This year’s Behance Portfolio Review night took place recently at the UJ FADA Gallery. The event forms part of a global network of reviews that happen in over 120 countries, aimed at bringing young creatives together to share ideas, work, and most importantly, receive advice and feedback on their portfolios by industry mentors and professionals. The Joburg review was organised by the UJ Department of Graphic Design in partnership with Nicework. Students from different design institutes around Gauteng eagerly attended and hustled to get a chance to present their portfolios for constructive critique to the different reviewers. The event was open to all design students, and the work shown reflected this broad spectrum and included photography, illustration, industrial and layout design.
After two hours of back-to-back student reviews, the mentors convened to select the stand-out portfolios of the night. Imile Wepener, an illustration honours student from Pretoria, was an unanimous choice. Imile’s organic textured style, bright colours and playful and clever subject matter made his work irresistibly eye-catching. We caught up with Imile post review to find out more about his work, inspirations, and plans for the future.
Where and what are you currently studying?
I got my BA in Visual Communication from the Open Window Institute, and I’m currently doing my Honours in Illustration.
Did you always know that you wanted to follow a creative path?
Yes! Ever since I was little I knew that I wanted to draw for a living.
My mother tells me that when I was younger I would draw on anything and everything (including walls, pillows, inside cupboards…)
Do you feel ready to take on the real world? Please tell us how your studies have helped you reach this place.
I don’t think anyone is ever really ready to take on the real world, but you have to face it eventually and hope your studies have prepared you for every situation. My studies have definitely prepared me well for the real world, as all our projects at the Open Window are practically oriented and our amazing lecturers are all involved in the industry, thus they know what’s going on.
What were your thoughts and feelings attending the Behance Portfolio Reviews night?
This is the second time that I have attended the Behance Portfolio Reviews night, and both experiences have been amazing! Getting in-depth feedback from professionals in the design industry is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.
What was the most valuable insight you took away from the experience?
I got some really good advice from various reviewers, some of the most valuable pieces of advice were: to not fall in the clutches of an illustration trend, to stick to your vision and to have fun!
How would you describe your style and how have you developed it over time?
Describing your own style is an extremely difficult task, but I will try anyway. I usually try a lot of experimenting within my work, as I enjoy a challenge and something new. I try to make my work very organic in nature, creating lots of handmade textures and line work and combining and colouring them digitally. I try to always include fun content that will make people smile or creep them out.
How do you use humour in your illustration work?
I find humour is a fun form of content to use in one’s work, as everybody likes to be amused. I love stories, puns, wordplay and strange contradicting imagery that makes people wonder even more about your work.
Please tell us a little about your creative thought process.
My thought process varies from project to project. Sometimes an idea just springs up and ends up working perfectly from the beginning. Other times the concept will drastically evolve and change into something new that works. But I always create the basis of the project quickly and then spend most of my time tweaking and tweaking and tweaking.
Who and what inspires you?
My sources of inspiration are extremely varied, but I have always loved children’s book illustrations, as they are extremely happy and creepy at the same time. Artists such as local illustrator Piet Grobler and 50s Disney concept artist Mary Blair have had an influence on my work. My fellow illustration classmates also inspire me, as they create such varied work. My lecturers Nina Torr and Maaike Bakker are also my inspirations, as they furthered my love and passion for illustration.
Jump forward ten years from now: where are you and what are you doing?
Such a cliché to say this, but hopefully I will be working as a freelance illustrator, focusing mostly on illustrating stories. As long as I can draw for a living, I’m happy.