Vincent Bal – shadowologist (#10)


Filmmaker and Shadowologist from Belgium.

Twitter: @Vincebal


Describe something that has recently amazed you and how it made you feel.

I was watching a huge flock of sparrows fly the other day and that’s just an amazing sight. The way they act like one big organism, like some fluid mass in the sky. Always continuing and never bumping into each other. It hypnotised me a little and made me want to fly with them.


How would you personally define wonder, awe and curiosity? And how do they relate to each other?

I think it’s nice to see the world as a magical place, to keep the sense of wonder you had as a child. It keeps cynicism out the door. As you grow older and encounter more disappointments in life, it can be harder, but that’s where the curiosity comes in. I try to stay curious and to discover things. Try to find things I am in awe off. I really like reading, because that’s such an easy way to travel to other worlds, but I can be equally touched by paintings or photographs. Walking in nature is another things that helps. There are few things that cater to all your senses like a walk in the woods in autumn. I love the colours, the sound of the crispy leaves under your feet and above all, the smell.


What inspires you to be creative?

I just like to make things. Don’t know where it comes from, but I have been drawing silly characters and making up stories since I was a kid. There’s a certain concentration that I get when I’m working on something, be it a drawing or a film script, which can be very satisfying. The nice thing about drawing is that it can bring me in a sort of dream like state where my hands do the thinking. When I’m making a film it’s a much more rational process.


Do you have any ‘rituals’ or an environment that aids your creativity?

Music is very important. I always have music on when I’m working. This has to be something stimulating and yet relaxing. I tend to make a playlist every month and listen to those songs a lot. New music has a way of taking too much attention, whereas songs I know well relax me without getting in the way. I had a period when I only listened to Ringo Starr for example, or only France Gall. But mostly it’s a lot of James Brown and Prince.

“The Shape of Water”

What do you love about magic?

I love magic because it brings some wonder in the world. When I was 8 years old, I read a book about a boy who finds a briefcase in the park and returns it to its rightful owner, who turns out to be a magician. They become friends and the magician teaches the boys some magic tricks, which are described in detail in the book. I loved that. After reading it I did a small magic show in the garden for my friends, as ‘The Great Vin-Vin’. Even though you know they use tricks, I love to see the magicians bring some magic in the world.


What do you think hinders an audience from experiencing wonder when watching a magician?

The magician can be very bad of course. But besides that some people just don’t want to open up to things. They want to defend themselves from disappointments or emotions, so it’s easier to dismiss something in advance. It’s the same for some movies or stories, you have open up fort hem to touch you.


Where do you think our sense of wonder comes from and what can we do to cultivate it?

I think we all experience the world as a magical place when we are very young. We do not understand everything, and we accept that. That leaves place for a lot of great things, fairy tales, elves, but also witches and werewolves. The fact that we don’t know everything makes our lives exciting. Something unexpected can always happen. It creates opportunities and space in our heads. In a way I think we all long fort hat lost paradise full of wonder. That’s why we like magic, why we want to see unexpected things. I think it helps to stay curious, to keep learning stuff. Was it Einstein who said: There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.

“Go With The Flower”

How did you start making your shadow drawings? Has the process evolved over the years? What is the big appeal for you personally?

It all started when I was working on a film script (for a film that was never made). The sun was shining in and the shadow of my teacup looked a little bit like an elephant. I gave the creature some eyes and legs and some water squirting out of its proboscis. When I shared the picture on social media, people really seemed to like it. I said to myself: let’s try and make one of these every day, see if I can make 100.

Now we are two years and a half later and I’m still doing it. The first couple of months I always worked with real sunlight because that gives the best shadows. But since I live in Belgium, the sun is on holiday for most of the year. Luckily I found a nice lamp that gives good shadows, so now I mostly work at my desk at home. It’s a bit like playing. I never start with an idea but wait what the shadows bring me. That way it’s always an exploration, even for me. What I love about it, is how reality and fantasy can co-exist in one image. It’s so funny to see the image that the shadow creates and at the same time realise it’s just a shadow.


One of the things I find fascinating about your art is the use of “negative space” whereby what’s not there is just as important as what’s been added. You’re effectively painting with ‘nothing’. Is this something you’re consciously aware of when creating?

To create the images I have to ‘zoom out’, I have to look at the shadow and try to see it only as a shape, not as anything else. A shape that could be any size too. It could be the a football stadium, but also a shoe. The same goes fort he negative space, sometimes a shape is formed more by the white space than by the shadows. The funny thing is, some people have a hard time seeing these.


I first became aware of your work on Instagram, is social media the new gallery for artists?

The great thing about Instagram is that you have a direct contact with your audience. When I make a film, there are a lot of people who are the so-called gate-watchers. The people who give money, the people who do the distribution, the theatres. Everybody has an idea on what a film should be. Since films are so expensive to make, you have to convince a lot of people this a good way to spend the money. With these shadow doodles on social media, I do 100% what I want to do, and that gives a lot of freedom. Besides that I can get reactions from people from all over the world. From Australia, over Iran to the States. It’s quite reassuring for me to see we all like the same silly jokes.

So social media are definitely a good platform to showcase your work. On the other hand, because the access is free, people sometimes think they can use the work whatever way they want, often without even mentioning the artists name. That can be a shame. But to be honest, I have mostly had really nice reactions and interactions thanks to social media and I could have never found the same audience without them.

[Note from Matt: If you like what you see, prints can be bought direct from Vincent on his Etsy webshop.]

Continue reading interviews with:

What stood out for you? Any questions? Things you disagree with? Write a comment and join in the discussion.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Built with

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: