Art and Architecture | Inside the World of Artist Jowy Maasdamme (Illustrations + Exclusive Interview)

Jowy Maasdamme To define what art is isn’t possible in an absolute way. It’s not only because of it being a subjective subject matter that is mostly defined by cultural, regional, historical, philosophical, socio-political aspects and even personal traits and preferences, but because to some it is something merely functional, to others l’art pour l’art, while to others it actually means something.

For the Avant-Garde and the Dadaists, art needed to be iconoclastic and defying the preestablished classical aesthetic standards and convention, whereas for the naturalists/realists art needed to follow the rules.

Whereas some artists focus on artisanry and the technical aspects of art, others focus on the socio-political context or emotional, expressionist and aesthetical factors in their lives or surroundings. Aesthetics range from culture to culture and person to person. For certain people art needs to be ‘pretty’ or ‘beautiful’, like in still art, butterflies, and flowers, beautiful people or landscapes, whereas others view the strange, the scary, the disturbing, and the unusual as a symbol of beauty.

To the latter art tends to be a medium of self expression and a mirror of society and its illnesses, to the former it is limited to the IKEA prints they hang on their wall.

Personally, to me art means an expression of anything that makes you feel deep emotions. That’s the main difference between real art and craftsmanship/artisanry: emotions and passion. They can be soothing, enchanting, but also scary and strange. Art to me is what touches you and makes you think and see things you didn’t before. Art can express one’s own reality or one’s idea of others’ reality, it can be dreams, but it can also be nightmares and both can be beautiful in different ways. Some of the best art is comprised of sometimes even terrifying images such as works from Francisco Goya, Francis Bacon, but even Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele both made masterpieces that were disturbing.

Jowy’s art to me is both, both dreams and nightmares, both soothing and scary, both touching and strange, both light and dark. It encloses it all and this is why she is one of my favorite contemporary artists.

When I first discovered her art, I felt deeply connected to it. My first thoughts were: She is a modern day female version of Egon Schiele. While some things remind me of him, I’d be wronging her works by calling her someone’s successor, as her art has its own DNA.

Jowy Maasdamme’s illustrations emanate a beautiful darkness expressed in sublime and sometimes even disturbing images that are not for the faint-hearted or those who consider art all things ‘pretty’ and flowery. Her art defies and may even be mocking at societies’ standards of beauty and perfection.

Scroll down to see her unique, amazing, and dark illustrations as well as read the interview interview:


Feel it as I see it, as I discover it as I draw it.

That is how to best describe Jowy Maasdamme, the illustrator behind @iseejowy and ISEEJANEMARY.

With the use of simple raw materials such as ink and pencil she illustrates her visions. In elegant but strong lines she enraptures a world that is both feminine and dark. She emphasizes  transformation, fragility, and fantasy in a susceptible and delicate way.

Her work has a strong connection with both high fashion and the human body.

Jowy Maasdamme on her illustrations and on how fashion translates in her work:

“I can’t remember not drawing. As a child it was always me and my pencil everywhere. In my room, in the train, on the bus, during class; it’s what I love to do most.

After several years of college, getting my degree in Dutch Law and working in different offices, I realized that what makes me truly happy is drawing. So I turned my life upside down and decided to try to do what I love all the time and make a career out of drawing.

It’s a ride, a hustle, an adventure, a roller coaster. It’s definitely not easy but I adore every second of it and I am learning so much.

I get inspired by courage, fairytales, myths, nightmares, Disney, outcasts, punks, sex, vulnerability, nature, humanity, just by life.  My drawings are mostly black and white, to me that feels natural, simple like night and day.

I mostly draw people; women. I get obsessed with faces, postures, eyes and my aesthetic is highly influenced by fashion.

For me fashion translates the spirit of the age. But I am only interested when there’s a story behind her. Otherwise she’s just an empty notion. I think a lot of people have stories to tell, share, create. It’s just that a lot of people don’t have the balls to do so anymore in an authentic manner. We live in an cowardly age and that translates into the boring trends we so often see.

I loathe what fashion stands for nowadays or the prestigious world she’s trapped in. Still I can’t help but love her too, maybe it’s the magic of dressing up that makes me love fashion so much. I’m in love with the fantasy of fashion, not fashion herself. These contradictions and personal preferences often emote through my drawings.”

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Below you can read  a brief interview with Jowy:


FL: Which contemporary artist or artists inspire you nowadays or which ones do you admire the most?

JM: I believe in the relation between everything, so I’m inspired by so much: my son Ezra, music, photography,friends, drawings, nature, spoken word, books, movies, dreams, lovers.

I adore the expressions of Bjork, FKA twigs, The works of Tim Burton, Tim Walker, Tara Dougans, Amanda Charchian, the words and performances of Natusha Croes, the color use of Wes Anderson movies, photography work by Inez and Vinoodh, the eyes on product development of Ivania Carpio, mother Earth just to name a few.


FL. You say that you loathe what fashion stands for today and the prestigious world she’s trapped in. What is exactly what you reject about fashion today and can you describe me this world you mention?

JM: I mean the world where:

editorial = advertorial

fashion= trends

fashion = a huge marketing and promotional machine

The world where they have names as ‘plus size’ models, really? why? To me they’re models period.

The world where there is no mystery and screams: buy buy buy buy into our world, our brands and you’re a winner. This is such an empty notion.

I think the expression of the individual is incredibly beautiful and should not be reigned by trends or advertising propaganda. I admire the original, the rebel. I believe in the unknown, style and in culture.


FL: So you come originally from Aruba. At which age did you move to Netherlands and has Aruba and its culture had an impact in your art?

JM: I was born in the Netherlands, moved to Aruba when I was 12 and moved back to the Netherlands at the age of 18.

Aruba has definitely influenced the way I look and experience life. It’s a small Island where people love traditions and love sameness . Aruba awakened my rebellion spirit, she awakened my connection with nature, with the sea, the sun, my lizard friends. I have met two of my soulmates there. Aruba has been amazing to me and still is.


FL: Which artists or known personalities from the past have influenced your art?

JM: Man Ray

Leonardo da Vinci

Morticia Adams

Alexander McQueen

Egon Schiele

Frida Kahlo

Edgar Allen Poe

Anais Nin


FL: If you could classify your art, which style could describe it?

JM: I can’t  classify the way I draw. It’s in constant flux, I’m in constant flux.


Make sure to follow Jowy to see her latest works on her Instagram account @iseejowy and her Tumblr page.


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