Tamlyn Young is an illustrator and multimedia artist who works across a selection of visual media including drawing, animation, time-lapse video, and interactive digital books. With a Masters Degree in Illustration at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, Tamlyn currently lives and works in Limerick.
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your work?
From bits and pieces of everyday life; an overheard conversation, an unexpected colour combination, but mostly from mistakes and random acts of mark-making, like the tea stain on my paper or the doodle that comes while I’m on the phone. If I don’t know what to draw I spill a bit of tea or some ink on the page and see what shapes or stories come from that.
Can you tell us about some of your previous projects and the concepts behind them?
Most of my projects come from the idea that each person’s life is a story and from my interest in creating opportunities for people to think about and to share their stories. I recently had my first book published ‘ThePossibiliTree’, which is a children’s book for grown-ups. You can find some of my other projects on YouTube. For example, there’s ‘Trace’ which is a public art project in Venice, Italy and the ‘I Wish…’ project in Durban, South Africa.
What is your favourite element about your job?
My work is play. I can’t think that I would ever want to retire.
You have spent a lot of time in South Africa, what attracted you to the art there?
I was born and raised in South Africa, a country with 11 official languages and a beautiful mess of overlapping cultures. This diversity generates its own frictions but also a wide variety of artistic styles. From conceptual art to traditional ‘Township’ art to the work of William Kentridge, which is really its own genre. This diversity is appealing to me because I don’t feel bound by any particular tradition of art-making.
How do you find the art scene here in Limerick in comparison to what you’ve experienced in South Africa?
To compare my experience of the art-scene of a city to the art scene of an entire country would be to generalise. Perhaps a common element to both places is that, art-wise, they are both emerging and reaching for a wider audience. There are some great creative initiatives in Limerick such as the Craft Hub, the Fab Lab and shops that support local artists like Lucky Lane. I have the same feeling in South Africa; the feeling of not being in the centre of the art-world but being surrounded by wonderful independent creative initiatives.
How do you find LSAD as an artist and a lecturer?
LSAD is an inspiring place to work. An arts college is full of people experimenting with new ideas and pushing their personal creative boundaries. I often feel like I learn at least as much as I teach. I feel that it is my responsibility to keep on developing in my own arts practice in order to be an inspiring lecturer. The two occupations work well together.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an artist?
My biggest challenge has been to find an answer to the question “What do you do?” I struggle with the label of ‘artist,’ it is very broad and for a long time I felt lost in it. I have worked across various disciplines and have always felt torn between very distinctive worlds. I feel that I have found my home in illustration. It bridges the worlds of fine art and graphic design and allows me to make pictures using what ever medium and style is most appropriate to the situation.
How has your practice changed and evolved over time?
I started out doing a fine art degree and went on to study graphic design and illustration. So in the beginning I was doing ceramics, sculpture, installation art, drawing and painting. Then I began to photograph my drawings and paintings at different phases of completion to create stop-motion animations. The element of time became central to my work and I began to experiment with various techniques of animation and sequential drawing. This led to an interest in creating interactive picture books with animated elements. Also, I have kept a sketchbook since I was 14 years old, so making books with stories comes as a habit. Through this I have come to realise that I would rather my work exist in people’s lives and homes than on the walls of a gallery.
What advice would you give to young and aspiring artists?
The idea of being a practicing artist is to practice. So, keep on making work: find the time and space and commit to cultivating your interests. I set myself a drawing a day project to encourage regular practice. A lot the drawings I look back on and I cringe at, but each work is a stepping stone to something better. Also, find a way of getting your work out into the world. That is easy nowadays. Use Facebook, Redbubble, Instagram or Behance. You can even create a free website, just get it out there.
What’s next for you?
At the moment I am working on a series of 30 by 30 image making projects. These are really just to keep me going with making pictures. Also, I set myself the goal of making a picture book a year. The next one is about a polar bear (probably inspired by the Irish winter and my very fluffy pyjamas from Penneys). I’m also trying to improve my photography, learn some new animation software and finally get around to laser-cutting some designs at the Fab Lab. As well as all of that, I’m also selling copies of my book in Lucky Lane in Limerick. Aside from that I don’t know, that’s all for now.
If you’re interested in taking a look at Tamlyn’s work, you can find it on her website at www.tamlynyoung.com. Here you can contact Tamlyn and view all of her illustrations, sketchbooks and animations.
Article by: Laura McNamara
Photography by: Tamlyn Young