Drawing from the heart of Cape Town: in studio with Lauren Fowler

As one of Cape Town’s most well known illustrators and graphic designers, Lauren Fowler’s artful illustrations and designs have launched her into the realm of children’s books. Her first, Florence and Watson and the Sugarbush Mouse – a collaborative project conceptualised as a play – tells a delightful South African story about a little mouse called Petal trying to find her way in the world. She shares more about her craft and her creative process.

I’m an illustrator, graphic designer and thing maker. My illustration style is all hand drawn, naive, friendly and detailed. I really love drawing animal fur and patterns. My art prints are a little more serious and artful and my smaller prints are more decorative and cute.

I have a lovely studio at the Woodstock Foundry in Woodstock (the gritty inner city neighbourhood on the border of Cape Town’s city centre). There is a wall that curves with four sash windows and it’s my favourite part of my studio because I get the most amazing natural light. The original building of the Woodstock Foundry is very old and my floor tilts to one side, which I love. Besides all my creative neighbours and my studio, one of my favourite things about the Woodstock Foundry is the courtyard. When the hub first launched, little seedlings were planted and now four years later the courtyard is an explosion of green. It’s a little oasis in the industrial heart of Woodstock.

I write all my ideas down in my diary or into my phone. Ideas are tricky because they could be really great, or not really transpire into illustration properly. They also seem to have a time limit – sometimes if I don’t get onto something fast enough, the ideas seem stale to me and then I reject them. It’s finding a balance, the energy and excitement that an idea gives you and then channeling that into an image. Basically like alchemy!

Once I’ve formed my ideas onto paper using my trusty clutch pencil and inked with my techincal pen, I scan them, move things around in Photoshop, perhaps add some colour and send to print. My biggest achievement last year was the children’s book Florence and Watson and the Sugarbush Mouse, on which I collaborated with comedian and actor Rob Van Vuuren, director Danielle Bischoff and producer Siv Ngesi. I am so proud of it and my heart shines every time I see a child reading it.

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