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Chat and Sun with Tara Deacon

Her work explores images populated by the fruits, plants, people and light of her native land. Tara Deacon is a South African illustrator who lives and works in Berlin. Her colourful paintings reflect a nostalgic mix of memories, places and reflections on everyday life. Meet Tara and her colourful work that makes us wait patiently for the blazing August sun.
Hey, Tara, why did you move to Berlin? What do you like best about the city?

I originally came to Berlin on a 3 day solo trip back in 2013 whilst living in the Netherlands and happened to meet my boyfriend here in that very short space of time. That's the main reason I moved here, which worked out pretty well because we are now married, but the fact that I also fell in love with the city made it a really easy decision for me to make. I was, and still am incredibly in awe of the fact that anything goes in Berlin, the city has always left me with a deep sense of freedom.
Your features are precise, naturalistic and are revealed by vibrant colours. When you’re drawing, you don't miss any details. What is the starting point for your work ?

My sketchbook is almost always the starting point of an idea , beginning with a very rough sketch of the concept I have in mind or just playing and experimenting with possibilities. Other times I'll be inspired by a color combination or a desire to try a new color palette and take it from there.
I can't help but ask you this question; why do your characters all have shoulders as broad as those of professional swimmers ? I love them !

That is a good question! I never consciously made the decision to create figures with small heads and big bodies, it sort of just slowly gravitated in that direction over a period of time. I actually have quite a small head and often wear clothes with broad padded shoulders, it was only once my husband pointed it out did I realise I was subconsciously placing myself in the figures I draw.
Your paintings reflect a nostalgic mix of memories, places and reflections on everyday life. You seem very attached to your roots. What was the landscape like where you lived in South Africa?

Even though I am no longer residing in South Africa, I am still very much connected to my homeland.
The landscapes and regions are so vastly different from one another, from dry bushveld in the north where wild animals are prevalent to the frigid waters of the Atlantic ocean on the west coast and the warm waters of the indian ocean on the east coast. I hold fond memories of road trips throughout South Africa with my family, who have always encouraged connecting with nature and the beautiful surroundings of my homeland. On the other hand, the city life of Johannesburg has such an electric, messy energy and vibrance with influence from all over the african continent.
Flowers and plants are everywhere in your illustrations. Both as a subject and in the background. What would be the ideal bouquet for your eyes ?

I love the idea to mix and match and can envision branches of bright pink and purple bougainvilleas, dried grasses picked from a nearby field, palm leaves and some large tropical leaves from a Monstera or Elephant ear plant.
What attracted you to Olow? Was it the first time you accepted an artistic collaboration with a clothing brand?

I have always loved the idea of translating my illustrations onto items of clothing. I experimented with doing this on my own a few years ago, but had to abandon the project due to high production costs and a lack of resources. With that said, one of the very first paid commissions I received years ago was to illustrate a collection for Mens swim shorts in South Africa. When OLOW first contacted me I was excited at the idea of creating illustrations for a product that would be of a very high quality and standard as well as being amongst other talented creatives who have been collaborators with OLOW.
What was your favorite drawing while creating that collection ?

My absolute favourite is the illustration with the crocodiles, koalas and fruits. It's such a bright, fun and vibrant illustration that translated so well onto the collared shirt. I can't wait to show mine off outside once the weather is warmer.
What’s the environment you feel most comfortable working ? Would you give us a short description of your studio ? 

My studio space is where a lot of my thoughts and Ideas come to fruition through play, being messy and experimenting with new things. I have tried to work and paint outside in the park and along the canal in the summers, but the wind, sun, insects and curious onlookers have somewhat discouraged me, so I usually prefer working at my desk with all my tools closeby. I share a shabby artists studio with 7 other creatives which is located in Neukolln, a young artsy neighborhood in Berlin. I have half a room which I share with a friend, filled with my plants, bookshelves full of sketchbooks and childrens picture books and walls covered in things that inspire me. I would love a couch at some point, but have a feeling I would take far too many naps between work so it's probably best I dont have the space for it anyways.
Interview by Garance Delabriere