Touches of whimsy

Illustrator Kirsten Sims describes her work as "whimsical, theatrical, humorous and experimental". We caught up with her to find out more about her work.

Part of the Project

How did you get started as an illustrator?

I was torn because I wanted to study journalism/English, but at the same time I really loved drawing. I was totally daunted by "fine art" and the art world (still am) so graphic design was what I eventually chose. Quite early on in my studies at the Stellenbosch Academy I started experimenting with illustration, and have been hooked ever since.

What kinds of projects do you do?

For the past year I’ve been working on a self-motivated challenge called A Drawing a Day, which had me posting a new drawing onto my blog every day (or almost every day). That kept me quite busy and resulted in my first group exhibition at Salon 91. I don’t post as prolifically anymore but am still drawing almost every day and aiming towards more exhibitions. Other than that, I’ve done a range of greeting cards called "Fiddlesticks", designed some calendars and an alphabet, illustrated a couple of wedding invites and tackled some tricky commissions. I would love to do more picture books.

Any interesting clients?

I used to be an aupair for the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, and they recently bought a painting I did of their holiday home on the Isle of Tiree. Does that count?

What inspires your work?

Movies, conversations, memories.  A need for a space to pretend, perform and play, a space to vent unspoken irritations and desires, and a space to make observations of the world around me.

What do you find particularly challenging in your work?

It’s challenging to find the balance between keeping other people happy, interested and entertained, and at the same time keeping myself happy, interested and entertained.

What was your experience of being part of the Emerging Creatives programme at Design Indaba 2013?

I really loved being part of the Emerging Creatives programme. The whole experience was so exciting, right from the build up and preparation to meeting all the other Emerging Creatives and having a chance to interact and exchange ideas. For me the greatest benefit was coming out from behind my computer screen and having a chance to see how people react to my work in real life.

Do you have any creative role models?

One of my all time favourite artists is Quentin Blake who illustrated Roald Dahl’s stories. Another picture book genius is Oliver Jeffers. I also love the work of André François and Laura Carlin. My two local heroes are Katrin Coetzer and Michael Taylor.

Do you have a particular creative process? Can you talk us through it?

Oh it’s different every time. Often I’ll sit down to work and hours will pass before I’ve made a scribble and then other times I’ll finish a painting in an hour. I have no specific process, I do however like my comfort zone, for example I don’t really like working outside, it always seems like such a great idea to take my paper and pens and go work onsite, but I always end up getting irritated by the wind and the grass and the bees and the curious onlookers. I like being at my desk surrounded by my music and all the junk on my walls. I also prefer working at night.