Many people dream secretly of achieving success with the creative hobby they pursue alongside their job or studies. That dream has come true for Thessa Blijleven, a Food Technology Master’s student. Her manga-style drawings can now be found in a book and PR material produced by Van Hall Larenstein.
Thessa is a creative type. With her hair coloured brown on one side and blonde on the other, the Food Technology Master’s student would not be out of place in a comic strip herself. ‘I’ve had my hair like this ever since I was about 15. No idea where I got the inspiration from. I like looking different to other people. Some people feel a barrier preventing them wearing what they really like. Not me.’
Thessa has been drawing seriously since she was eight. Her parents and relatives gave her books and good quality drawing materials. She began collecting comic books and developed a fascination for manga, Japanese comics. ‘I found Western
comics so masculine and they don’t have a proper story. Manga has lots of genres, including for girls, and the characters are really cute with their big heads and eyes and little noses. I used to copy all sorts, then I started drawing my own stuff and gradually developed my own style. I still occasionally copy something but I prefer to draw my own stuff as that lets me be more creative.’
She always brings an empty sketchbook with her to classes. ‘If I’m not so interested in the subject, I get out that book. But I also like to draw when I have to concentrate. Somehow it helps me to focus on what the lecturer is saying.’ The subjects she draws are usually her fellow students, things she sees in the lab or something that is being discussed in her course. ‘Some jokes are really for insiders. For example, the one about fruit custard that doesn’t actually contain any fruit, just fruit aroma. A typical Food Technology student thing.’
An employee at the university noticed her ‘doodles’ and that was how she came into contact with Jitse Schaafsma at Van Hall Larenstein. She discussed a plan with him that she had had for some time for a booklet about the degree programme. He was enthusiastic, and that was how Thessa came to be the illustrator of the applied university’s PR material. The booklet was recently published and is being handed out to all prospective students and schoolchildren at open days and try-out days at the academic university and university of applied sciences.
It is not the first time that Thessa’s work has been published. She already has several publications that she produced with a group of like-minded people in the Netherlands, America and Canada. ‘But we finance them ourselves. With a print run of about 40 copies, we earn just about enough to break even. This booklet has a print run of 1000 copies. And I’m being paid for it. That is really awesome!’