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- author Jackie French

Thursday 26 January 2017

Meet the Illustrator: Cecilia Timm

Describe your illustration style in ten words or less.
Realistic pencil illustrations, bright and colourful hand drawn digitised cartoon images & acrylic portraits with dark outlines.

What items are an essential part of your creative space?

Time alone – I really need time to myself to create images in my brain before picking up a pencil. This can be hours or days but I can’t without this space.

My drawing table – I wanted one for ages and in the end a builder friend of mine made me the most beautiful handmade wooden table with brass fittings – a one of a kind – and I use it every day. It makes me feel loved – he didn’t let me pay him for it… bless.

My pain – funnily enough I think my pain helps my creative process. I lose myself in my work and it’s one of the best chances I have of escaping from the pain. I am often most creative when I’m having a ‘bad spell’ and least creative when I’m physically strong.

Do you have a favourite artistic medium?
I am medium agnostic… I do portrait painting in acrylic paint on marine pine, I do my pet portraits and images of daily life in water colour pencil + pencil + gauche on water colour paper and I do my cartoon images on bleed proof paper with an Artline 210 Medium 0.6 marker (I cannot live without these and feel very sad when the nib goes all fuzzy) and work on them in Photoshop.

Name three artists whose work inspires you.
Margaret Preston: I have always loved her work and her story. Women were considered crafters and not real artists in her time and her story of perseverance inspired the young feminist in me. Someone once told me they could see Margaret Preston’s influence in my work (without knowing I was a huge fan) and it nearly brought me to tears (happy tears).

Paul Gauguin: Gauguin’s work has a childish and bright quality to it that I adore. I have struggled with my colours being considered ‘too bright’ and my outlines ‘uncouth’ by art teachers throughout my life. It wasn’t until I was in my late 30s that I looked deeply into a Gauguin painting (one his Tahiti nudes) that I really saw his bright colours and dark outlines that I reconciled my own style and embraced lines. I now paint with large dark lines defining shade, shapes and colour and I love it. Thank you, Paul.

My Aunty Carmina: She died at the age of 20 and I never knew her. She was never going to grow old with a serious heart condition but she always found a way to draw and paint regardless of her poor health and almost dying all the time. I grew up sneaking peaks at her paintings that were cherished inside only the most precious family books. She drew with thick outlines and filled them in with bright colours in water colour and gauche – very much like my own style… there is a very strong influence there and I love having that connection to her as she died before I was born (I was always inspired by her great talent and her immense beauty).

Which artistic period would you most like to visit and why?
I would like to visit the original artists… the cave painters to understand their motivations and the driving forces that made them record their history. This is the beginning of the evolution of the human artistic journey and just like music, it is written in our DNA to create visual and audio stimulus for our own pleasure and the joy of others.

Knowing the real reason why our ancestors started creating would be fascinating to me and might help us understand this deep deep drive to create that most people ignore but many of us embrace.

Who or what inspired you to become an illustrator?
In 2007 I started getting weird neurological symptoms including a lot of pain and extreme exhaustion. I could no longer work full time and had to give up my ‘day job’. When it became apparent that I could no longer live the life I used to, I had to firstly accept that and then decide what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.

I had always wanted to be an artist and illustrator and when I had the chance to study art or science, I made a deal with my parents to do a ‘real’ degree and after that be free to do whatever I want. By the time I finished my Bachelor of Science, I was institutionalised and went straight into the corporate world, forgetting about my desire to create.

When my health became an issue and I had to reassess my career options, it seemed that website design and illustration work were jobs I could do from home on the days I was well enough. A nurse who was treating me one day told me she worked part time as a nurse and the rest of the time as an illustrator… she gave a bunch of info, some tips, a couple of links and told me to go for it… and I did and I’ve been doing it (and loving it) ever since.

Can you share a photo of your creative work space or part of the area where you work most often?

What is your favourite part of the illustration process?
I love the hand over… especially when it comes to the pet portraits or custom illustrations for people rather than companies. They are met with such a wide range of teary emotions from tears of joy, constipated tears (trying very hard to hold them back) or all out eruptions of balling.

I feel incredibly nervous when I hand over an artwork (personal and corporate) and can barely function until I get a reaction. It seems so silly when I say it but it’s the truth. Once the reaction is received I can deal with whatever it might be and move on to the next artwork.

What advice would you give to an aspiring illustrator?
Just do it. Start slowly… put your toe in the pool first. You don’t have to dive straight into the deep end.  Ask advice from anyone who will talk to you and get used to calling yourself an artist or illustrator (often the hardest part – at least it was for me).

Do as much work as you can – while still doing your ‘day job’ until you have built up enough of a portfolio and reputation to be established, enabling you to quit your ‘day job’. The opportunities are out there, so work hard and establish your style so that people know your work when they see it.

Cecilia is a Sydney-based artist and illustrator working in both traditional pen/pencil & paper as well as digital images and acrylic paint. She specialises in two broad styles a) cartoon style pen or digital drawings and, b) traditional/realistic drawings and paintings of a wide variety of subject matters. She does custom illustrations for publishers, scientists, businesses and also produces pet portraits for animal lovers all over the world. You can read more about Cecilia at cectimm.com