Freelance illustrator talks about her latest work and exhibition

Julie Smit’s work will be shown at The Detox Kitchen’s new deli in Fitzrovia (Fitzroy Place, (W1T 3JJ), on display from December 9.

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 Please introduce yourself.

I’m a freelance illustrator from Antwerp, although I spend a good amount of the year in London. My focus lies on botanical and food based illustration.

I work with traditional media like graphite, India ink, and watercolour. I make some watercolours myself by mixing up fruit, spice, and vegetable concoctions. Once I enter the digital stage, I’ll add textures and halftone patterns, and touches of colour from watercolour experiments. Some of my recent work leans more towards straight up digital art. I like the contrast in styles and their potential when used in combination.

My journal The Hungry Child is an ongoing story about the history of food and botany. It’s where I write about the things that have taken my interest, whether it be in the natural world, or a company or craftsperson.

Tell us more about the featured works.

I created a series of twelve botanical illustrations for The Detox Kitchen’s new deli in Fitzrovia, as well as a thirteenth print for their offices. The Detox Kitchen is about fresh and natural food, and they wanted the artwork to reflect their love of colourful produce. For weeks my desk was scattered with peas dragged from their pods, jars filled with hibiscus concoctions, and slowly dying fennel bulbs. When I’m working in a traditional medium my process can be chaotic and for this assignment it meant that my fridge was leading a second life amongst my drawing supplies.

I created all of the work in pencil and India Ink and layered the colours in (homemade) watercolours and pastels. I digitally added several of the details, as well as the end composition.

How did you get into illustration?

Before I settled on illustration I cycled through several other creative directions. I was searching for the right medium to tell my stories, the medium that would hold my attention day in day out. As a child I was happy when I was allowed to build or make or paint. Anything creative. I would transform cardboard boxes into villages and mansions. Slather our kitchen in chocolate smears and cacao dust making truffles. Sew my own rather dingy looking dolls. And paint almost anything in sight.

I’m attracted to illustration’s purpose: to visualise concepts, messages, stories. Illustration shows something only previously told. For me a good illustrator isn’t necessarily the one with the most intricate style. It’s the one who can visualise the essence of the assignment.

Illustration is a way to bring that anything is possible attitude from my childhood into my adult life. Anything you can think of, it’s there at the tip of your pencil, brush, or Wacom pen.

 

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What inspires you?

I’m fascinated by the mechanics of the human body. Plant life. The lives of animals. And all that fits between.  The natural world inspires a child-like enthusiasm within me and I approach it full of wonderment.

I’ve admired several artists throughout the years. This is just a small selection of those who’ve influenced my work:

James Jean’s fluid visual storytelling and insane amount of detail and skill. Initially, when he made the switch from illustration to fine art, my interest waned. Looking back, I respect him for the path he took and his growth over the years.

The intricate detail and colour work of Victo Ngai.

J.A.W. Cooper’s dedication to drawing everything in sight. Her fluid lines, symbolic layering, and eye for composition.

Karl James Mountford’s use of colour and the whimsical approach towards his themes.

Sachin Teng’s fluidity of form and line work, as well as his playfulness.

Joao Ruas aka Feral Kid’s texturing, layering, and understanding of anatomy and value. He spins intricate muted colour masterpieces.

The Dynamic of Beth Cavener’s character filled sculptures.

Murielle Scherre aka La Fille d’O’s no shame approach to loving and adorning the female body.

Andrew Him’s morphed perspective and subtle twisted proportions.

FKA Twigs’ creative ambition and the collaborative nature of her projects.

Gustave Klimt’s rich tapestry of detail and bending of the human body to fit form and composition.

Alphonse Mucha’s intricate Art Nouveau beauties. To be honest, though, I love most of Art Nouveau’s mark on art, furniture, and advertising.

What’s your next step? Have you got any new projects on the horizon?

I’m expanding my reach beyond botany towards entomology. Aside from a focus on the natural world I’ve swayed towards anatomy and am building up my understanding of colour theory, composition and values so that I can tackle large scale narrative illustration.


Julie Smits

juliesmits.com | thehungrychild.com | IG: @juliesmits | IG: @the_hungry_child | Twitter | Pinterest

Featured today on theprintspace blog is artist and illustrator Julie Smits!

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