Women who create: Amy-Leigh Braaf

Illustrator and graphic designer Amy-Leigh Braaf is reconstructing the narrative of the artist by exploring various mediums to create her art. A sense of colour and freedom is prominent in her works and it’s quite clear that she does not cage her creativity by sticking to a medium or genre comfortable to her craft.

Amy has a BA degree, specialising in film production and majoring in english literature. She is also the creator of her own non-profit online magazine, Hakopike, where she conducts interviews with artists and feature their work.

She is a freelance photographer and illustrator making waves not just in Johannesburg but also halfway across the world.

There is a playful element to your work. Do you draw inspiration from your own life experience?

The majority of my work is heavily inspired by films I watch. Throughout my childhood, my heritage has been an enigma and the more I discovered about where my family is from the more my art expanded. Inspired by surrealism and otherworldly energies channeled into my illustrations – I create worlds that surreal dreams could construct and live vicariously through the series. To me, an artist’s intentions are hardly deliberate – it’s open to interpretation, but I hope that by tackling dark themes through light and playful styles, a juxtaposition can be formed for the viewer to enjoy and decipher.

Which genre and/or medium gives you more pleasure?

My background has been in the fine arts; however, growing up after studying cinema and pursuing a career in photography, I have been guided towards illustration. I use Procreate on an IPad Pro – this has been one of the most life-changing mediums because there are no limits to what I can invent. The freedom that comes from illustrating digitally comes for the short amount of time it takes with a variety of brushes to use. I’ve spent over 15 hours straight on some pieces where at the end of my process I feel as if I’ve directed a film or lost myself in set I’ve digitally manifested.

When creating within a certain genre do you sometimes find that the atmosphere of the pieces or projects differ or do you create with a set goal of what you want to achieve?

Depending on who I am creating for, I usually enjoy sci-fi genres and surreal themes. The best illustrations come from not trying too hard – the effortlessness that results from being completely open to your environment when designing is priceless. Whenever I draw the music I listen to heavily influences the outcome and films I’ve studied in the past help me form moods I channel through my art.

Where do you draw most of your creative inspiration from? What is the core for your ideas?

When I was growing up the most exciting part of my day was coming home watching my favorite cartoons and drawing while I watch them. As I got older and studied art I would do 18-hour practical exams, and the beauty of spending an immense amount of time on a piece without stopping helped me creatively. The inspiration that comes from losing yourself in an artwork is indescribable – it can’t be planned or documented as a lot of the ideas that flow into my mind are normally from a trance-like state. The core elements for my ideas is to depict a surreal terrain with human-like characters that don’t seem to fit into their environments.

Take us through your creative process. Where and how do you start a project?

I start my projects with sketches and begin with a fine liner and a blank piece of paper. After my sketch is done I work on formulating a colour palette on Procreate. I then start sketching out a draft of my paper sketch onto my tablet very loosely and start thinking about out of place objects. They can be animal heads on people, octopus tentacles flying in from the corners of the page or even food products that have been spilt over. Once my sketch is done I spend over 8–15 hours on a piece starting with blank outlines and filling in the gaps with airbrushed textures and vibrant colours. I draw on A0-size so when printed my artworks are huge and have an amazing quality.

When did you realise that you wanted to promote/interview and give exposure to artists with Hakopike, as you are an artist yourself?

When I was living in South Korea there were magazines from other countries that featured me, and my friends were also just as talented but somehow did not get the exposure they deserved. The reason why I create isn’t for publicity – it’s to connect, and often people overlook that because they crave fame. My magazine counteracts this idea. I interview artists globally, so local artists can have an insight on the global art scene –especially if they don’t physically have access to it. I want to connect artists so we can learn.

A magazine like this was a great idea to bring all of us together to acknowledge the talent we all have, not compete but work together.

The art of storytelling in your pictures is a set goal in your projects. Do you mainly draw inspiration from the point of view of women? If so, why is this so important for you?

Being who I am has shaped my art for years and as much as I enjoy drawing inspiration from the minds of those around me and characters I create.

I think that the most beautiful stories are told from the soul.

Most of my viewers are women and they always have questions and are curious. If I create artworks centered on women and showcase the magical and cosmic qualities they have – my art would form a connection between us. In a world that can be so harsh toward a woman and I can speak from experience, my art creates a space where they can find solitude and safety. It’s a world that doesn’t exist but is recognisable enough to be believable.

Name 3 women you admire and why.

Most of my friends are artists, but three women who I am inspired by are Liza Scholtz, an incredible actress based in Cape Town who I am co-creating with on a poetry/illustration book with a working title, “Moon In Place Of Heart”, and Hankyeol and Hanul Lee who are incredible artists and multitalented creatives based in Johannesburg.

The reason why I admire these women is because they are all fearless, and our projects together, as well as our conversations, have taught me so much. When you surround yourself with incredible artists who make you happy to wake up to fill your world with creations you know you’ve come across magical humans.

Any tips/advice for other women?

My advice to other women who are aspiring artists is to protect your ideas and your visions. The power that lies in us to construct worlds we want, come from our resilience and our hard work. The world can be tough on us, but the moment we block out obstacles and create as authentically and honestly as possible will only result in great things. The amount of opportunities that have come from impulsive jumps I’ve taken in my life have taken me all over the world and showed me the amount of control I have over my future. And every single woman in the world has the power to achieve the goals they set for themselves as long as they don’t let external voices affect their work ethic. Any skill can be learnt in a short amount of time and its our minds that stop us from believing we can achieve them.

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