Local Creations: Me and Norman

INTERVIEWED BY Lindi Brownell Meiring

Cape Town-based artist Stephanie Simpson, who grew up in Uitenhage in the Eastern Cape, is the creative behind Me and Norman.

As a freelance illustrator, she works in different mediums, including paint and ink, but it’s her tiny collages that caught our attention on Instagram.

We caught up with Stephanie to find out more about her work, what she loves about creating and how she’s inspired by her imaginary friend Norman.

What inspires your collages?

I am very much influenced by the playful techniques of the Dadaists. My collages are like paper readymades and so I am inspired by the scraps and pieces I find in old encyclopedias. I go hunting for good books to rip apart and stop on my way to the shops to take in the various views of Cape Town that also inspire me.

Tell us more about your imaginary friend Norman…

Norman is my imaginary friend from the illusive land of Nastraliam. He sits at my side and helps me make creative decisions. I’m the sensible one and he’s responsible for the chaos and a little silliness. With Norman at my side, I am fearless and able to stare a blank page straight in the eye and conquer it!

How do you go about creating one of your collages? What materials do you use?

The entire process of making collages is quite whimsical. My process involves playing around with the following elements I collect: illustrations from old encyclopedias and textbooks; inky, blotchy doodles that I make and gold-leaf (to speak of light, like a metaphorical horizon). I simply play a game of visual trial and error until I find a solution for a final image. Sometimes there are multiple visual options for one image and sometimes the final image magically appears at its own will. I then add collaged text to give the image its meaning. But I allow the viewer to read into the text and find their own meaning based on what they see, connecting the imagery to the text.

What do you love most about creating?

I enjoy being able to sit at my desk with a picture or a story in my head and step away from my desk with some version of that picture or story on the paper… that’s on a good day, mind you. Some days that creative space takes hours to climb into (if not days…) so when I do eventually get there, it is quite magical and I try appreciate it while it lasts.

What’s next for you?

I just started my Masters programme this year (big gulp). The medium I’m working in is something completely different to the work here as I’m trying to explore a more colourful style for children’s storybook illustrations. I consider myself to be a storyteller, hoping to connect the reader with their long-lost childhood memories by sharing my own. The practical work for my Masters will be titled “Cautionary tales for grow-ups from children/ Cautionary tales for children from grown-ups”.

I hope to follow through with some collaborations and do a couple of little collage exhibitions towards the end of the year.

View more of Stephanie’s work at meandnorman.com and follow @meandnorman on Instagram for her latest updates.