Brian Elstak The Dutch illustrator making GIFs with instant viral quality

Cover Image - Brian Elstak

Howard the Duck doing Drake’s awkward Hotline Bling dance. Spiderman dabbing. Catwoman doing the gun-fingers move. This is what you’ll find when you explore Dutch illustrator Brian Elstak’s Tumblr page.

It is not easy to get away from Brian’s wide collection of super-flashy, sketchy, rough drawings-turned-into-gifs, full of references from hip-hop and popular culture. They lure you in, tickle you and surprise you every time.

Brian’s work covers a wild mix of rappers, political figures, cartoons and hints to music culture. He draws his inspiration from hip-hop: “Great hip-hop for me have always been stacked with pop cultural references,” Brian says.

“Certain things that happen, resonate with the masses and become popular culture. Great storytellers in hip-hop add this to their rap lyrics, dance choreographies, graffiti murals or as samples in their beats or mixes. I kind of adopted this into my way of working.”

His love for music resulted in Brian working with Dutch hip-hop label Noah’s Ark – illustrating the covers for Dutch rappers Hef, Jiggy Dje and Murda.

But what makes his work truly interesting is how he manages to take two separate worlds and bring them together into a new context. “When I create a dabbing Spiderman, it’s because I haven’t seen him do that yet. In my head – if executed well – that could be the funniest thing ever,” Brian explains.

“I take something that everybody knows and twist it – add my two cents or flip it on its head. For laughs, for thought or both.” This doesn’t mean that he always knows which topics to merge – it is a gut feeling. The only prerequisite is that it has to make him laugh.

However, it’s not only about fun; lately Brian has moved on to illustrate his views on the current political climate. His work comments on racism, the Sinterklaas debate and the US elections.

“Nina Simone once said, “a true artist’s duty is to reflect the times.” I agree. When there’s injustice people should speak up about it; try to put things right. I speak through my pen. I get to highlight the things I feel are important.”