Knolc, founded and headed by Julia Anastasopoulos, is a Cape Town based design and illustration studio. Julia’s delicate and intricate hand drawn works can be seen all around town on the walls and windows of some MyCity bus stations, in books and on the wall in The Book Lounge and on limited edition denim tote bags. We caught up with her to chat about Knolc’s work, inspiration, and what she plans next.
When did you become interested in illustrating, and when did you realise you could make a career out of it?
I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. My mom is an art teacher and all forms of art were nurtured and encouraged when I was growing up. I chose to study Theatre and Performance at UCT rather than fine art, but once I graduated, I started exploring more design orientated avenues. I was designing theatre posters, costumes and sets, and making these funny little plush toys called Knolcs. I realised that the part of design that I was enjoying the most was the drawing. I did a course in graphic design and showed my very first illustrations at a group exhibition at Whatiftheworld in Hope Street in 2005.
What was your first job, and how have you grown since?
My first big job was the illustrated mural in the children’s section at the Book Lounge. They wanted a magical cityscape which I drew straight from my head, onto the wall. If I made a mistake I just turned it into something else. I absolutley loved the process. I still love drawing cityscapes and landscapes, but my process has definitley changed. I work on a much smaller scale usually, composing hand drawn elements together digitally which has allowed me to explore more print mediums. I do still draw on walls occasionally though – its very satisfying.
What inspires your work?
I have always been inspired by beautiful children’s books, line drawings, people, architecture and landscapes. I love the illustrative work of Raymond Peynet and Saul Steinberg.
Describe your signature style, and how it has evolved.
Intricate, fantastical, activity-filled line drawings that often include landscapes and cityscapes. I recently learned that in Germany, there is a name for this kind of artwork; a “Wimmelbilder” – an image which displays scenes that teem with people, buildings and/or other objects. I think this is a good description of what I do. My early illustration work was much more about individual character portraits but I started to use more and more background detail, which I found could offer a more abstract, textural feel form afar.
Where do you work from, and how does this influence your work?
I mainly work from my small studio at home, in Cape Town. I am surrounded by an array of found objects, past works, books, music and materials – it is a very stimulating space. Depending on the project I may also do quite a lot of research work which means I am more out and about, drawing inspiration from the city. So Cape Town, as an environment, is often a theme in my work.
What have been some of your favourite projects, and why?
The work I have done for the MyCiti bus stations have been some of my favourite projects. These really pushed me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to explore working on a much larger scale. The conceptual processes along with the historical and contextual research for these was also extremely rewarding. On the other hand I have also so enjoyed some of the smaller projects such as the illustrations I made for “Presents in the Post.”
What do you do when you’re not drawing?
I am also an actress so I do still spend time in the theatre and on film sets. It can be a bit of a juggling act at times, but I love being busy and stimulated in different ways creatively. I often find that there are many parallels in the two worlds.
Any exciting plans or projects for the future?
I am illustrating a children’s book for Penguin called “Geoff and George,” written by Emily Child. It’s a really quaint story about a boy and his tiny springbok friend, and will be in stores later this year. Children’s book illustration is a real passion of mine, so this is a very exciting project.
Check out Knolc’s website to see all Julia’s projects.