An interview with illustrator Luzelle van der Westhuizen

I'm a sucker for a bit of screen printing, so I you can imagine how excited I was to discover Luzelle van der Westhuizen and her bright and beautiful prints... What’s the most important thing to know about you?

Deep down, I always knew that I wanted to be an artist. I took me a while to get here, but I did it. Also, my first language is not English – it’s Afrikaans.

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Describe a really good day and a really bad day in the life of Luzelle van der Westhuizen.

Good Day: Having a really good cup of coffee to start. Very important! Followed by a successful day of printing in the studio. The colours and shapes are transferred onto the paper just how I imagined it and I know that my customers will love it. To end my perfect day, I will go for a run after work and have dinner with my husband.

Bad Day: Sometimes my method of printmaking can be quite temperamental. I’m such a perfectionist that sometimes I pull my hair out when things go wrong in the studio. A very loooong queue at the post office is also not a good thing when I have a million things to do!

Luckily there are more good days than bad days…

What inspires your ideas?

Everyday scenarios, landscapes, useful objects, pretty animals and repetitive patterns. I collect little images and shapes in my head as I go along, like a giant reference library. Sometimes the simplest thing can lead to whole bunch of ideas. I think that I do have a specific style, so I try to keep it simple with my prints. I also try to stay ahead of trends by reading loads of magazines, especially in colour.

Describe the process you go though to turn your ideas into products.

My original hand drawings are transferred to the computer, where I simplify them more and tidy them up a bit. After that, it is off to the dark room to expose my screen. Now the real fun starts! Mixing bright happy colours to go onto the paper. For every printmaker, that first image that you’ve pulled with the squeegee after all the hard work is the best feeling!

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What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?

My best advice would be to step away from your computer at times and just go outside and look around at everything. Go to a beautiful shop, gallery, garden or whatever makes you happy and take your sketchpad with you. Don’t overlook the small details. That’s usually where I get most of my ideas. Things that most people would overlook are usually very beautiful to me.

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Desert island design time; which three items could you not live without? 

1) My 27 inch Apple iMac. Don’t know how I survived without it before!

2) Moleskine diary. I buy the same red one every year. I’m a creature of habit.

3) Moka Express Italian coffeemaker. I love a stovetop cup of joe. Not to mention the fact that one of my most successful and popular designs to date is inspired by this iconic coffeemaker: Mengsel’s “Moka Express” silkscreen print!

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What are you most proud of?

Starting a successful business with my own ideas in a foreign country.

What’s next for you?

Mengsel will have a stand at the tradeshow Pulse this year, showcasing hand pulled silkscreen prints, cushion covers and tea towels. Pulse is from 10-12 June. Do come and say hi at stand no. LP5 if you’re around!

And, finally, what’s your favourite colour?!

All shades of blue and green. From intense cobalt blue to soft Wedgewood blue to yellowish chartreuse to jade green. My prints are bright and colourful. I would have to say my all time favourite is Delft Blue.

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