"It took me ages to realize that art could actually be light, and bright, and colourful, and still count as art, that in fact there was value in making things beautiful, too."
I recently had the pleasure of chatting with South African artist Micklyn about her unique illustrations and designs. Micklyn is a talented artist working with patterns and an incredible attention to detail. Micklyn’s artworks are created through a meditative, precise process, and she recently spent some time explaining her approach to making her artwork.
Can you please describe the physical process you go through to make one pattern?
I work in a variety of mediums, depending on my mood or the subject matter. I use pencils, felt tip markers, watercolours, micron pens, or otherwise start with photographs that I’ve taken of whatever I want to use to make the pattern. Once I’ve collected, drawn, photographed, or painted the elements I need, I begin working digitally to do any edits and to make a pattern repeat. When I’m happy with the composition and arrangement of the elements I start playing with the colours, which is really my favorite part. Sometimes I will include some digital painting or effects, too, and I often add texture at the end.
Can you talk about where your inspiration for “Pineapples + Crystals” work came from?
I stumbled over some photographs of pineapples somewhere at the back of my hard drive that I’d shot for a previous pattern, and decided I’d like to have another go at creating a fruit pattern, only I wanted it to have a more painterly and vintage feel. After I created the repeat, it felt a bit flat to me and I decided to take it further. I love combining my previous works in new and unusual ways, there is something so satisfying about re-using old work to get a fresh result. I used a hand drawn gemstone pattern that I’d made some time previously and overlayed it using various blending modes and masking.
I love your use of fresh fruit, like in “Painted Pomegranates with Painted Gold Leaf Pattern,” what do you like about this work?
One of my favourite things about that pattern was that the pomegranates were an unexpected gift from a very dear lady, and I like that I was able to turn that gift into something that would last long after the pomegranates themselves were gone. I also really enjoyed the digital painting and doodling process (I use a Wacom tablet) and the colours! Pomegranates are amongst my favourite natural objects, so beautiful, inside and out.
Do you think art making can serve as a meditation for you?
I like to begin my day with prayer and meditation and I also always pray about every single artwork that I make. I believe God is the source of all my creativity. But during the actual making of an artwork I am more likely to be listening to music, hopping up to put in the next load of laundry, drinking too many cups of coffee, answering the odd e-mail, arranging a snack for my little ones, and any number of other things at once. I love the concept of art as meditation, and might even come close to experiencing it during the more complicated doodles I sometimes do, but in reality my life is quite chaotic and I work in the midst of a messy, noisy, life-filled house. Not so very conducive to meditation.
You have 10 children, which is just wonderful and amazing, how has been being a mother changed you as an artist?
When I first became a mother I don’t think it had too much impact on how I was as an artist, except for temporarily drastically changing my subject matter – all I wanted to do was draw, photograph, and paint my child! But by the time I had three children, motherhood essentially brought my art making to a complete halt. I didn’t seem able to manage more than just keeping them fed and the house clean. I had such a deep longing to create, but it seemed impossible. Fast forward eight years and I had nine children, which sounds like even more work, but what with the amazing help and support of the older ones and my increased efficiency (practice!) for the first time in ages I found myself beginning to create again. Crucially, though, I discovered Redbubble. The sense of community, the support, the encouragement from other artists – all of those things awoke a new determination in me to make art. I began with photography and after a while began to draw and paint again.
As I’ve continued on my artistic journey, my children have become my favorite critics, idea givers, and title-thinker-uppers. (I struggle with titles!)
What do you wish someone had told you years ago about creating artwork?
That it doesn’t have to be dark. Or ugly. Or incomprehensible. I studied fine art at a college here in South Africa and it seemed to me that the things I wanted to do were always considered too “pretty” or “illustrative” or “cute.” And that was BAD. It took me ages to realize that art could actually be light, and bright and colourful and still count as art, that in fact there was value in making things beautiful, too. And that art could be an escape – or even just decorative – and didn’t necessarily have to focus on grief and pain (or politics) to matter. It sounds ridiculous now to think that I couldn’t see it back then, but sometimes in fine art circles there is a kind of scorn of beauty and a celebration of angst. (Nothing wrong with a bit of angst, of course, I just never could seem to get any to come out of my pencil.)
What’s your favourite part of being an artist?
Making art is like an addiction for me. Being able to get my “fix” on a regular basis is a dream come true. The drive to make new work is always there; just as soon as I finish one art work I’m thinking of the next one. After just two days in which I don’t get to create something new, I’m grumpy and horrible … and I’m never nicer than when I’ve just finished a work that I like!
What’s your favorite Redbubble product to have your patterns printed onto? Do you feel like there is one great product for patterns?
Pillows are fun, and phone cases are great, too. Though I’d love to see my patterns printed on a floor-sweeping, boho maxi dress! I don’t know about there being one great product, I’d be happy to see patterns on everything. Even fridges and tumble dryers … Actually, especially fridges and tumble dryers.
How do you choose your color palettes?
I generally use all kinds of colours to start with, and try not to think about them too much, focusing first on the composition and the structure of the elements. Only when I’m happy with that part do I let myself play with the colours. Sometimes I’m inspired by a picture on Pinterest, or the colours in my garden, but it seems to me that I have my favourites that I come back to over and over again, even if I don’t intend to.
Does nature and flowers influence you?
I’m constantly amazed at the level of detail, the exquisite proportions, the incredible colours and the awesome design that is everywhere in nature. I’m always studying leaves, trees, flowers, and skies in an effort to absorb a little of how it’s done. God is, without a doubt, my favourite artist.
What are you working on next?
I bought a very fine watercolour brush and a little tube of indigo paint – I’d like to try doodling with watercolours instead of with a pencil for a while. But who knows? The options are endless.