Robyn Mitchell is an illustrator and graphic designer based in Cape Town, represented by Alexander’s Band. We know she likes sangria, travelling and doodling – so we chatted to her to find out more.
Tell us more about yourself and your journey so far…
I’m a freelance illustrator and graphic designer living and working in the vibrant city of Cape Town. Named after the Cape Robin by my dad, who is an avid bird-watcher and must’ve seen the early signs of a flying-maniac, I’ve always had a passion for airports, planes, and discovering new places. My dream is to travel to New York and add to my expansive tote bag collection, which, to be honest, would grow bigger with or without the trip.
In terms of my career, I have 5 years experience in the industry, having worked across a wide range of fields, including packaging design, corporate identity and illustration. In 2009 my BTech Communication Design degree work was chosen to represent the Cape Peninsula University of Technology’s Graphic Design faculty at the Design Indaba Expo. Recently I’ve been busy writing design articles for Creative Bloq (a website affiliated with Computer Arts magazine) and have also been busy creating icons and informational illustrations for the City of Cape Town for their new beach signage system, which are now displayed at most Cape Town beaches.
I’m also a member of Alexander’s Band, a newly established South African creative representation agency, created by the very lovely Emma Cook. In December 2013, some of us Alexander’s Band-ers will be exhibiting pieces at .M Contemporary in Sydney, Australia, along with some other amazing and high profile South African illustrators.
What did you want to be growing up?
As a kid I dreamt about either becoming an air hostess or an artist. My aunt was an air hostess and her job always seemed so very exciting because of the new places she would visit.
When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in design and illustration?
In high school I didn’t take art, but dabbled in illustrating and designing as an editor for our school magazine and found myself really enjoying that! After high school, I took a gap year as I really had no idea what I wanted to do. During that year, after some chance meetings with people who were working as graphic designers, I was drawn to the idea of becoming a graphic designer. Seeing Milton Glaser’s “I Love NY” logo sealed the deal for me; it struck me how a powerful design can influence culture, define a city and create a legacy. Soon after that I enrolled at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology, got accepted and started the following year in 2005 and haven’t looked back since.
Give us some insight as to what you do on a day to day basis.
I drink far too much coffee (filter or bust!), listen to music on repeat, doodle, scamp, create quotes and send invoices to clients. Somewhere in between all that I manage to do some work.
How would you describe your style or aesthetic? How has this developed since you first started out?
I think I would describe my style or aesthetic as being fun, detailed, and vibrant with a slight retro or vintage feeling. When I first started out, it was pretty simplistic; I was very much just about the outlines, flat vector-based work; essentially detailed minimalism. Now I’ve started utilizing texture and colour to a greater degree and my work has become more full-bodied; like a good wine, I feel it has improved over time.
To what extent do your surroundings influence your work?
I think a lot of the objects in my office influence me – I have a lot of pieces that speak to New York and in general, city living. My sister painted a beautiful skyline of New York on canvas for my birthday once and it still inspires me to this day.
What are some of the other things that influence and inspire you?
Cities, installation art, street art, travelling overseas and seeing how other cities function, the airport and aeroplanes, and, if you hadn’t guessed by now, New York.
Where do you do most of your work?
Being a freelancer I currently work from my office. Inspiration, however, doesn’t have working hours, so it strikes any time and anywhere.
Tell us more about your process…
The very first thing I do is have two cups of coffee. Then I brainstorm (ie. procrastinate) for a bit, and after that I start browsing the web or going through books for inspiration. When I’ve got a good number of ideas going I scamp out everything I can think of, not being too picky about the ideas but favouring quantity vs. quality – you never know where a good idea is going to come from. Then I’ll take the three strongest directions and present those to the client. Once they’ve decided on a direction, I’ll take the idea and refine it further, drawing out the final piece, scanning it and then executing that on computer.
What do you love the most about what you do?
I love to illustrate, to create a world on a blank canvas where the imagination can run unchecked – I really feel that I’m living the dream.
And the part you’d rather do without?
I guess the admin side of things. If I could I’d hire an assistant to do it all for me.
What is the most important thing that you’ve learned throughout your career so far?
“A #2 pencil and a dream can take you anywhere” – Joyce A. Myers
I believe you really can go as far as your dreams can take you, so it’s worthwhile to put every effort, energy and enthusiasm into them – the work will follow.
How do you spend your free time?
I love going to markets – the Neighbourgoods market, the Stellies Slow Food Market. I also love going out for a good cup of coffee and catching up with friends, reading a good book, going to the movies, watching Sherlock and trying to figure out if I like Mike or Harvey better in Suits. Right now, Harvey’s winning.