12 Nov Featured: Driehoek
Driehoek is an illustration collective consisting of Megan Bird and Lizanne Visser. The duo describe themselves as “two kids who like drawing, a lot,” but what they didn’t mention is that they’re also incredibly good at it.
Over and above than the skillful execution, the work that Driehoek creates is vibrant, light-hearted, whimsical and full of character – much like the girls themselves.
Recently we caught up with Megan and Lizanne to ask them a few questions, which turned out to be a very entertaining (and smile-inducing) experience. Read on to find out more.
Tell us more about yourselves…
Megan Bird: I finished my BA in Visual communication two years ago at Open Window and majored in illustration, have always had a soft spot for not so serious art work, the light hearted pieces that simply make me smile.
I like gardening and pretending that I’m digging up dinosaurs bones, and I collect succulents because they kinda look like little people and that makes me feel powerful. I am currently working on improving my sandwich making skills because bought sandwiches are always better than my own. It’s my way of sticking it to the man! Also I feel a sandwich unaccompanied by tea is a waist of bread and other sandwich making necessities.
Lizanne Visser: My name is Lizanne Visser. I completed my degree in BA Visual communication last year at Open Window. I live in Johannesburg and work as a graphic designer for Timesquare Advertising.
I can’t really cook very well but I make epic guacamole, fact. I have always loved Tetris and am super good at it, and will challenge anyone to a game. In fact, I challenge YOU right now. Swings are one of my favorite things in the whole world, right next to the colour yellow.
Also, I am a ginger. I think it’s important that people know this because I’m sure it’s one of the things that gives Driehoek its edge.
What role did creativity play in your upbringing?
Megan: It was basically the factor that brought me up, from an early age I was all into my paper texture and crayons and was all for quoting the great artists and having art themed birthday parties!
High school was the same, I was all like, I’m gonna spend my break time in art class. I was lucky enough to have the most amazing and inspiring art teachers and mentors who pushed me into the creative direction and forced me to break the boundaries of art as I knew it, with out them I would not be where I am today.
Lizanne: My mom is a very creative person, so it was easy to pick it up with copious amounts of paint and pencils at our disposal. My sister and I were always helping with painting the walls and drawing in the family’s birthday cards.
There is this wall in our dining room that my mom painted a new landscape on every few years. I think that taught me that creativity is a tool you use to make your world better for yourself and the people around you; and that you can change it as many times as you want. We are also blessed that our parents support us in our creative paths, always building us up.
What did you want to be growing up?
Megan: A power ranger, I still have high hopes for that one.
Lizanne: When I was younger I just wanted to grow up to be a mom like my mom, but since it required having an actual baby, I had to explore other life dreams. So then I wanted to be a pathologist because of CSI, a paleontologist because of Jurassic Park and a pilot (who knows why).
How long ago did you start Driehoek? Tell us how the idea came about and how it’s grown since.
Megan: About two and a half years ago, I guess we were just good buddies who decided we wanted to do something rad, something that we loved. I remember being at an exhibition one night and there was this epic moment of telepathic thought or something. At the same time both of us (mildly drunk) called out “WE SHOULD DO THIS” and driehoek was born.
Over the next few weeks we discussed it almost non-stop, we named our little illustration collective DRIEHOEK, and we registered an email address in that name. With a nonexistent body of work we booked our first exhibition. Then it was time to work, and that just seemed to sort itself out.
Don’t get me wrong it was hard work preparing for our first exhibition and we had many sleepless nights. It was all worth it, after the exhibition we had enough work to call our selves an illustration collective. And that’s what we’ve been doing since.
Lizanne: We started Driehoek about two years ago. It started as a few drunken conversations about how we should do it ‘one day’, and turned into sober conversations about ‘doing it today’.
When we started it we were a little unsure about how-to and what-to, of course, but experimented with subject matter and levels of detail to see how the market responded. We answered our criticisms and improved on the things we felt weren’t good enough in previous shows.
Through that process we have established our styles and language, and that’s sort of where we are now. We will not, however, get too comfortable in our approaches, as we constantly want to keep adapting to what the market is hungry for.
In what ways do the two of you differ, and in what ways are you alike?
Megan: We are two different people. We have completely different ambitions in life, what brings us together is our love for beautiful illustration and well-designed objects. As well as the variation and challenges that is created through collaboration. We are both pretty sarcastic people and have an appreciation for good humour. Also Lizanne likes the yellow power ranger, I like the blue one. So we are way different kind of people.
Lizanne: Megan and I are very similar in the way that we approach and think about things. We share a lighthearted attitude towards our subject matter, which is what gives our work such a whimsical flavor. We are also both very playful in our process, and not afraid of each other’s criticisms. On a more personal note, we are very much alike, and love exorcism movies and ice cream. We are equally sarcastic and fond of puns, which make our work sessions epic!
In terms of work, our biggest difference is probably how we illustrate our subject matter. The work we did for our show Scout, for example, Megan translated a lot of work into landscapes, and little adventure scenes, where I treated the same kind of ideas into typographical pieces.
Megan also draws a lot of characters, and I prefer to draw objects. When we colour, I colour inside the lines, and Megan colours outside the lines and then erases. Both methods take equally long.
Our biggest personal difference is that she is married and I am not.
Which aspects of your personalities do you think translate into your work?
Megan: I often try to channel a younger version of my self and use that little something that would pretend the ground was lava and playing in the backyard would in my mind be an escape through the jungle. That sense of adventure one has as a child, I want that in my work!
Lizanne: Our sarcastic and lighthearted humour definitely shows in our work. The sensitive way we treat colour in our work speaks to how much we love colour, and the fact that we rarely have pieces that evoke any sad emotions show that we are both deeply happy people. We are both a little OCD when it comes to the little details, and that one can clearly see in our pieces.
How would you describe your illustrations to someone who had never seen them?
Megan: Quirky, light hearted, scenes of adventure that evoke a child-like curiosity? Like little bits out of stories that people can create the beginnings and end to.
Lizanne: I would say that our illustrations are our little thoughts that will make you smile. They are full of textures in the details and colour, and if you look long enough, you will find the little easter-egg-details that we hide in them.
Does the environment you find yourselves in influence your work?
Megan: Very much so, it often inspires the most creative pieces, just from drawing ordinary everyday objects like plastic chairs or ice creams or playstation remotes.
Lizanne: I am definitely inspired by my work as a designer, and the ideas and techniques I learn at work definitely spill into my Driehoek work.
Quirky people – at work, at home or my family and friends – are my true source of inspiration because puns and wordplay inspire me. This rich source of cheesy jokes and incredibly sharp comments that flood past my ears will keep me inspired until I go deaf, probably. Then I will turn to autocorrect for material. 😀
What other things are you inspired by?
Megan: Everything, I think our work is often the result of a series of everyday ordinary things that happen to us, the result of going grocery shopping or hanging up the washing. It’s in doing those mundane things when inspiration most often strikes. The inspiration process might go something like this: oh look a fork, we should draw more forks… that can fly, and they have a king, king fork. Maybe it’s not a fork maybe it’s an army of forks, that have died… yes I’m going to draw a pile of dead forks.
Lizanne: As I mentioned, any silly pun will put a smile on my face and a visual in my head. Apart from that I like finding inspiration in the random and mundane stuff we say and see everyday, like lawn chairs and laundry, and turning it into a sarcastic comment or just making it look prettier. I am obviously inspired by the work of other artists, and enjoy David Shrigley and Marc Johns’ work for the silliness of it, and James Jean and Jeff Soto’s work for the incredible detail.
Where do you get most of your work done?
Megan: Sometimes while sitting at home in my pjs, all we need to work is a good internet connection. Other than that, Pretoria and JHB are our playgrounds and we go where the client requests.
Lizanne: I work at home when I work on Driehoek projects, so either at my desk, on the floor or in the car (if I have to think of stuff).
Give us some insight regarding your process, especially the aspect of working together as a collective…
Megan: Collaborative pieces are some of our favourite pieces to do. You never know exactly how it’s going to turn out and you have to have complete faith that the other person isn’t going mess up. We usually spend a few days conceptualising and then it’s just a matter of sitting down together and getting the pen on the paper. We swap material and add on to the others drawings and compose the final illustration digitally. Swapping from one person to the other as we do this.
Lizanne: We brainstorm together, and then take a few days where we do research and work on concepts. We then come together again, and have another brainstorm. We then allocate sections of the project, if it is a big project that can be divided, of course. Smaller projects get allocated to one person, and then we just review the progress together. We try to see clients together whenever it is possible so that we both get the brief firsthand, and so that the client meets us both.
Sometimes, if time and the nature of the project allows for it, I would start working on a project, then halfway through give it to Megan to work on. Our different viewpoints in one piece offer a richer statement and point of view. If the project has a bunch of little characters and details, this approach also makes for a more interesting and varied quality at the end.
What do you love most about what you do?
Megan: Getting the final sign off from client and knowing it was a job well done. Most of our clients reference works we have done in the past and knowing they have come to you searching for something similar gives one the feeling that you must be doing something right. That and the pride and excitement you get from exhibition night.
Lizanne: I am a creative, and I am very blessed to be doing both design and illustration at the same time. I love that I didn’t have to choose. My approach to design is much more calculated than my approach in illustration. I love just drawing for the sake of it and that by just doing that, Driehoek has come from it. I am a different kind of happy when I draw, and I love that that happy is a part of my work now.
And the part you’d rather do without?
Megan: Doing the admin is the bane of my existence!
Lizanne: Client changes, haha. But what creative wouldn’t? I would also love it if we could do our own printing because that would just cancel a big chunk of admin work out of our days.
What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
Megan: Spare time? Play playstation with my nearest and dearest or the best, playing tabletop strategy games with a group of friends.
Lizanne: I have pun in my spare time. That is not a spelling mistake, it’s a pun. Haha I know.
Because I work full-time, Driehoek takes up a large portion of my free time, which is great because it makes me so happy. So technically I just have a very structured and branded hobby. Other than that, I just hang with friends and drink craft beer.
I also have this tin of Zam-Buk in my car that I haven’t been able to open for ages, so when I wait at a traffic light, I try to open it before the light changes over. It’s a time challenge I have not succeeded at…yet.
What are you working on at the moment, and what are your plans going forward?
Megan: We are currently working on our next exhibition which will be happening early next year. As well as children’s books and a few really rad collaborative commissions. Besides for that we are looking to get a few more people involved and take on higher quantities of work. As well as setting up as an online vendor to sell our prints.
Lizanne: We are currently working on some epic wedding stationary for a friend’s brother, and are in the process of discussing a colouring book project with a potential client. Another project we are just about to finish is a collaborative piece with illustrators around the world. The project requires each illustrator to do a soccer player’s trump card, which will then offer a deck of cards, each characterizing the chosen soccer player in a unique style.
We also have another exhibition coming up early next year.
In future I hope to see more and more international work coming in, with the hopes that one of them will give us the opportunity to travel for our work. I also want to collaborate more with local artists, and not only illustrators, but also fashion designers and even architects.
More from Driehoek over here.