I graduated from a four year Bachelors Degree in 2013 with a Cum Laude in both Design and Illustration at The Open Window Institute in Pretoria. I then did my Honors in Illustration in Stellenbosch and while I was doing my Honors I won a six-month Masters experience at the LUCA School of Art in Ghent, Belgium.
I actually started freelancing while I was studying and slowly but surely built up my portfolio, my Behance.net page and my reputation in the illustration community. I started getting a lot of freelance work through Behance.net and every year I studied the demand of freelance work grew. One of my first most notable jobs was the branding for Greybe Fine Olive Products in Scotland. It was the first time I conceptualized a brand from start to finish (from logo through to website design) and I’m happy to say that the branding came out beautifully and was featured by the Art Directors Club (ADC) in New York. You can read the feature here: http://adcglobal.org/lize-marie-dreyer-burning-the-midnight-oil/
I think the plan was probably to do an internship somewhere and eventually start working there once the internship was over. However, by the time I had returned to South Africa from Belgium, I had a decent following on Behance.net and a steady flow of freelance work to occupy my time. I ended up completely skipping the internship and just took the (scary) leap into freelancing full time.
I think my style developed in three steps:
The first development was influenced by the diverse amount of universities I studied at and their different approaches to illustration. 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.
Braving a new country on my own and really getting to know myself as a person and as an artist influenced the second development. 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. I think getting to know your self is an important step in developing your illustration style.
Finally, the third development came naturally with practice and persistence. The more you do and the more you practice, the more you naturally will improve and refine your skills.
My top three tips are:
If you’re sleeping a lot then you’re not working hard enough! Haha, its harsh I guess… but if you want to get somewhere you have to put in the hours.
Find ways to challenge yourself, take part in Instagram challenges like 36 Days of Type and do competition briefs. Never stop practicing to improve your skills.
Be critical of your own work and graciously accept criticism from people more skilled or more knowledgeable than you, without criticism you can’t grow.
As mentioned before, I mainly do digital illustration (by digital painting) and digital design but I really do try to give my work a more traditional feel. 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.
I achieve this traditional feel by not creating work that’s too ‘calculated’ and ‘computerized’ and rather more organic and natural. I also use digital brushes that mimic traditional materials like chalk and charcoal.
I think its good to not forget traditional mediums entirely. Experimentation in traditional mediums can often lead to interesting things that you can scan in and use in your digital designs. I use a few printing press textures that I created while studying and they are just the best textures in the world. I’ve been using them in different ways ever since! I colour them, overlay them, warp them and manipulate them in a million ways to create the textures I need for a piece.
I’d like to share this collaboration I did with Sonia Dearling. It was created for a group exhibition at No End Gallery in Johannesburg. The theme of the exhibition was “Everything In Between” and we thought that a folk tale was the perfect example of a tale that’s “in between” fact and fiction – its always magical and full of fantasy but is usually based on a true story. Our focus was a folklore tale of twins Romulus & Remus, who founded Rome. Expanding on our own interpretation of the tale, we collaborated on each piece from beginning to end, trying to integrate our illustration styles. The project ended up being a fun and whimsical one.
I have high hopes that you will be seeing more Sonia Dearling x Lize-Marie Dreyer Illustrations soon, so keep your eyes peeled!