Retouching expert Olivier Dengis on working alone

Olivier Dengis, 47, was born in Diest, Belgium. He specializes in high end scanning, digital retouching and offset printing. In this first-hand account published in our latest paper edition (November-December 2015), the in-demand professional talks about going it alone, and loving it.

I got my start in the business working in my dad’s printing company after leaving school. That pretty much defined my entire childhood. I spent a lot of holidays and most of my spare time in his workshop, playing with shredded paper, the fork lift, etc… As a child, and later as a teenager, I worked on actual jobs, and learned the tricks of the trade. And that is why, to this day, I still turn to my father for advice, despite his silver hair and compliant wisdom. I start my day by checking my mails and updating my to-do list in my workshop that pretty much is my sanctuary, my cavern, my castle. It’s a 125 square meter lofty space, with a wooden floor – I can’t complain. Having worked for three years in a printing company (some 15 years ago), I needed to fit my working hours into the overall workflow of the company. Working alone, I still evidently have deadlines to respect, but I don’t need to be aware or take into account the schedules of team members nor of the broader workflow of a larger structure. If I decide to work late one night, or on a weekend, it’s my decision, and that freedom of choice is something I cherish. I know myself enough to know that I need a kind of pressure to be really effective. Luckily for me, in the graphic design industry, deadlines are quite often – if not constantly – close to crazy but that pressure is not too much of a problem for me. That being said, I have the impression, when looking back, that managing my time in a ‘good’ way came organically over the years – experience I guess. Since an important part of what I do, at a certain point in the process, is materialized into printed matter, I pretty often collaborate with printing companies, and this allows me to feel somewhat like a team-member now and then. These occasional moments are sufficient for me not to have the feeling of missing being part of a team. What’s more, on an almost daily basis, I have lunch together with the friendly team of a graphic design agency located right next to my workshop – a break that is sacred and virtuous to me, because we laugh a lot, and they give me the team-feeling when I need it. I also often collaborate with photographers and other plastic artists in order to ‘reproduce’ their work, mostly on paper. They choose to work with me because of my ability to ‘read’ their work, because of my ‘interpretation’ skills, and my capacity to grasp the essence of what they want to express through their work. In the end, I strongly believe that working alone is a choice, it might even be a necessity for certain people.