INTERVIEWED BY Michaela Stehr PHOTOS courtesy of Tayla de Beer
Combining modern digital illustration with the more traditional techniques of painting, South African illustrator and animator Tayla de Beer gives us the lowdown on how her work is inspired by people, sustainability and the diversity of our country.
Tell us about your journey into art.
Art has always surrounded me. My grandparents had a framing business, so while growing up I was constantly viewing art, speaking to local artists, and attending fine art classes. In high school, I was lucky enough to take art from grade 10 onwards. This all led me to get a BA in graphic design from the NWU. It was only once I started working at a marketing agency, that I realised illustration was a viable career option. After a few years, I went freelance as an illustrator.
How would you describe your work?
Colourful and character-led, incorporating traditional media to give a handmade feel while maintaining a bold and graphic appearance. People and environmental issues are often at the heart of all my work.
What mediums do you use?
Primarily digital, using an iPad, pencil, and Procreate. Lately, I have been incorporating more traditional media into my work by scanning watercolour washes and overlaying them digitally. I love traditional media, but I’m far too indecisive to work with it exclusively. In my free time, I paint with watercolours in a more realistic style.
Do you prefer commissions or your own pieces?
Commissions for sure! Personal work is fun, but it can be tough to start a project when the possibilities are endless. Commissioned pieces come with a brief, so you know exactly what problem you need to solve, along with all the other limitations to take into account. The set deadlines also help keep procrastination to a minimum.
What are your thoughts on collaboration?
I love collaboration, getting out of your head and hearing ideas and advice from other creatives is always great. Collaborating with someone whose skillset, or voice differs from your own can produce work you’d not create otherwise.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Day-to-day varies between working on commissioned illustration work, doing motion design for a local agency, and then creating physical products to get a change of scenery. Working with my hands on something tactile feels like a lovely break from digital. This has led me to start sewing with fabrics I find at charity shops or second-hand groups. Keeping a sketchbook is not a big part of my routine, but I am trying to incorporate it more. It’s a great reference to use in client projects before searching online for inspiration.
How do you decide on your use of colour?
Currently, I have a colour palette I keep returning to, adding a few new colours as I feel I need them. It sort of feels like a cop-out, but if I didn’t do it this way I’d spend hours trying to put together palettes. I took Tom Froese’s Skillshare class, ‘The One-Palette Illustrator’, which helped me form a base palette that I’ve been building on ever since. I love colourful compositions so having these colours that I know work well together, makes it easier to just focus on the concept and design. Also, using blending modes helps a lot in finding good accent colours.
What inspires your pieces? Do you go by a general theme or whatever tickles your fancy?
A big theme found across my work is people, I love portraying people wherever possible. They’re just so relatable to audiences, you can never run out of new characters to draw with all of our beautiful diversity. Climate issues and sustainability is another inspiration, I love creating pieces that celebrate the earth, as well as inform on things we can do differently.
Plans for the future?
I’d love to partner with more sustainable brands, creating work that audiences can engage with while seeing the importance of sustainability. Showcasing how this mindset doesn’t need to feel forced, or burdensome, but rather as second nature. Producing more physical pieces would be great too, specifically functional hand-sewn pieces from fabric that would have otherwise been thrown away. With a little artistic flair, of course!