23 Sep Featured: Delicate Line Illustrations by Maria Magdalena van Wyk
Maria Magdalena van Wyk is an illustrator from Cape Town whose delicate line drawings are done with black ink on paper. A collection of these were showcased as part of Tintin in Africa, a recent collaborative exhibition at Dylan Thomaz that led viewers through a series of humorous situations with a local twist. In the interview to follow, Maria speaks about her natural development in the creative industry, and how working with brands as part of her current position as a packaging designer has influenced the unique way she manages her own illustration brand.
What motivated you to branch out from full-time packaging designer to start your own illustration range?
I am currently the senior packaging designer for a small company in Woodstock where I work with brands like MasterChef, Accessorize and Brabantia. Over the past 5 years I have accepted freelance graphic design projects and they have all somehow ended up with the client requesting some form of illustration work. Last year I finally decided to launch my first hand drawn limited edition print collection as a side project. It escalated quite rapidly as a few blogs picked it up and I was chosen as an Emerging Creative for the 2015 Design Indaba. This year I have also had the absolute privilege to exhibit in New York, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban. My plan is to ensure that my business is sustainable, launch my homeware brand in November and to open up an Atelier in February next year.
How does your experience in the design industry influence your current illustration work?
My experience in the design industry helps me tremendously, it influences everything I do. Launching any brand requires a broad range of skills: graphic design, photography, packaging design, web design, social media knowledge, marketing and advertising. I take great care to package every print to create a special experience for my customers. My background in fashion graphic design is quite evident, not only in my style of illustration, but also in the way I launch my collections and lookbooks.
Have you always wanted to be an illustrator or has this been something that you’ve discovered along the way?
My love affair with line drawings has been a part of me for as long as I can remember, but I never considered it as a career option. It all happened so naturally and it just keeps evolving. It’s a dream I never knew I had.
Please tell us about your illustration style and what appeals to you about black line drawings on paper. Do you have any other preferred material that you work in or would like to explore soon?
I have worked with clay from a young age and used to paint quite a bit with oils. I also experimented with ink washes, watercolours and marbling techniques and even though my art teachers tried to convince me that my pencil sketches were better, black ink on paper is still my preferred medium. In a society consumed with technological advancement, there is a refreshing beauty in the simple stroke of black ink on paper. I seek an elegant simplicity through a complex series of lines in my illustrations.
What inspires you; where do you find the inspiration for your illustrations?
I share the inspiration behind each drawing with the person who buys the original or limited edition print. I adore having the new owner share in the creation of the artwork in some small way. My inspiration comes from the beautifully ordinary moments in life, poetry, nature and song lyrics.
Which artists/illustrators, locally and abroad, influence your illustration style?
I am inspired by and admire a wide range of creative fields in South Africa: Jane Sews artisan clothing, A Bird Named Frank jewellery, Lorraine Loots’s Paintings for Ants, Trevor Stuurman’s style diary and Catherine Ash’s ceramic creations, just to name a few. I am influenced by the drawings of Aubrey Beardsley and Gustav Klimt and I also greatly admire contemporary artist such as Geffen Refaeli, Ryn Frank and Beth Emily.
Tintin has been recontextualised locally by other South African artists. Can you tell us a little about your Tintin in Africa series and how you’ve used the character?
When Dylan Thomaz approached me to be the illustrator for the Tintin in Africa range, I was most excited to see Tintin in rugby shorts, socks and a moon bag riding an ostrich in the Karoo. The Tintin in Africa illustrations lead viewers through a series of adventures that are humorous, yet relevant to our current situation in South Africa. I found it humorously appropriate that load shedding were scheduled for the opening night of the exhibition, since I depicted Tintin and Snowy in a load shedding situation.
In a whirlwind of beads and patterns, Tintin arrives at the southern point of Africa and he is confused to find no electricity. After he consults with Google, he tries to explain the concept of load shedding to a frightened Snowy. Tintin hears about the South African Zulu tribe and travels to Kwazulu-Natal to take a #Zelfie. He shares the #Zelfie with all of his Instagram followers to proudly announce his arrival in South Africa.
One of Tintin’s followers suggests a braai and a Springbok rugby game. Tintin sets off into the wilderness with his new rugby ball, in search for a good spot where the South African springboks peacefully graze. Tintin and Snowy then set off to the Karoo in search for an ostrich ride. Being upset about the fact that he can’t ride an ostrich, Snowy runs off in search for his own adventure. He finds a friendly looking meerkat family and gets kidnapped by a gang of kleptomaniac baboons. The baboons soon realise that Snowy is foreign and has no padkos with him, so they return him to Tintin, in exchange for a packet of NikNaks.
You present your illustration collections as ‘lookbooks’ on your website. Can you tell us more about this and how you imagine people engage with your work?
I completed by Bachelor of Technology in fashion graphic design, which not only influences my style of illustration, but also the way I manage my brand. A ‘lookbook’ allows the viewer to see how the designer imagines the clothing to be worn. Even though it is not common practice in illustration, I want to show my clients the way I would frame and style my work. I curated, edited and put together quite a few lookbooks for my freelance fashion clients. Creating my own lookbook, with the help of The Lion & The Lady, just seemed like a natural step to me.
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
Besides my obvious love for drawing, I am so overwhelmed by the incredible people I meet. I am in awe of the talent and support of the South African creative community. I adore to meet my clients, and also bloggers and magazine editors. I am very passionate about giving back to the community, I am excited to be part of Lauren Beukes’s upcoming “Broken Monsters” exhibition for charity. It is a humbling experience to be able to give back to the community through my illustrations.
What’s next for you?
The opening of my next exhibition, Wild Lines, will be on the 1st of October 2015 at the new Jane Sews space in The Commune, Durban. It will also be the very first time that my debut Wander Collection originals will be available for sale.
After that, I am launching my brand new range on the 5th of November 2015 at Studio Dylan Thomaz. I am so excited to share that I will be launching a homeware collection of original drawings, ceramics and textiles.