INTERVIEWED BY Michaela Stehr
We chat to illustrator Kobie ‘Koba’ Nieuwoudt, one of this year’s Design Indaba Emerging Creatives, about what drives her, creating GIFS and being “weird”.
How did you get into art, illustration and design?
From a young age I got praise for my illustrative creations. The positive reactions I got from parents, teachers and friends motivated me to pursue art and made me think, “Hey, I might be good at this”. I enjoy drawing because it allows me to be creative in my own private space, in my own time.
Having studied graphic design at the Cape Peninsula University, I gained experience and exposure to the commercial side of the design industry and some of the opportunities available to young designers in South Africa. In my final year of studying graphic design, I had yet to develop my own “voice.” At this stage, illustration was not my primary focus, although it was a strong personal outlet for me to break away from the formal requirements of commercial design briefs. In 2015, I completed an honours course in illustration at the University of Stellenbosch, graduating Cum Laude. The illustration course offered me much-needed room for experimentation and personal development as an artist. Looking back, I still enjoy illustration for the same reasons I did when I was a child, namely the solace and focus it provides.
What inspires you?
Humour and spontaneity. Personally, I enjoy making people laugh, so humour is an essential part of my life and I try to incorporate it in my work. Society thrives on negative sensational stories and from personal experience, certain things cannot be unseen, so I often find it hard to be positive. I’ve always been interested in human nature and how people communicate, whether it is through eye contact, gestures, body language or speech. The latter has a profound influence on the subject matter of my work. Illustrating is a positive creative outlet for me and I hope it will also lighten the mood of those around me.
How would you describe your style?
Being honest, expressive and relatable in my work is important to me. My worst fear would be to come across as pretentious or “trendy”. My friends always told me. “You’re weird, but in a good way” and I think that’s also a way to describe my style.
A GIF is such an amazing medium to convey narratives. I start by scamping characters and then take them into Photoshop where I start drawing the animation frame by frame. It always excites me to see the final sequence in motion.
I can’t say it better than GIF artist, Elle Muliarchyk:
“It’s a more organic and intuitive medium to relate an experience—more so than a photo or a video. Think of how we recollect memories: close your eyes and think of something from your past. You don’t see a frozen still image – you see GIFs! Even when we dream at night we see fragments of events that collectively create some kind of narrative, which we assemble into a story when we wake up. Even when we daydream we don’t watch a full-feature uninterrupted film in our heads – we think in fragments, often non-linear. ”
Who are some of your favourite local artists?
Lorraine Loots. I have been following her work since 2013 and her journey to being a successful, independent artist encourages me to keep going. Also, Mervyn Gers, the story of how and why he got into ceramics and how he made a successful business out of it (eventually being able to give other people jobs) is also really inspiring. I also enjoy the work of artist Michael Taylor. I met so many great creatives from various fields at Design Indaba’s Emerging Creatives expo, so it’s hard to only single out a few.
Do you have a favourite piece of your own?
All of my creations hold their own splendour and I try not to be too precious about it. The illustration that was a turning point for me was this abstract painting I made one evening late in 2014, naturally while I was supposed to be doing something else. I got carried away, did not care anymore and just painted without premeditation. This painting gave me a real epiphany. I have the habit of overthinking everything – including my work – and this illustration happened by chance. The illustrations I’m most fond of always happen by chance. My favourite GIF is one I recently made for Superbalist, namely, “bridesmaid-mating” (see above).
What are your plans for 2016?
Right now, I’m focused on selling my Koba illustration & Design merchandise, which includes limited-edition pillows, mugs and greeting cards. I’m in the process of creating plenty more GIFs this year, as that has become my favourite medium of expression! Maybe that does not sound too exciting, but after studying for five years, it’s quite exhilarating for me and I’m embracing the unknown future.