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Illustrator Q&A

As the illustrator behind the past few Cape Town Tattoo Expo artworks, Simon Berndt has been gaining a lot of attention on the local art scene. And judging by his unique illustrations, it's easy to see why... With our eye on up-and-coming design talent this month, HL caught up with Simon to find out more about his art, his Cape Town-based illustration studio – One Horse Town – and his other great loves. Why the name ‘One Horse Town’? When we started One Horse Town we wanted a name that reflected something that started small but was filled with potential to grow and prosper. I also really enjoyed the old Western connotations that come with the name that gave us a lot of interesting imagery to play around with. It also has a quirkiness to it that reflects in a lot of our work as well. What are the main influences behind your illustrative work? I'm influenced by a lot of things in my surroundings, from music to film, and everyday design from signage to posters. I like to play with things that are alternative and offbeat, not mainstream. I love poster art, especially gig and film posters; it is my favourite form of illustration and design. I also admire and am influenced by a lot of illustrators and artists both local and abroad. Some names include Ken Taylor, Jamie Hewlett, God Machine, Pale Horse, Sylvia Ji, Shaun Tan, Alfons Mucha and Angry Blue. I like to look at vintage illustration and design, skateboard graphics and record sleeves as well. Ultimately I enjoy illustrating things that are close to my heart and that appeal directly to me and my sensibilities. Fill in the blank. ‘If I weren’t an illustrator, I would be _____ .’ Either an entomologist (someone who studies insects), a chef or a farmer. Or I’d like to write books - Spaghetti Westerns or something along those lines. Which local artists do you follow for inspiration? Some of the local illustrators whose work I really like are Bruce Mackay, Clement de Bruin, Jay Gordon and Miné Jonker. You use colour sparingly in your work. What is the reason for this? I just like to use a limited colour palette; it appeals to me a lot more. I usually also tend to prefer muted tones but I’ve been doing some stuff lately with super bright colours which has been fun. I also like to think of my work from a screen printing point of view, even though I don’t get that many opportunities to use those techniques. I hope to set up my own screen printing workshop in the next year or so which will give me a lot more opportunity to play. Capetonians will be most familiar with the posters you created for the annual tattoo conventions. Do you find that there are parallels between your work and creating body art? Definitely. Tattoos and tattooing are also big influences on my work. A lot of the work I do is also culture-driven from a scene where tattoos are commonplace. Also, to be a good tattoo artist you first have to be a good draughtsman. Drawing is the cornerstone of tattooing just like it’s the cornerstone of everything I do. How did you come up with the concept behind the latest tattoo convention poster? I worked very closely with Manuela Gray, who organises the convention every year with her husband Allan, and also owns Wildfire Tattoos. We usually come up with a theme which we like to carry through all the design for the convention and associated events. Last year we went for the Russian socialist poster look and feel. This year we wanted to return to something very tattoo-orientated and also something that reflected Cape Town, so we settled on the nautical theme. Designs usually starts with a meeting and generating a rough scamp with Manuela that I then take and turn into a finished design. You’ve also done some amazing work on band posters. Do you have any hidden musical talents? Unfortunately I don’t. I love music, that and art are two of my major driving forces in life. I’ve managed to involve myself in the music scene through my art which had been a great relationship for me. I’ve recently started organising monthly events called Psych Night, orientated around the revival of the psychedelic rock scene, with some friends who are in bands or involved in the music scene through other creative means. It’s been very interesting and a lot of fun. Are there any prospects for a solo exhibition in the near future? I'm hoping to take some time off this year to work on a show. I have so many ideas! So hopefully towards the end of this year or early 2014. Where can we expect to see your work next? I’m busy with a few interesting projects at the moment and I will have some prints permanently available at Salon 91 Art Gallery on Kloof Street soon, which I hope to keep updating regularly. We’re also looking at doing an exhibition of psychedelic-inspired artwork as one of our Psych Night events in the next few months. To view more of Simon's work visit or view his Facebook page. Interviewed by Kim Grové