Claudia Liebenberg explores masculine themes through delicate watercolour illustration

Illustrator Claudia Liebenberg uses her passion for art to mentor some of South Africa’s disadvantaged kids.

Stellenbosch-based painter and illustrator Claudia Liebenberg is self-taught. After she spent all her study time earning a postgraduate science degree in Family Psychology and none behind the walls of an art class, Liebenberg perfected her craft through experience and experimentation.

She attributes her success to a complete lack of routine: “I don’t really approach any two projects the same,” she explains. “I ‘pull’ them apart to find the basic shapes & then pencil that down. Once the ratios are correct, I start filling in colour.

“There is no recipe way I do this, and what I love most is that I learn new tricks with each piece.”

The result is a mixture of emotive, free-flowing yet sentimental drawings inspired by one central message: “From the start the theme has been ‘overcome’ My name means ‘overcomer’, and based on a few tough years leading onto this road, it seemed fitting to continue to grow in that theme.”

Her largest body of work is a series of vintage motorcycles. The expressive, watercolour illustrations delicately capture a masculine subject. “This brings so many contrasts to the fore,” says Liebenberg. “A feminine, delicate, unpredictable and even playful medium with a hard, masculine subject. Almost like boy meets girl.”

Liebenberg says the value in illustration lies in its ability to present the viewer with a stationary image, a moment in time that will always exist. “It allows you to stop and think about it, and return again and think about it differently.”

“My motor-art pieces have a nostalgic quality about them in that those machines capture in one image a lifetime of adventure shared, places seen, emotions felt.”

A single image of captured water can travel down memory lane in the most unique way for each viewer

Liebenberg is using her creative journey to mould the creative minds of Cape Town’s disadvantaged youth. As a mentor within the Sk8 for Gr8 initiative, Liebenberg helps create a skateboard deck inspired by the child she mentors.

The initiative, founded by Alison Parker, pairs local and world-class designers or artists with kids in need of the opportunity to be mentored in design thinking, in order to fill a noticeable gap in the broad South African education. The decks are auctioned off to help fund the continuation of these workshops and Sk8 for Gr8’s vision.

Of her involvement in the cause, Liebenberg says simply, “I am just some extra hands and heart on deck, one of the artists and designers who mentor a rad little human.”

Through art, Liebenberg hopes the children mentored in the program will have the tools to overcome their own challenges. “It sparks innovation, it brings self-worth to create something and actually see the end result. One’s life feels the security of meaning by working with your hands.”

The next Sk8 for Gr8 exhibition and auction will take place on 19 May at the Woodstock Man Cave in the suburb of Woodstock, Cape Town.

Read more about this initiative here.