Whimsical Illustrator – Shirley Ng-Benitez

Shirley Illustrator

My inspiration are my kids and nature.

Celeste: Hi Shirley! Thank so much for chatting with us today. I must say I love your work – it is very whimsical! Can you tell us a little about yourself, before I start bombarding you with questions!

Shirley: Hi Celeste! You are so kind to ask and thank you for your generous words, I really appreciate that! I am a children’s book illustrator and writer living in the Bay Area, California and have been illustrating for the children’s market for about five years. I made the transition to illustration in 2011 from many years in the graphic design field. I started out after college working for American Greetings, Inc. as a Professional Lettering Artist, and then worked for different design firms specializing in the toy industry, direct marketing, product marketing, and technology. I continue to work with my clients in design through gabbyandco.com, my company established in ‘98. Read more

South African Illustrator: Sam van Riet

Sam van Riet

Sam van Riet is a South African illustrator, with 20 years of experience. She chats to us about how things have changed since she started, and her latest projects.

Celeste: Hi Sam, and welcome to the blog. Thanks for taking time out to answer my questions. I thought it would be nice to have a local (South African) artist interview on my blog.  First of all, can you just tell us a little about yourself and your experience?

Sam: I studied graphic design and then Illustration at Stellenbosch university. I was lucky to have Niki Daly and Paddy Bouma as lecturers, so studying was a great experience for me. Since then I have worked as a freelance illustrator for about 20 years.
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Deckle Edge Premier Art Box

Deckle Edge

As a birthday present, my brother has bought me a subscription to Deckle Edge’s monthly Art box. As we only ordered early in Feb, I assumed I would have to wait and get my first box for March. I was pleasantly (actually that word is too mild, I was over-excited) surprised when the Feb box arrived. I ripped it open, tore the pretty blue tissue paper, with the ‘creative’ sticker and flung the quality parcel straw all over the room.

There was a useful explanation for all the items, stuck on the inside of the lid, which was good, as I wasn’t really sure what I was looking at. All I did know was the brush was pretty. But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s go through the items:

Deckle Edge Box
Deckle Edge Box

Schmincke Aero Color Finest Acrylic Ink

I was treated to the Cyan colour for this play-time. According to my helpful paper from Deckle Edge, I was informed that the Aero Color Professional Acrylic Ink was initially developed for airbrushing, but also works for dip pens, technical pens and a brush. I was to discover all these things. The actually eyedropper and product packaging for this ink was really high quality and I couldn’t help but feeling a little scientific as I used the eyedropper to place ink into the next item. I mean, sure, I wasn’t wearing a white lab coat, but a stained, paint-fill, clay streaked, garden dusted apron that I have discovered ever since working from home, that I can’t go without.
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Making Beastie Pots

Beastie Pots

‘Someone bought one of your pots’

My Cat, Toady, with Alex
My Cat, Toady, with Alex

As far as Cape Town is concerned, it is out of season. Summer is also in full bloom, so it is isn’t the best time to plant either. Basically, my timing over-all is really, really bad. Yet, the wonderful, friendly lady at Kalk Bay Garden Shop uttered the words I have been waiting for her to say in two weeks ‘Someone bought one of your pots.’

I dashed outside and did a quick head count. There was Fred, Alfred, Werner, Alex, Sam, Lizzie, Edward…. yes, yes she was right – someone had snatched up Henry. I’ve been smiling from ear to ear! While I was there I did a little swop with some of the pots, as a few of them needed some hair-cuts since they’ve been at the Kalk Bay Garden Shop. One of the swops was with one of my favourite pots, Charles, who is now sitting on the shelf giggling to all that pass.

I thought it might be a nice idea to share with all of you, the work  that goes into making a Beastie pot. If you are interested in making one yourself, I am thinking of running a workshop later this year on it, where you can make your own. Drop me an email (mrsbeckerling(at)gmail(dot)com) if you are interested.
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Renee Kurilla talks Illustration

Renee Kurilla

I first saw Renee on Twitter and was blown away by her illustrations. But then ‘bumped’ into her again on the Oatley Podcast where it was so strange to hear her voice! I knew I had to chat to her about her unique style.


Celeste: Hi Renee! Thanks so much for taking time out to talk to me. I’ve been following/stalking you on Twitter for a while now and I really love your work. The original illustration of your that caught my eye was the one of the artist, twirling her paintbrush like a wand. I remember you saying you used pen and watercolour for it? How do you manage to keep the colours so clean when bringing to digital?

Renee: Haha, thanks Celeste! Firstly, I wish it was acceptable for me to use an “ou” in the word color – it looks so much more appealing (and fancier) than the American way of spelling it!

Thanks so much for your kind words. The piece you mentioned was actually quite a breakthrough piece for me. I’ve been trying for years to mimic a watercolor style on the computer and I think I finally hit it with this one. The line is done with a Prismacolor colored pencil, scanned and colored in Photoshop. This explains why it looks so clean.

I have yet to master the fine art of scanning, my watercolors always look so muddy and boring when I scan them in, so I was able to transition it almost entirely to digital.
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Leap Puppies

It all started with a bulldog.

Bulldog on swing

This bulldog was on a swing and he was not happy. The caption was ‘I hope you are entertained hooman,’ and it made me laugh. Having grown up with bulldogs, however, I knew there was so much more potential for a bulldog to be on a swing. I could just imaging the wind blowing in on a bulldog’s jowls. I could see a green meadow in the back ground.

Which got me think about dogs and I got a surge to draw them. When thinking about what dogs to draw, I immediately thought of my own two, Brownie and Nixie, who are both rescues. We actually got Nixie only at the end of last year, from an amazing adoption service called Leaps. I wandered over to Leap’s facebook page and saw all these gorgeous dogs that needed homes. Of course, I immediately got my sketch book out.

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