5 on Friday Artist Interview : Koosje Koene

For today's 5 on Friday Interview, I'm happy to feature Koosje Koene, a Dutch artist from Amsterdam, who works as an illustrator and leads several very popular online drawing courses. Her latest project is Sketchbook Skool, which you can find out more about here.

Welcome Koosje! Please tell us what you do and list 5 of your favorite things.

I am an illustrator, art teacher and online entrepreneur, living in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, in a sunny apartment along a canal, together with my musician husband. We got married just last May, to celebrate our first 10 years together. 

Not easy to list just 5 of my favorite things (so I hope you don't mind me sneaking in some extras by listing 'subcategories'!):

-Food: Cooking, tasting new things, still getting excited about favorite dishes, pure ingredients.
-Coffee: Espresso, cappuccino, drip, iced, hot.
-Drawing: Keeping a daily art journal, color pencils, watercolors, ballpoint pen, good old graphite pencils.
-Home:  A creative place, the place to totaly relax, quite early mornings, having friends over for dinner, getting into a freshly made crisp bed after showering.
-Traveling: Adventure. Asia, South Africa, USA, Australia, Italy.

Where do you live, what do you like about it - and what place would you most like to visit one day?

I was born and raised in Amsterdam. I love this diversity of the city, and its buzz. There's so much to do. I live in a great neighborhood with a lot of good stuff going on around me, in a cultural, creative, and culinary sense. I love shopping at the local shops here, there are great small restaurants ran by passionate people, and many inspiring cultural projects and events are organized. 

Amsterdam has great architecture, I love the Berlage style for example, but of course I also enjoy the many canals here. Especially in summer: one of the best ways to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon, is in our boat.


How do you manage to keep a good life/work balance and stay healthy and fit?

Because I work at home, I need to keep rules for myself. Once I shut the door of my room at the end of the day, it means: "stop working". So: no checking emails anymore until the next morning, no 'doing a little something for a minute', because that usually ends up in working for a few more hours and then being all wound up and unable to sleep. And especially, no checking emails on my phone when I'm in bed. 

It's not easy, as my business partner lives in LA, which means he is 9 hours behind. We skype a few times a week, and this has to take place in the early evening. I try to compensate those evening hours the next morning: going out for coffee, working out, doing an elaborate drawing for fun.
To stay healthy and fit, I eat 'clean'. No sugar. Low carb. Pure ingredients. No processed food. Yup, I'm kind of a health freak, because I run 2-3 times a week to keep my head clear, and I do kickboxing twice a week.

What is the most exciting adventure you ever had? 

Adventures! Does it sound lame if I say life is an adventure?

Yes it does. Okay, well... I love traveling, which is always an adventure. My husband is the best travel buddy I ever had, but the most exciting adventures happen when I travel alone. When you're on your own, you look at things differently, the intensity of the experience is even heavier, and you meet other people than when traveling with your partner or a friend. It's been quite a while ago, but I cherish the memories of my 8 months in Australia, and also the very first time I visited New York (and totally fell in love with it) is unforgettable, even though I was there for only 5 days.

At the moment I am in a very exciting adventure as well: In April, the first semester of Sketchbook Skool starts. 

What are your favorite upcoming creative projects for 2014, and could you share some advice to those who would like to pursue a more creative, artistic path too? 

I am very excited about Sketchbook SkoolSince I started teaching online, I had been walking around with this idea in my head of gathering other artists/teachers together to be able to offer a broad range of inspiring stories, lessons, art styles and techniques, and sharing it with the world. I just didn't really know how. Then, in November I met the brilliant art journaler Danny Gregory here in Amsterdam. I told him about this idea and we started a brainstorm. Soon enough, Sketchbook Skool was born. We became both creative partners and business partners and started building and expanding this dream.

But I am also very excited about all the other classes I teach: The workshop 'Draw It Like It's Hot', on drawing food and illustrating recipes is super fun and it has just kicked off again on March 3. It's amazing to see what the participants create during the workshop, and because my workshop groups are small, I am able to give each and everyone feedback and be really involved with everyone. 
I also enjoy teaching 'Just Draw It', which was the first course I offered. I love seeing the progress of the participants and how they can surprise themselves with the results of their drawings. Thanks to my practical tips and tricks, many participants who started out saying 'I can't draw', turn out to be amazing artists and are hooked on art journaling and drawing now, and are still sharing their work in our private facebook group.

Some advice? Hm. Well what about a not-so-romantic Richard Branson quote: 'screw it, just do it'. 
If you really want something, don't wait for the perfect conditions. These conditions don't excist. Just start. I don't mean: quit your day job now to be able to fully focus on your dream project. No, just start somewhere, take a first step. A tiny step. From there on, pursue, and soon you will know what the next step is that you need to take. Your steps might even become big leaps then. 
Even if the start isn't impeccable: done is still better than perfect! 

Also: Ask for help when you need it. You're not alone. Reach out to people and you'll be amazed how much support you will get from others. 

Thank you Koosje! I always love your sense of humor and your friendly way of expressing yourself :) Good luck with Sketchbook Skool + your many other wonderful projects and keep in touch! xoxo

Find Koosje's online classes here:

Find out more about Sketchbook Skool:

Follow Koosje's art blog:

Koosje's Facebook:

Koosje's Twitter: @KoosjeKoene

Koosje's Instagram:

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