Illustrators We Love: Roelien Booysen

WORDS Tracy Greenwood PORTRAIT De Waal Immelman ILLUSTRATIONS Roelien Booysen

Roelien Booysen’s expressive illustrations are a gateway into our collective memories.

During a bout of homesickness, Taiwan-based South African illustrator Roelien Booysen found a story about chicken pie on Errieda du Toit’s blog. So moved was she by the emotive elements of the recipe – Errieda’s mother’s – that she proceeded to illustrate it and sent the artwork to Errieda in South Africa as a gift.

“To receive something so intimate and spot-on from a complete stranger blew me away,” says Errieda. “Roelien’s talent and ability to express my memories in her graphic design spoke volumes.” She went on to use Roelien to illustrate her book Tuistafel. We were curious to know more…

I studied Information Design at the University of Pretoria and was drawn to illustrating because of my love of reading. I read everything I can get hold of. Words enhancing pictures and vice versa – what’s not to love?

My most exciting commission ever happened early on in my career when I worked for Michiko Koshino, a Japanese high-end fashion brand in London. They chose some of my work to be featured on a catwalk in Venice. For a young illustrator, that was amazing.

I’ve done work for clients in Bali, Taiwan, Japan, South Africa, England and Dubai.

The East has always fascinated me. I loved living in Cape Town, but earning enough money as a startup or as a new illustrator is almost impossible. Taiwan offered me the valuable opportunity to earn enough money while having time for my art.

My partner, De Waal Immelman, and I live in a little mountain house in Taipei, just a short scooter ride from the city. It’s an interesting, crazy place!

I would love to publish my own illustrated travel and food book and start different ceramic ranges with De Waal, who is a ceramicist and designer.

Few things make me as excited as a vegetable market. I just want to draw and cook.

Most illustration nowadays is digital, but I prefer traditional media, especially hand-drawn ink on paper.

View more of Roelien’s work at