Artist Interview with Lize-Marie Dreyer


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You’re from South Africa, but you won a scholarship to get your masters in illustration in Belgium! That’s so cool! Tell us about that experience and how your work evolved during that time.

It was very cool! I won a six-month, all-expenses-paid trip to go study at The LUCA School of Art in Ghent in Belgium. The city of Ghent itself has amazing cathedrals and I often used to feel like I was living in a Harry Potter storybook town! More than anything, I think I evolved greatly as a person in those six months. Belgium is so central in Europe and I got to do a lot of traveling and “soul searching." I visited 26 places in those six months and every new person I met, place I explored, and cathedral I gawped at was so inspiring and eye-opening.

The college I got my Bachelors Degree at encouraged a lot of digital illustration and LUCA was very focused on more traditional illustration methods (hand drawing, print making etc). Even though I still illustrate by digital painting I think that since then I’ve focused on creating work that feels more handcrafted and textured. I have many people asking me what kind of paint or brush I use to create my illustrations, which secretly makes me happy because it means that my work does feel more traditional and less digital.

More importantly, I think that, along with my ‘soul searching,’ my work took on much different content compared to the work I had been doing in my college years. In college I was always trying to illustrate what was “cool” and it wasn’t really me. I’ve always been a nerdy, nose-in-a-book, head-in-the-clouds, introverted type of person (in other words, not really cool at all!) with a great appreciation for beautiful people, beautiful books and the beauty of the world around us. In finding and embracing myself, my work embraced these things too.

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So you did an internship and then went right into freelancing? That’s impressive! How was your experience finding clients and navigating the working world on your own so fresh out of school?

I actually started freelancing while I was studying and slowly but surely built up my portfolio, my page and my reputation in the illustration community. I started getting a lot of freelance work through and every year I studied the demand of freelance work grew. By the time I had returned to South Africa from Belgium, I had a decent following on and a steady flow of freelance work to occupy my time. I guess that my newfound independence also gave me the courage and strength to take the leap into freelancing full time.

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Do you manage the business side of your studio as well as the creative side? What are the biggest challenges when it comes to running your studio from a business standpoint?

Yes, I manage both the business and the creative side of the studio. Freelancing has many challenges but admin is definitely the bane of my existence. I’m sometimes so swamped in e-mails that I just want to run away! I think the biggest challenge is staying up to date with that and replying to people as soon as possible. Sometimes I’m great at it, and I reward myself with high fives (and cookies) and other times it takes me a day or two to get back to someone and it makes me feel awfully guilty. 

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Can you give us some insight into how you go about creating an illustration? Perhaps using the example of your Monster Project contribution?

After being briefed on a job, I like to walk around a few days and just let ideas develop inside my head. In the Monster Projects case, I chose the drawing and spent about a week doing other stuff and just letting the monster come to life in my head. I debated A LOT about whether I should include the rest of the monster's body even though my student artist had only shown the legs. I also spent a lot of wondering what the black blob in right of the image could become.

When I was satisfied with the ideas in my head, I started sketching them out in Photoshop with my Wacom Tablet. I usually do a few sketches, pick one of them, and rework a few of the elements on the sketch until I am satisfied. The next step is choosing a color scheme and laying out the basic colors in Illustrator. From there I take the file back into Photoshop and start the laborious process of adding in detail, depth and texture. I spend a lot of time on little details and I enjoy this part of the process the most, even though it takes me the longest.

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Lize-Marie Dreyer's Monster Project contribution, 2017

There’s a lot of great texture in your work. What are your techniques for achieving that?

I created a few printing press textures while studying and they are just the best textures in the world. I actually forgot about them and found them again when I started freelancing full-time. I’ve been using them in different ways ever since! I color them, overlay them, warp them, and manipulate them in a million ways to create the textures I need for a piece. 

A lot of your pieces feature natural influences, female figures, and earthy colors—where does your inspiration come from?

I am greatly influenced by all the beautiful things around us and draw inspiration from them. My love (more like obsession) of plants, flowers and nature definitely inspire the appearance of natural elements and earthy colours in my work.

As for the female figures, I’ve read a lot of books in my life and 90% of them always had a male character as the lead. I’ve enjoyed those books but have often wished for more strong female characters and heroes. I guess that in my illustrations, the women have a chance to be that. They are always the heroes of my illustrations, just as many of them are my heroes in real life (shout-out to my mother who is definitely my biggest hero)!

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I’ve noticed a bunch of super talented illustrators coming out of Cape Town! What’s the artistic community like there?

We call Cape Town the “creative hub” of South Africa. Creatives from all corners of the country come to live in between the trendy coffee shops and art galleries and draw inspiration from the incredible mountains and nature Cape Town has to offer. The city’s creative energy has created a nurturing environment that continues to draw artists and creatives of all kinds to its shores.

We have a lot of amazing talent in South Africa, and I’m so proud of my fellow South African creatives for their hard work and ingenuity.

If you could go back in time and live in any art period, which would you choose and why?

I’d probably live in the Post-Impressionism/ Fauvism era. I just love the use of color and the way they used their brush strokes to create texture. “The Dessert: Harmony in Red” by Henri Matisse is one of my favorites! I think I would have enjoyed those crazy hats the ladies used to wear back in the 1900’s too!

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Why do you participate in The Monster Project?

I can just imagine little me exploding with excitement over the idea that an artist was using my drawing as inspiration for a monster. Giving a kid confidence to be creative and teaching them that every creative idea has potential to be something wonderful is definitely part of the reason that I participate in The Monster Project.

The other part would be to take something that was originally considered “scary” and turning it into something fun and not-so-scary-after-all. I used to be afraid of all kinds of monsters as a kid and I think this would have been an amazing project to help me defeat those fears.

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We asked the last Monster Project artists we interviewed to come up with their own interview questions. Oliver Sin wants to know...What did you look for when you picked your monster drawing to reimagine?

I looked through every single drawing, and I eventually spent a few anguished seconds deciding between two I really enjoyed.

I ended up choosing mine because I felt like it was completely unique to all the other entries. Also, the fact that there was no upper body to the monster meant limitless possibilities to how the monster could look. I also just loved the fact that it said “hi.” I thought that a well-mannered monster was so sweet and it really melted my heart a bit.

What question do you have for the next artist we interview?

Were you afraid of any monsters as a kid? If you could re-imagine and illustrate them now, what would they look like?