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Fresh Meat: Catherine Holtzhausen

Catherine Holtzhausen


Catherine Holtzhausen is an illustrator, but not in the typical sense of the word. Her mixed media artworks or collage illustrations are brought to life through various processes and built out of many layers – both physical, and digital. Just graduated from the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography, Catherine’s expressive style appears sweet, cheerful and mischievous on the surface while often containing a sardonic undertone. We spoke to her as part of our annual Fresh Meat series to find out how she arrived at her unconventional approach and what it entails.


How and why did you become interested in design and illustration?


As far as I can remember, I always wanted to go into the arts, I spent a lot of time growing up scribbling, painting and making. I discovered graphic design thanks to a sudden syllabus change in high school, and that sparked the fascination and love for the field. I went on to pursue graphic design at the Stellenbosch Academy of Design and Photography where I fell in love with design and particularly illustration even more.


What do you enjoy, or alternatively dislike, about it?


Well to be frank, I absolutely hated illustration in my first year at the Academy. I couldn’t stand my own drawings and everything I produced was pretty rubbish. I envied my classmates who had the ability to create fantastic illustrations with so much character and depth. My lecturer; Rosalind Stockhall, works in mixed-media collage and always encouraged us to try it. It wasn’t until my second year when I finally listened and then all of a sudden it was like a gear had just shifted into place. After a lot of illustration workshops and an abundant amount of chair drawing, We did an exercise where we made our own papers, photocopied them and then chopped them up to make a few characters. I really enjoyed the freedom of this way of working and ended up making tons of long legged scrap men. Since then I’ve been experimenting with making my own papers on the press, making use of mono-prints, collagraphs, etchings etc.


How would you describe your style, and what influences it?


I often hear that my work is kind of a blend of cute and humorous with a sardonic undertone.


How has your work changed or developed during the last year? Have you discovered any new processes that have played a role in this?


I’ve been experimenting with how to add more detail into my work without it becoming too noisy, which led to me experimenting with digital montage and then incorporating that with my existing collage style and I’m really excited to see how that grows. I experimented with some vector and gouache, but I still favour collage the most.


Was studying at Stellenbosch Academy what you expected it to be? Has your perception of the field changed since your first year? And if so, how?


In hindsight I couldn’t have been more closed-minded about the industry. The Academy really exposed me to just how broad, exciting and ever evolving the creative industry is. I was not anticipating the amount of sleepless nights and tear filled deadline days, but looking back it was never really “work”, always an abundant amount of play and fun. Sleepless fun.


What’s the best piece of advice you received while studying?


Process. Experiment and embrace process work, it’s not always about the final product, but what you learn while making mess.



What could creating one of your collage illustrations entail, from start to finish?


I usually begin with a little research and move on to the play-phase, where I experiment with different printmaking processing (mostly using the press) and sourcing other materials like old paper, lace or rusty things from the pavement. I generally photocopy all the papers and new found oddities and from there cut out strange shapes, sometimes with intention and sometimes while I look away from the paper even, and then I start putting together the pieces. Most of the time I enjoy going into the illustration with very little form in mind, so that I can just let the random scraps of paper fall into the place of a strange figure. Then I either draw or paint/scan in the character and add details with a digital montage of sorts.


Which of your creative projects are you most proud of?


I would say I’m probably most proud of the last book I made, ‘The Day the Saucers Came’. This is pretty much where I got to take all my experimentation of my first and second year, and blend them together to create the book.


I fell in love with Neil Gaiman’s short story, ‘The Day the Saucers Came’, and was drawn to it’s sardonic tone and commentary of a rather self-involved society. Yet the apocalyptic story is written in a way that remains somewhat light and humorous. My struggle throughout the book was how to make the illustrations read in the same tone as Gaiman wrote it and finding that balance between humour and melancholy. My process was a bit more involved this time, focusing on including more detail through blending photo montage with my existing collage style. Finding that balance between added detail yet comfortable breathing space was initially pretty tricky.


Catherine Holtzhausen→The Day The Saucers Came

Catherine Holtzhausen→The Day The Saucers Came 2


You’ve got a particular love for picture books. What makes these an ideal outlet for you?


I love how one image leads into the other and that anticipation of seeing how the story will unfold. I like my work to be pretty open to interpretation yet throwing in a curve ball here and there to surprise the reader. I find that picture books are just the best medium for that kind of story telling.


To some, the freedom mixed media allows could seem quite daunting. What do you enjoy about working in a medium that can take so many different directions?


You know how you never like your own handwriting or a recording of your voice, that’s how I feel about pretty much everything I create except collage. I never liked my own drawings or paintings, It always felt forced or like a replication of something I’d seen somewhere before. The mixed media doesn’t allow for much control, and you’re always experimenting, playing and messing up. It’s usually the flaws in the process that I end up favouring the most, and I thrive with that freedom/lack of control. I guess the most daunting thing for me now is how to evolve my style further or experimenting with other styles and not hating it.


What are your plans for 2015 and beyond?


I’m just focusing on getting plenty of experience and experimenting and pushing my style a lot further and learning. The end goal is writing and illustrating my own books and getting them published. But like every other recent graduate out there, I don’t really know what the hell I’m doing, but I’m okay with that.


Where can we stay updated with your work?


Behance, Facebook and Inspiration.


The Day the Saucers Came:


Catherine Holtzhausen→The Day The Saucers Came (3)

Catherine Holtzhausen→The Day The Saucers Came 4

Catherine Holtzhausen→The Day The Saucers Came (5)


The Revolution:


Catherine Holtzhausen→The Revolution 1

Catherine Holtzhausen→The Revolution 2

Catherine Holtzhausen→The Revolution 3

Catherine Holtzhausen→The Revolution 4


Love Is:


Catherine Holtzhausen→Love Is 1

Catherine Holtzhausen→Love Is 2

Catherine Holtzhausen→Love Is 3

Catherine Holtzhausen→Love Is 4

Catherine Holtzhausen→Love Is 5

Catherine Holtzhausen→Love Is 6

Catherine Holtzhausen→Love Is 9

Catherine Holtzhausen→Love Is 10






Between 10 and 5