Groningen Made: Sanne Boekel

The Groningen Made series highlights the makers behind the products.

Meet the Maker

Sanne Boekel is a Groningse illustrator and visual artist. Sanne uses comics and graphic novels to change perspectives on societal issues. ‘’In my opinion, an image can contribute to an open dialogue about the things we experience in our daily life.’’ She prefers the use of analogue techniques, like screen printing and painting, and uses bold colours to tell stories.

Many artists start their origin stories with statements like, “I have been drawing since I was a child”, but Sanne would tell you that it is much more than that! “I explicitly did not want to do that because it might insinuate that this profession is solely a sentimental thing. But somehow if you narrow it all down, it actually is where it started.’’

From a very young age, Sanne loved (reading) stories. She was particularly attracted to building narratives. Following her passion for creating and sharing stories, she decided to study illustration and animation at the Minerva Academy. She successfully graduated in 2018 with a design prize-winning installation in which she addressed the paradox of modern activism and interventions in public spaces. Click here and here to check out her phenomenal work!

Her journey continued after graduation. Together with Mirjam Dijkema, she built a screen-printing studio at the Biotoop in Haren, a former biomedical faculty of the University of Groningen. Over the past four years, she has been working as a freelance illustrator, project coordinator, printmaker and autonomous maker.

Behind the New Groningen Poster

I was rethinking the title ‘alternative’, map but don’t think it entirely fits, as the most alternative part of the map is the presence of human interaction in the drawings.’’ For Sanne, this map isn’t just a representation of places. It aims to show how the presence of people in different places, without the presence of consumerism, creates the identity of the city of Groningen, such as historically and socially significant places.


The idea behind the map was to highlight hidden gems in Groningen and to let people discover Groningen from another angle. Sanne says, ’’A lot of alternative places are hybrid and are not solely existing because of their location, but mainly because of human interaction.’’

Choosing the locations was the hardest part!

One of her key final decisions was leaving out places that lead to consumerism as much as possible - not because she didn’t think they wouldn’t contribute to Groningen’s identity, but to allow these diamonds in the rough to truly shine.

How did she find these special spots? “I think one of the key tricks to get to know your city is walking. It’s a way slower process than cycling and pushes you to really look around. It can be a lot of fun.’’ Meeting new people is another great way to let you visit new places. “We might all have patterns of movement and they probably overlap a lot, but the small differences between these patterns are nice to look into.’’


After her research phase, she started sketching a couple of ideas and pitched them to City Central. Sanne proposed to incorporate small anecdotes of human interaction in the different places in her design. She first drew a simple city map, then added visual anecdotes, text and extra details, before finally digitising everything to build the image in layers.

“In my design process, I prefer to stay away from computers as much as possible. To me, computers always have a certain way of making things ‘fake’. I would rather make things that have honest imperfections than things that are perfect but predictable.’’

Favourite spot

Picking a single favourite spot was quite daunting. “There are a few spots on the map that are very dear to me. I studied at Academy Minerva so that location has had a certain impact on my life. But if I have to pick one location, I would pick the Noorderplantsoen.’’

In hindsight

Sanne concedes that more historical spots could have been present on the map, but explains that these would have required a more detailed explanation of their importance. She wouldn’t like to have them narrowed down to one single drawing. She still believes people should know about them though, which might be a good follow-up!

Future plans!

The Covid-19 pandemic is not stopping Sanne’s hunger to make a change. “I would say the next project should be saving the world, but that is quite a challenging one and not really doable while mostly working from home.’’

She is currently busy with a few commissioned illustration projects, but also personal projects like a series of zines and a manifesto coming out this December “about sanity, millennials and the discomfort of existence.’’ Visit her website for more information and follow her on Instagram.

Come to City Central to get your hands on her products. We're open from Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 to 18:00.

Join the Movement

Are you a local maker? We would like to hear from you! Get in touch with us at shop@citycentral.nl

Photo credit: Nienke Maat, Groningen photographer specialised in portraits and reportage.


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