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  • Writer's pictureDiane Shearer

Finding the middle ground between art and adventure | CreativePool Interview

An interview with CreativePool for the featured member spotlight.

How did you get into the industry?

I always knew I would have a career in art or nature, but I never imagined that I could combine both passions so seamlessly. After getting a degree in graphic design and working for graphic design companies I decided to blend my love of nature with my technical skills to create stunning works of art. I started to refine my style and specialize in landscape and mountain illustrations using pen.

This allowed me to create intricately detailed artworks that captured the essence of the places I love. Over time, my illustrations began to feature labelled peaks, transforming them into informative pieces that not only celebrated the beauty of nature but also served as guides for fellow outdoor enthusiasts.

Where are you based now and who do you work for?

I am originally from South Africa but I have just recently moved to the Netherlands. I am a freelance Graphic Designer and illustrator. I serve a wide range of clients, including the outdoor community and travel industry. I find satisfaction in collaborating with:

Book publishers, Game farm owners with hiking, running, and mountain bike trails, Event organizers for outdoor adventure events, Lodge owners with trails and outdoor activities to display in an information book, Outdoor enthusiasts, Travellers to mountains and game reserves who want artwork or maps as a memento of their experiences.

Table mountain illustration
Table mountain illustration

My clients share my appreciation for nature and the beauty of the world around us, and I take pride in creating illustrations that capture and convey their love for outdoor adventure and exploration.

I am also a children's book illustrator, bringing stories to life with my intricate, detailed pen illustrations. Whether working with published authors or hobbyists, I am dedicated to delighting both children and adults with illustrations that tell a story through detail and imagination.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

Pursuing a career that allows me to explore and express my creativity has always been number one for me. Nature and the outdoors are also an essential part of my life, so I can envision myself venturing into fields that align with those interests.

I could see myself working as a biologist or in the environmental organization aimed at preserving and protecting natural habitats or my experience in creating detailed maps for hiking, running, and mountain biking trails could lead me to explore a career in cartography or Geographic Information Systems.

Can you explain your creative process? What makes it unique?

My creative process is deeply rooted in my love for nature and my passion for exploring mountains and landscapes. It all begins with immersing myself in the natural beauty that surrounds me in both South Africa and the Netherlands. Whether it's through hiking, running, or mountain biking, I actively seek inspiration from the diverse landscapes I encounter.

Once I have a clear vision in mind, I start by sketching rough outlines of the mountain scenes or maps I want to create. I prefer using pen as it allows me to achieve intricate details and a sense of depth in my illustrations. Pen work also provides a unique, handcrafted quality that sets my artwork apart from digital creations.

Mt Kilimanjaro Illustration
Mt Kilimanjaro Illustration

What truly sets my creative process apart is the meticulous research and attention to detail I put into every piece. When drawing mountain illustrations, I ensure that each peak is accurately labelled, giving the viewers an informative and immersive experience. Similarly, when creating maps of hiking, running, or mountain bike trails, I include specific route markers, landscape features, and points of interest to make them not only visually appealing but also highly functional for outdoor enthusiasts.

My goal is to create illustrations and maps that not only capture the breath taking beauty of nature but also serve as practical guides for those exploring these landscapes. Combining the aesthetic appeal with functional value makes my creative process unique and resonates with both art enthusiasts and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

How would you describe your style?

I would describe my style as a harmonious blend of realism and artistic expression, with the use of pen work I can create intricate and detailed illustrations which allows me to focus on the patterns and textures in nature with a strong emphasis on capturing the beauty and grandeur of landscapes and mountains.

My style blends the precise accuracy of cartography with the creative magic of illustration. The combination of detailed pen work, informative labelling, and an artistic flair defines my unique style.

Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

No one necessarily in the creative industry but I get inspired following endurance athletes, particularly trail runners conquering multi day events in the mountains. I am often inspired to illustrate the routes they take and try and capture the feeling of being in that landscape just by looking at the artwork.

What tips would you give to aspiring creatives looking for work?

Finding work in the creative industry can be competitive and challenging. I am especially finding this a challenge after moving to another country and having to tap into a new client base and culture, it sometimes feels like I am starting from the bottom again. But remember that persistence is key.

Nature Reserve Map Illustration
Nature Reserve Map Illustration

Despite facing initial challenges in finding work, continue to showcase your talent and passion through your portfolio and networking efforts. Be open to exploring new opportunities.

Success in the creative industry often comes with time, dedication, and a positive attitude. Your commitment to your art and your willingness to adapt will ultimately lead you to find rewarding opportunities that align with your skills and aspirations.

What tips would you give to other professionals to get more clients?

Build a Strong Portfolio: Create a diverse and well-curated portfolio that showcases your best work. Highlight your strengths and demonstrate your unique style and skills. Your portfolio should be easily accessible online and tailored to the type of work or clients you want to attract.

Specialize and Differentiate: While it's good to have a broad skill set, consider specializing in a particular style, niche, or subject matter. Being known for a unique specialization can make you stand out in the crowded market.

Be Professional and Reliable: Maintain professionalism in all interactions with clients, employers, or collaborators. Deliver your work on time, meet deadlines, and communicate clearly and effectively.

What kind of tools/kit/software could you not do without?

Having my trusted pen and paper is undoubtedly a valuable and irreplaceable tool and my first love is pen on paper drawing. However, keeping up with the times, I have also transitioned to digital illustration on my tablet, but definitely still keeping the traditional drawn look. I also enhance my illustration and add text with Photoshop.

What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

Keep exploring!

What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

The work I am most proud of is a 1-meter hand-drawn illustration created with pen on paper. It is the biggest thing I've ever tackled and is framed and displayed in the bar area of a private lodge within a renowned South African game reserve.

I dived deep into the untamed beauty of the game reserve creating a super-detailed pen map that brings to life all the winding roads and natural landscapes that make this place so beautiful. I wanted to give people a real immersive experience.

Map Drawing
Map Drawing

This map showcases all the different lodges and accommodations scattered throughout the reserve and labelled for effortless identification. I ensured that the map includes labelled roads and other points of interest, transforming it into an all-encompassing resource. By skilfully blending artistry with cartography, this piece serves as a stunning visual guide for visitors and adventure seekers alike.

What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?

I wish that clients would appreciate the importance of creative work and have a mutual understanding of the time, effort, and skill invested in each project. It is important that creative work is adequately compensated and that artists receive proper recognition for their contributions.

Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh: A Walk Through the Forest that Inspired the Hundred Acre Wood" by Kathryn Aalto: This book beautifully blends illustrations, maps, and nature, offering a captivating exploration of the landscapes that inspired the classic children's stories.

Mountain Pass map illustration
Mountain Pass map illustration

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