Shayna Arvan’s evocative artworks are delightfully straightforward

Artist Shayna Arvan’s observational drawings are gestures of her every day life in Cape Town and her subject matter changes as fleetingly as her surroundings.

The young illustrator delicately depicts interiors, landscapes and people with a special sentimental awareness. Her loose style is individually characteristic and self-described as leaning away from naturalistic depiction and realistic proportions. “My work tends to be playful, characterised by distorted figures, organic shapes and the inclusion of small details, patterns and fine line work,” she shares. 

Read through our quick conversation with Shayna and take a look at her personal work below. 

Drive back from the beach.

What started you on the path to making art?

I can’t really remember a time when I wasn’t drawing. I have diaries from preschool filled with my scribbles and stories. I continued to make art and a series of cartoons throughout primary school, I tried design in grade 9 but realised it wasn’t for me and have been focusing on art since grade 10.

10 Camp kitchen.

How do you typically get inspired? What usually gets you motivated to begin a new piece?

Watching others work or be creative is something that really gets me motivated, being outdoors and trying to capture the beauty of the mundane are other things that inspire me. I find that I’m most motivated when I am busy doing something else like cleaning my room, waitressing or working on an essay.  

Hout Bay.

Can you explain your creative process?

It’s quite a haphazard process. I have a sketchbook in which I jot down rough ideas, scribbles and thoughts wherever I can. I struggle to focus so sometimes I do this while in a lecture or listening to a podcast/audiobook, often I do it while waiting in line, waiting for the bus, in conversation with a friend or at a party where I’m feeling anti-social but want to look busy. Sometimes these fragments are used as the basis for a drawing/painting and sometimes I’ll tear them up and create a collage with them (I have also built up quite an impressive collection of photographs from old magazines that I like to incorporate into the collages). Occasionally, when I have a clear idea of the work I want to create, I will gather reference images and make a pencil sketch before committing with pen or paint. I mainly work with pen, ink, pencil and water-based paints but I’ve been wanting to experiment with more tactile mediums like clay work and embroidery. 


How do you choose your subject matter?

I worry about not documenting enough of life so my subject matter usually depicts my immediate surroundings or is based on my feelings and thoughts at the time, in an attempt to capture the moment. When I’m feeling reclusive my subject matter mainly consists of fruit, house plants, self-portraits and interiors, when I’m willing to leave the house my subject matter includes more city/landscapes and other people.


What kinds of messages do you hope for your artwork to communicate?

At this time, I can’t really say that I am trying to convey any kind of message. I create art because I find it enjoyable and meditative. I often worry too much about how others will perceive me and my work, but when I make art for myself I’m able to put these concerns aside. This creates moments of quiet that I truly treasure. I appreciate and admire art that effectively communicates, but right now this is not a priority for me.

Nature’s Valley.

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