Let our readers know who you are and what you do. Hello! My name is Abi Heyneke and I live in London. I’m an artist and illustrator. My favourite materials to work with are pencil, ink and watercolour. I like to draw creatures: real ones, mythological ones and prehistoric ones. I also really like drawing people and working with patterns and typography.
These days I’m really working on pushing myself further into drawing the things that are inside my head, because I think that’s how you create something that’s really unique.
In the broadest sense I’m trying to understand the things I see and feel and, once it’s down on paper, see if anybody else gets it.
Was there an illustration that changed your perspective on something? Wow. That’s a tough one. Maybe I should go with the one that’s tattooed forever on my body?
I have an image from Daniel Clowes’ graphic novel ‘David Boring’ on my arm. It’s David, the protagonist of the story, holding his cousin Pamela – a moment he spends the whole of the story trying to recreate. I recognised David’s longing for an imagined ideal; feeling like things should be a certain way when they aren’t. There are events outside your control and sometimes that’s a really weird concept to grasp.
My interpretation these days is that life is a balance between building your own reality and also being able to accept things as they are.
Do you sketch with the intent on conveying a specific interpretation or is your art subjective? Art is always subjective. I might make a piece that is expressing something within me but I know that, once my part is done, interpretation is entirely up to the viewer.
Illustration differs a bit because it is usually designed to be more objective and communicate something specific. You have to think about whether the colours, composition, visual metaphors, etcetera reinforce whatever it is that you’re trying to tell the viewer.
If people look at an illustration and say “I don’t get it” it’s not a successful illustration.
It’s really competitive too, which I think is a positive thing. There are so many people making their way as illustrators with so many different styles, so it’s really important to do your own thing. It’s like a challenge to stay sharp or perish. It’s not easy, but it’s motivating.
Has also living in Cape Town expanded your realm of ideas and inspiration when it comes to sketching? Cape Town has a very special place in my heart and I’m so proud to have called it my home. I learnt a huge amount, from studying, living in a new environment and meeting new people. It’s really hard for me to gauge how much direct impact it has had on my work though.
I actually found it really hard to keep my sketchbook going while I was studying (Art Direction & Graphic Design at advertising school). I think it was probably a combination of stress and distraction with all the school work.
I found Mystic Marshes and Peek-A-Boo especially captivating. Tell us about these pieces and the creative process behind them. They feel like two very different pieces to me, or at least they happened in very different ways.
Peek-A-Boo is a sketch based on an image I found online. I saw this photo and felt a connection and an intrigue. I usually choose to draw things because there’s some aspect of it that I want to learn or capture and incorporate into my work. It wasn’t conscious but a few months later I did this piece – http://abihey.blogspot.co.uk/2011/05/austras-beat-pulse.html
– illustrating a track by Austra. I think there are some similarities with the hair acting like some kind of impenetrable barrier.
Mystic Marshes on the other hand was a commission. The brief was to create 3 illustrations to accompany an article about Rainham Marshes for Lost in London magazine. It’s a nature reserve, so many different birds flock there for the winter. Some of them make these incredible displays called murmurations, where they all fly together at dusk like a huge shoal of fish. It’s really beautiful.
Website and Photos: http://www.abiheyneke.com/ Interview: Kathleen Cerrer