Art, Cats & Illustrations
About Francien van Westering
Francien van Westering, born and raised in a small town near Haarlem, grew up in an artistic family. Her grandfather was artist Jan Visser (1879-1961), who was also headmaster at a successful art school in Haarlem. Her father was music composer Paul Christiaan van Westering (1911-1991), who worked with the famous Dutch writer Annie M.G. Schmidt and others. He was also a music journalist for a Dutch magazine. Francien’s mother worked as an interior designer.
As a child, Francien loved nothing better than drawing, and that has not changed today. ‘Drawing is as important to me as eating and drinking. It is my life’, she says. She studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, a renowned school for fine arts and design in Amsterdam. Although the Academy did not offer a separate program on the art of illustration, Francien was determined to apply herself to that art form. She wanted to create drawings to stories of others and, as it would turn out later, of her own. While she was still a student at the Academy, she won an illustration competition and, with that, she got an assignment to create a picture book on the Dutch folk tale The Lady of Stavoren. This would be her first international publication. In this period, she also worked on a publication of Grimm’s fairy tales.
After she graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, she mainly worked as a freelance illustrator for woman’s magazines . She also created several book covers for publishing houses. When her daughter Marte was born, Francien began to work more for baby and children’s magazines . Her daughter’s childhood years clearly inspired Francien to create drawings based on her development. From illustrating for baby magazines she moved to making book covers for young children’s books and, as Marte grew older, to more educational publications for young adults, and drawings for teenage magazines . She also illustrated the work of well known Dutch authors such as Mies Bouhuys .
In the eighties, Francien further developed her trade mark drawing technique, and began to show even more creativity in her illustrations. One of her picture books became so successful, that all hundred original drawings of the book were sold during an exposition in a famous Dutch department store.
In the nineties, she moved into advertising, creating drawings for some of the larger Dutch organisations, such as Whiskas (cat food), Friesland Campina (dairy products), and Nationale Nederlanden and SNS-bank (finance). Meanwhile she continued to work as a book cover illustrator for national and international publishing houses.
Focus on the Feline
In the earlier years of her career, Francien’s illustrations covered a variety of subjects for many different publications, from children’s magazines to Playboy Magazine. That changed in 19xx, when the editor in chief of one of the best sold Dutch woman’s magazines gave Francien the opportunity to define her career as a cat illustrator and writer. He offered her a weekly column in his magazine, to dedicate to her special relationship with cats. This column, Francien’s Cats, was published for as many as 14 years. Even after the column stopped, her cat drawings continued to be very popular with cat. Today, Francien’s Cats Calendar is still in the top three of best sold calendars. Her illustrations are printed on decorative tin cans, crockery, all sorts of textile products, and are used for hobby products such as embroidery designs and 3D cutting sheets.
After her many years of observing cats for her publications, Francien is now considered an expert on cat behaviour. She has written many books on this subject, and dedicated her latest book on treating behavioural problems. She writes a regular column for a Dutch magazine for cat lovers, and developed a drawing course for its readers.
Since 2001, Francien also works for the German women’s magazine Bild der Frau. She designed several decorative sticker labels for this magazine, featuring little bears, elves, cats and Easter bunnies. The English magazine Your Cat regularly publishes Francien’s cat illustrations, and the Danish magazine Hjemmet publishes a biweekly column that features a cat drawing by Francien.
Francien is now working on several book publications, including a picture book on cats. Francien works from her home, a lovely farm house in the northern Netherlands, which she shares with her husband Bram, six cats, one dog, six chickens and two guinea pigs.