Marie Prinsloo (photo), an alumnus of the Visual Arts Department, recently illustrated her first children's book, a children's Bible named Bible Stories for Children, which was narrated by Wendy Maartens and published by Random House/Struik. Lynne Rippenaar-Moses spoke to her about how she got involved in this project and the road she walked from Stellenbosch University graduate to full-time artist, exhibiting in various galleries across the Western Cape.
Question: You've just illustrated your first children's book, a children's Bible by Wendy Maartens that was published by Random House/Struik. How did you access this great opportunity and how does it feel like to have your first illustrated book on shop shelves?
Answer: Wendy Maartens and I had a great conversation during her interview with me for Lig magazine – I think it was two years ago. We just clicked and kept in touch. They were looking for a new flavour for the illustrations for her children's Bible, and she recommended me. Apparently, the powers that be liked the way I use colour and texture. Of course it was super exciting to get the project.
What made the experience even better was that Wendy was closely involved with the illustrations. For instance, she gave me a list of flowers, plants and animals she wanted to have in the illustrations. She had lovely morning glories in front of her window, for example, and another time she was surrounded by red poppies. Another week, pelicans caught her eye, then sugarbirds and cosmos. This helped to make the book a very personal project.
Q: What did you study at Stellenbosch University and why did you decide to follow that specific degree programme above all other programmes offered here?
I chose the painting side of the degree because I love painting and drawing. I'm not very fond of computers, so that cancelled out graphic design, and I am also not meticulous enough for jewellery design. So, painting was the only one left.
Q: Did this degree in anyway prepare you for your current career and if it did, could you tell us how?
The course did not fully prepare me for what I do today. For instance, we were not taught at all how to market our art and that sort of thing.
What I can say, is that Paul Emsley is a brilliant lecturer and artist, and I learned a lot during the three years of attending his drawing classes. He gave practical advice and his work is outstanding.
There was also a lithography lecturer, Lyne, who was also a children's book illustrator. One day she brought the pre-sketches for a book to class and showed us the layout. It made a big impression on me.
Q: Tell us more about the book itself – for example, what makes it different from other children's Bibles on bookstore shelves?
This Bible is different from other children's Bibles, as there is a lot of humour and freedom in the text. It has a light approach and is more contemporary. In the story of the Samaritan, for example, a gang of hooligans jump on him from behind a bush and the Samaritan then takes him to a guesthouse.
We also purposefully used authentic South African symbols in the illustrations. Proteas, heather, meerkats, pincushions and sugarbirds, that kind of thing. Also, in Noah's story, I showed the ark drifting with Table Mountain under the water.
Q. Many students at times become disillusioned after completing a BA degree as the public perception is often that any qualified artist will end up struggling to make ends meet anyway. What has your own experience been like and what kind of advice would you give to students studying towards a BA Visual Arts degree today?
Yes, you definitely need a day job if you want to survive as an artist. A day job relieves the pressure and gives you the freedom to express yourself, without continuously making things you hope would sell. Then you paint from the heart, with passion, and that is wonderful. I paint full-time and exhibit my work at various galleries. I also present art classes and in-between I do illustrations for books and websites.
Your marketing should be done the right way from the start. I was not aware of these things, such as marketing yourself, and I did all sorts of other things along the way. All of this has an influence on one's art, but in the past students were not really prepared for surviving with their degree. I'm sure it is different now.
It is also wise to do a marketing course with your art qualification. It totally goes against one's nature as an artist, but you cannot simply sit back and paint and hope people will fall over their feet to buy your art. It entails hard work and tough marketing, and growing a thick skin and doing admin. A lot of admin! You should see it as a business and get your art to the right market.
The Bible is available at most large bookshops and sells at R155. It is published by Penguin Random House. Locally it can be bought online through Exclusive Books (www.exclusives.co.za) and internationally through Takealot.
To read more about Marie, visit www.marieprinsloo.co.za.
Alumni from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences make a huge impact in various sph eres of South African society and the world. We enjoy celebrating your achievements and hearing about the paths you have taken since leaving our institution.
So, if you know of any alumni or if you are an alumnus who has recently excelled, please send a short para graph explaining the alumnus/your achievement as well as the contact details of that alumnus/yourself to our Communications and PR Officer, Ms Lynne Rippenaar-Moses. We will feature a short Q and A with one of our alumni each month.