heart!
  • Meditate – She’s focused on her breathing, putting an end to her racing thoughts. Silent and calm, she meditates!

Fun accessories!

If my own teenage years are any indication, there’s only so much space a young girl has on her bedroom wall. Luckily Believe by Design also sells some other fun products with my prints on them. If you’re a little clumsy like me, having a cute phone case might not be such a bad idea. Or what about a fashionable throw pillow for your bed? So cute!

One of my personal favorites are the travel tumblers that will keep your drink hot or cold as you take it with you to school – or work if you’re an adult. Because keeping hydrated is important, but doing it in a fashionable way makes it fun!

Let’s hear from you.

What is your favorite artwork from the new collection? Do you have a message for the future generation of women you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments below.

Esther's signature


Can of paint brushes

A trip down memory lane - how I developed my art style

Do you ever feel like all your favorite artists must have it all figured out? Day after day they churn out jaw-dropping Instagram posts in their perfectly coherent style. Meanwhile you’re all over the place and feel like your journey is going nowhere. Sure, your art is fine from a quality point of view, but you don’t have that “thing” that makes it instantly recognizable as your handiwork.

A quick google search for ‘how to develop your art style’ nets well over 250 million results. Clearly you and I are not alone in our search to be unique.

Truth be told, I don’t buy into all the guides and shortcuts that will supposedly help you find your style in less than a week. This is not that kind of blog post. The only real way to get there (if you ever really do) is through making art. Lots and lots of it. It’s not a glamorous process. It’s messy. Sometimes it’s downright ugly. And because I don’t want you to just take my word for it, I’ll show you all the different phases I went through to get to where I am now (which is certainly not the end of my journey!).

Before you scroll down…

At first glance it may look like I’ve always had my shit together. But notice how the time periods overlap. Rather than throwing everything on one ginormous pile, I’ve grouped the art together so that you can see I was taking several different paths at the same time.

2001 – 2005.

Heavily influenced by anime, I spent my first high school years drawing mostly wide-eyed fantasy characters with (colored) pencils and fineliners.

Four pencil and ink manga drawings

2005 – 2010.

I discovered Photoshop and started scanning in my traditional work to digitally ink and color it with my mouse (the horror!). In 2009 I bought my first Wacom drawing tablet, a small-sized Bamboo Pen & Touch.

Four digital manga drawings

2013 – 2014.

My university studies were coming to an end and I was spending more time on individual drawings. My work was starting to get more attention online and I started doing commissions for people – drawing their avatars and such.

Four digital manga drawings

2004 – 2010.

While I was drawing manga characters, I was also getting into realism. Armed with pencils and paper, I tried to copy photographs to the best of my ability (which wasn’t that evolved at the time).

Four pencil portraits

2010 – 2014.

I took my portraits to the digital space and rapidly improved my skills. I found out I was actually pretty darn good at ‘copying’ photos, but it also left me feeling very unsatisfied. What was the point of creating a perfect copy?

Four highly realistic digital portraits

2011 – 2012.

Around the same time that I got into hyperrealism, I also started experimenting with a more loose style of creating portraits in an attempt to be more unique. Rather than fleshing out my digital sketches completely, instead I opted for a few pastel colors to set the mood.

Four digital pastel portraits

2012 – 2014.

I started experimenting more and more with putting my own spin on reference photos. My reasoning was that if I ever planned on going anywhere with my art, I needed to leave photo-realism and anime behind and do my own thing.

Four digital pastel fashion illustrations

The turning point.

The year after I graduated from university (2014) became somewhat of a turning point. I’d done enough experimenting by now to know the direction I wanted to pursue. I was getting really into beauty and fashion and decided to stick to this road and see where it would take me (at least for now).

In February 2014 I officially registered with the Chamber of Commerce as a one (wo)man design company. In October I decided to take my journey public and posted my first illustration on Instagram. Everything that happened from there on out is publicly visible on my Instagram page (scroll all the way down if you’re feeling curious!).

And the rest, they say, is history.

Now that you’ve seen how I got here, it should come as no surprise that my style is loose realism with bold pops of color and hints of fantasy. The style elements were always there, it just took me many years to combine them in the way I do now. In the end, that’s exactly what your own style is. A combination of different elements sourced from different times and different interests. This is why you can’t rush creating your own style. So nurture it by feeding it plenty of art, give it time, and watch it organically evolve into a complex new creature.

Let’s hear from you.

Where are you right now in your style journey? Did you enjoy seeing my own process? Let me know in the comments below.


Notebook with the text PS I Quit XOXO

How I quit my job and started living the life of my dreams

It was the start of February 2018 and I was at an all-time low. I was crying nearly every day, having panic attacks, stomach aches, and even suicidal thoughts. Going to work felt like going to the slaughter.

I had reached what I now know to be complete and utter burnout.

The talk.

When I finally mustered up the courage to speak to my manager about what had become an unbearable situation, I was met with a lack of understanding. I had worked at the company for nearly 3 years, I was doing great work, getting along with most of my colleagues, and yet I was miserable. The inevitable conclusion was that the problem was all in my head.

I thought about this over the weekend. I could think of plenty of reasons why I didn’t like going to work (and they probably did have some truth in them), but in the end the dissatisfaction with the situation was all mine. Could it be true? Was I the problem? Whatever the case, I didn’t feel like I could get out of this black hole I was in by continuing to work there. I decided to talk to the two people whose opinions I value most: my mom and my partner. Luckily they were very supportive of whatever I decided to do.

Just quit.

I’m not typically a quitter. I don’t like giving up. But quitting was exactly what I needed to do to heal myself. So the next Monday I called a meeting with my manager again and handed in my notice. Immediately I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders. I still had to work there for another month as per my contract terms, but I didn’t mind it as much as I used to.

I had something to look forward to again. The day I would no longer have to work there.

Empty chair

As I briefly mentioned in my previous post, me quitting my job coincided with Peter (my partner) and I moving. Working on our new home was almost therapeutic. It was the fresh start I so desperately needed. Months went by and I gradually started feeling better. But money doesn’t grow on trees and I didn’t want to be financially dependent on my partner. I needed to decide what I was going to do moving forward.

What is it you do?

For a while I thought I’d continue my career as a user experience designer at a different employer. I had both the education and the skill to make it work. But the more I slaved away at my portfolio, the more I realized that what I really wanted, what would truly make me happy, was something else entirely.

I had already illustrated for the occasional client in the past, but up until now I’d always thought of it as a side hustle. A hobby. But when my illustrated phone cases started taking off on Casetify, I thought for a brief moment: what if I could make a career doing this kind of stuff?

I’m a freelance illustrator.

I updated my LinkedIn. Then my Facebook. Then whenever someone asked me what it is I do, I promptly answered: I’m a freelance illustrator! And as I said it I beamed with pride and enthusiasm. I still have my bad days, and the life of a freelancer certainly is not all roses. My (ad)venture may even fail in the long term and I’ll be forced to find a ‘real job’. But at least I’m trying to make my dreams come true, and I’m excited about life again!

Mug filled with paintbrushes, books and some twine

A word of caution.

If you are thinking of turning your hobby into a career, I do not by any means recommend quitting your current job cold turkey and ‘just seeing how it goes’. It’s always best to have a buffer of some sort. Whether that is some money you’ve put into your savings, or working a part-time job while overlapping with your side hustle. I had both savings and a fairly steady stream of income coming in from product sales. Don’t make rash decisions, always talk them through with your partner or family member and make sure you have their support first!

Let’s hear from you.

Are you happy in your current job? Do you too dream of following your heart’s desire? Or perhaps you’re one of the brave and lucky ones and are already living the dream? Let me know in the comments below.


Trust poster by Jo & Judy

7 Things I would love to buy for my studio

In April of this year my boyfriend and I moved to a new house in Vianen, the Netherlands. It was around the same time that I quit my job, which turned out to be great timing. The new house previously belonged to a pair of elderly hoarders who had both passed away shortly after one another. Even though it was completely cleared out when we moved in, it still needed a lot of work.

I’ve spent the past couple of months repairing the damage, painting literally every surface, (and with a little help) putting in new floors and even some new walls.

My own studio space.

We decided to turn one of the bedrooms into my own studio space where I could have some peace and quiet to work on my illustrations. The room doubles as a guest room when we have a family member or friend stay over.

While I consider the space to be far from done, it’s finally starting to look like a real office!

Office desk, chair and bookcase
My current office setup

As you can see my walls are still very much empty right now. Eventually I want to create an art gallery wall with either my own work or that of other artists that inspire me (I’m still undecided, what do you think I should do?).

Pink. Black. Gold.

It’s no accident that the items on my studio wish list match the color scheme of my website and most of my illustrations. My signature style is monochromatic with pops of feminine pink and gold. You can also see that I’m fond of geometric shapes and patterns.

Wishlist consisting of a desk lamp, pouf, clock, art print, monitor, lamp and pink chair

Where to find it.

  1. Kave Home Beery table lamp – € 112,-
    Winter is coming so I could use a little extra light at my desk. The Beery lamp has a marble foot and a beautiful brass color. What more could a girl want?
  2. CASA MAITE pouf peach – € 49,95
    Seriously, this thing looks like a million bucks but it’s just under 50 euro! If it sits as good as it looks, I’m definitely finding a spot in my studio for this baby.
  3. Karlsson Hexagon clock black – € 29,69
    This hexagon shaped clock measures only 11 x 13 cm so it’s perfect for displaying it on something like a book shelf or a night stand.
  4. Jo & Judy “Trust” poster – € 19,-
    I love everything by Jo & Judy. Their mixed media posters definitely fit my aesthetic.
  5. Dell UltraSharp U2715H LED monitor € 388,95
    You might not be able to tell from the studio photo, but my computer monitor is relatively small and very old. I desperately need to invest in a better screen for my design work.
  6. QAZQA Hexagon gold table lamp – € 29,95
    This lamp is at the top of my wishlist. It’s relatively inexpensive but looks super luxurious. It’s touch activated and has three different brightness settings. I’m definitely getting this one!
  7. Essence Legno pastel pink chair – € 94,-
    I’ve wanted a pink office chair for as long as I can remember but I’m not 100% that this is the one for me. I think it looks cute, but maybe a slightly more comfortable model would be better for those long work days?

Let’s hear from you.

What is on your wish list? Are you adding anything from my list to yours? Let me know in the comments below!