15 May Featured: Charming Illustrations by Tyla Mason
The creative pursuits of Tyla Mason can be traced back to her memories of “curating” her bedroom at a very young age, filling her walls with strange bug-eyed cartoon characters done in retractable crayons. Her mother encouraged this by buying huge thermal paper rolls instead of ordinary sheets of paper for her to draw on.
“In pre-school I spent a lot of time not making friends at aftercare or being exiled from “boys only” games, so I used to draw a lot,” Tyla says. “When I was eight I made a series of comic books about a superhero team called The Dream Team. Around the same time, I was also learning heaps of new words so I would often create Pokemon-type characters for all the words I hadn’t learnt yet. One that I remember very vividly is a mollusc-like creature called a Kiosk.”
Now a prolific GIF-maker and avid “fan-art artist”, Tyla continues to draw inspiration from all things charming and childlike. “Childhood art is the most interesting to me, like weirdly proportioned people and dogs with stick legs,” she says. In high school one of her favourite projects was re-interpreting some of her childhood drawings in a more realistic manner.
Bright colours, animals, organic shapes, girls, neat haircuts, collectibles, secret diaries, ghouls, school uniforms and romance are among her other inspirations, with another significant one being ID photographs. “I have a mad collection of ID photos that were either found (mostly lying around UCT campus) or were gifted to me,” she says. “I think that this could be a goldmine for an artistic pursuit. In addition to these, my boyfriend and I have been getting our ID photo taken around the 22nd of every month since we started dating, and exchanging them with each other. This never began as an art project but it’s turning out to be an interesting account.”
When it comes to mediums she describes her approach as “very non-committal”, she often begins by experimenting with different mediums and techniques on birthday cards for her friends. As a result, her own body of work is incredibly varied and consists of gouache paintings, fine liner drawings and digital artworks. “My illustrations don’t really function as a coherent whole,” says Tyla, who is working towards building a complete body of work in one particular style and is also interested in creating a comic book or a zine.
Although illustration is one of Tyla’s chosen subjects at the Cape Town Creative Academy, it remains a hobby in the sense that she creates what she wants to, purely out of enjoyment. She says, “My work at college sometimes lacks the same creative enthusiasm because of the pressure to plan and conceptualise projects.” If she could build a career out of illustration and still maintain a degree of creative imagination and independence, it would be her dream job. “One of the things I love about drawing,” Tyla explains, “is that when you do it constantly, you build up an archive of things that speak directly to you. Like pictorial extensions of yourself through different ages.”