Free lines

Putting pen to paper is what Lauren Fowler does best. Meet a Cape Town illustrator who also has interesting craft talents.

It’s not just any illustrator that can make a drawing of a do-it-yourself Heath Nash design that you actually want to make yourself. Lauren Fowler managed this for the latest DIY edition of Design Indaba magazine. We could see that she’s a talented illustrator but in talking to her, we discovered that she’s also a knitter, singer, blogger, crafter and all-round perfectionist.

An AAA School of Advertising graduate in visual communications, Fowler is sometimes still amazed that she is able to make a living from doing what she loves – drawing. She counts her greeting cards and notes as her favourite projects, but there are also the illustrations, business cards, logos, stationery etcetera… Every card can have a different illustration, Fowler explains, and it gives her the freedom to create her own world of characters.

It’s the free use of lines that attracts Fowler to illustrating. “It’s so free, one must not think too much about it.” When she has a pen in her hand, Fowler says she has no fear and loves the energy with which a pen can hit a page. “My style can be described as loose, I always use a black pen and it still amazes me that so much emotion can be drawn and expressed through simple lines.”

Any creative discipline has its challenges and for Fowler these are mostly time-related. She admits to still being an amateur at time management and often struggles to reconcile the time that goes into a creative project with what she thinks she could charge for it. When people buy a bespoke piece of design, whether it’s an A4-size illustration, a detailed greeting card or a brooch, it’s really the designer’s time that they’re paying for, Fowler says.

Retreating into a kind of fantasy world, Fowler tells that she loves that illustrating gives her the ability to draw her own version of an image or representation she has of something in her head. “It’s a way of putting my own personality on things.” Creating and enjoyment are synonyms for Fowler and says she has endless energy for illustration and that it’s really fun. “It can be challenging too, depending on the brief.”

Fowler is very passionate about the South African creative industry. “I think we have some brilliant and really cutting-edge illustrators whose work is of an international standard,” she says. Her illustrations are selling well at the moment and she’s getting a lot of positive responses to her work. “People are starting to recognise my name and it’s both shocking and flattering!”

A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Fowler says she’s not comfortable with putting her name on something if she didn’t design all of it. She also has issues with asking for help, so for the moment she’s going it alone.

In between illustrating for various local magazines, Fowler also makes time to express her creativity by making things like mini-tapestries, gorgeous brooches from scraps of felt and buttons, knitted “scarfletts” in a variety of bright colours, tea cosies and cute little knitted toys, also in a variety of bold colours.

Fowler counts local jeweller Skermunkil as one of her role models. “She is so dedicated and hardworking, and so clear of thought that I really look up to her.” Not afraid to admit that she herself sometimes feels “cloudy”, Fowler says she really looks up to the underdogs of design. Like many illustrators, Fowler is particularly keen to get involved in a book project. “I want to illustrate something amazing, something between Tim Burton and a children’s book.”

Watch the Talk with Heath Nash