Artist Interview: Marelise Jacobs – Night Drawings, Or Pencilling In A Career

December 27, 2021

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Artist Marelise Jacobs recently presented her first online art exhibition, Night Drawings. The Night Drawings series was inspired by a social media post Jacobs came across one night in 2019, about the artist Gustav Klimt and how heavily he was influenced by traditional Japanese art. This drove Jacobs to revisit her passion for drawing. She picked up her art utensils after a long hiatus and started drawing. She then posted her work on social media and what started off as one drawing, became more and more. These drawings gave her the chance to try different styles within a limited time frame, using household items, various objects, photographs, flights of fancy and pure imagination, using mainly watercolour pencils. A quarter of the proceeds from the exhibition were divided and donated to three animal shelters in Gauteng; CLAW (Community Led Animal Rescue), Kitty and Puppy Haven and The 9th Day.


What sort of training have you received and how important do you think it is to seek training (in terms of learning first principles and refining technique)?

My formal art training only started after high school when I studied Visual Communication at The Open Window. Even though I attended Pro Arte Alphen Park high school, I was in the entrepreneurial department, so I never had art at school, but I loved seeing the art kids doing exhibitions every now and then. When I started my studies after school, I felt that I was a bit behind everyone – they all knew all the techniques and terms, all the art history and artists, I only really knew the big names like Van Gogh and Da Vinci. I learned so much during my studies. It is so important to seek training, for many reasons. One big reason is because you are among like-minded people who really appreciate art and design. I had a strange shading technique before I started my studies, which made my drawings look odd because I didn’t know any better, and that was quickly sorted out by my lecturer. The colour rendering and refining was also something I realised I loved doing, and these techniques I would never have known about had it not been for formal training. But in all honesty, much of what I have learned also comes from online research. There are a few amazing resources for those wanting to learn drawing – such as


What is your principal medium, and why did you choose it?

Pencil is my absolute favourite. It is so simple and elegant. There is something about a delicate, detailed drawing that is so beautiful to me. I chose pencil mainly because it was what we had in the house while growing up, but when I started my studies and we covered painting, I discovered gouache paint and it was the most amazing thing – it is perfect for small, detailed work.


Describe the techniques you use most? How complicated are your methods, and why is each step necessary?

I love doing shading and shadows, especially fabric or detailed texture. I also enjoy doing negative space, where the subject is highlighted by the dark background or surroundings. My methods are basic, I think, I try to faintly sketch out the object I want to draw or paint to get the dimensions right and make sure everything will fit on the page. Just getting the basics right is the most important, such as the pressure on the pencil, always starting lightly and going darker as needed. One of my lecturers once said the most important mark on a paper is the first one, and it’s true, you don’t want to go erasing a dark line because you started too heavily – then it’s best to rather just start over with a new page. Looking at the finished drawing or artwork upside down also helps to show inconsistencies or perhaps elements that I missed that I can then work on further. Another important thing to keep reminding yourself of is to draw what you see, not what you think you see. But sometimes it’s also necessary to leave out something, like a funny piece of fabric fold that will make the drawing look odd.


What technological tools do you use in your work?

I love doing digital painting and portraits, although sometimes it can be time consuming. The hardware I use is a Wacom tablet that connects with my desktop screen. I always do the initial sketch by hand – it can be very simple – and then scan and work over it digitally. I use Adobe Photoshop mainly, or Adobe Illustrator. It’s important to create a layer for each section, such as the hair or face or clothes, so it’s crucial to keep track of which layer you’re working on. For traditional drawings and painting, I just use my phone to draw from, if there is a good photograph I found. For example, my works the Wire Angel and the Jumping Spider were from photographs my father took and posted on Facebook.


Who is the single other artist whose style you most admire, and why?

That would have to be the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer. His highlights and shadows were incredibly well done and add so much depth to his paintings.


Galleries and other traditional means are only one way of marketing art. What do you believe are the most important other routes, and what is the most important insight you have gained in that area in your career?

Having an online portfolio and presence is extremely important for any designer or artist. Long before the pandemic, it was crucial to have at least an Instagram account, where artwork or photographs can be showcased and updated regularly. The social media platforms I use for awareness and marketing are Facebook and Instagram – having too many platforms can be exhausting. What I learned about online marketing is that even though there are millions of people with internet access, only a very small percentage will look at your advertisement, and from that small percentage, only a few will interact. So, it’s important to stay realistic about online marketing and social media, but for awareness it is absolutely the best tool there is.


Why do you create? What are your stated goals in producing art?

I’m not sure, I love doing it and I love watching other people be creative. People enjoy art and music for reasons I don’t really understand. Philosophers like to say that logic and reason makes us human, but insects can be logical too, or a weaver bird weaving his nest – it’s fascinating to watch. My art that I create is different from the design work I do. There is a whole different approach and motivation behind it. My goal is that I should like the result, and the enjoy the entire process. I like to see that I have improved, or if I tried something new that it came out relatively successful. I think creating a drawing or painting is perhaps like writing a melody or a song, if it comes out beautifully you know it, and you are proud and happy, even though maybe no-one will ever see it or hear it. It’s just a satisfying feeling.

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