A teacher and master’s student living in the Western Cape, Stephanie Simpson creates expressive line illustrations of people, pets and places. More recently, she’s begun experimenting with the medium of collage, mixing found images and words with black ink and gold leaf in her series Thinking about dreaming. ‘I allow the viewer to read into the text and find their own meaning, connecting the imagery to the text, often creating poetic scenes,’ she explains. We chat to her to find out more.
We’ve noticed that you opt for a predominantly black-and-white palette. Why is this?
With the use of black and white only, I am able to focus on form, pattern and texture.
What mediums do you work with?
The most comfortable medium for me to work in is ink. I enjoy the lack of control I have over ink, how it flows and splotches and bleeds into the page. I enjoy how unforgiving it is – where it falls, that’s where it stays. I also combine this inky imagery with black and white pictures I find in old encyclopedias which I then collage together.
What are your go-to techniques when it comes to working without colour?
I work with ink nibs, paintbrushes, sticks and sometimes string or cotton to apply the ink. I sometimes use correction fluid as a kind of eraser with the ink.
For a while now you’ve also been incorporating golden accents into your work. Tell us about your latest series done in this style.
Recently, I have been working on a collage and ink series called Thinking about dreaming. The entire process of making collages is quite whimsical. With the collected imagery and inky pages, my process involves playing around until I find a visual solution for a final image. I then add text to give the abstract image its meaning. I allow the viewer to read into the text and find their own meaning, connecting the imagery to the text, often creating poetic scenes. I have been using gold leaf in these images to speak of light, like a metaphorical horizon. These golden accents were influenced by an expedition I made to Belgium in 2013 where I saw, for the first time, golden altar pieces in old cathedrals. When I returned back to Cape Town, I realised that the gold we had in our cityscape came from the setting sun falling behind the buildings and the mountain.
Have you considered exploring the opposite end of the spectrum and going all-out with bold colour in your work?
I generally work in three mediums (ink, collage and gouache) that serve three different purposes. As a freelance illustrator, I have had to develop several different styles and mediums that can be exercised for different briefs. I have days when I pick up a paintbrush and paint old scenes from childhood photographs in colour. I find that I generally work quite messily, so to go all out in colour takes a lot of discipline and requires me to be fearless. All three mediums have a common thread that speaks of the personality of my illustrations – quirky, free, playful, expressive and sometimes silly.
What are some of your current favourite things to illustrate?
Hands and blotchy, inky skies and I’m always in the mood for a quick sketch of our cat Mowie.
Who are some of the artists working in black and white that you admire?
Faye Moorhouse is an incredible artist from the UK. Although she works mostly in colour, she makes quick sketches in black ink that are so messy and basic but show so much detail in their gestures and are actually quite comical.
Visit meandnorman.com for more of Simpson’s work.