Meet Andile Bokweni, a digital illustrator who portrays Black women through a delicate, graceful lens.
Andile uses florals, plants, and natural scenery to accentuate portraits and create a peaceful, yet gorgeous outcome.
What sparked your interest in illustrations?
Naturally, I think I’m a storyteller. I studied film and television, but soon after graduating, I found myself editing wedding videos and assisting on productions with storylines that did not inspire me. In January 2019 I was a set dresser for a short film; the director was so passionate about this project he almost lost it on set a couple of times. That experience changed my “let’s get paid and call it a day” mentality, so I took a break from working and started drawing on my sister’s iPad as a distraction. Since then I have never been able to let it go and can't see myself doing anything else (now I have my own iPad).
What do you like to illustrate and why?
I think looking at my Instagram feed it would be obvious that I love illustrating women of colour, flowers, and plants; but my favourite thing to illustrate are lemon trees in a pot plant. I just love the colour combination of the green, yellow, and brown. Also, I love what they represent to me: “When life gives you lemons, plant a lemon tree”.
Do you believe you have a style?
No, I’m currently exploring different techniques and I think my current style will definitely change.
What motivates your choice of colour palettes and the shapes that you use?
Personal taste, I pick colours and shapes that I’m naturally drawn to.
Are there any particular themes or messages you strive to convey through your artwork?
Last year a beautifully kind lady direct messaged me. She said her dad recently passed on and it had been an incredibly difficult time for her. Her friends got her one of my art prints (Peace Lilies) and she thanked me for creating artwork that she can relate to as a biracial woman; it gave her a reason to smile. To have my art be part of someone’s healing journey is something special and I hope to continue putting a smile on people's faces through my art.
Why do you texturize your work in the way that you do?
I love textures! Using textures adds character to my art.
What are some interests or influences that you believe have contributed to your artwork?
Poetry, music, and films definitely influence my art.
Looking For Happiness
How long have you been creating digital illustrations?
I have been creating digital art for 3 years but I started drawing in my teens.
When first beginning to create digital illustrations, what helped you refine your technique and strengthen your work?
Practice, if you keep at it you keep finding ways to do it better than you did before. The process is continuous, you just keep growing and learning.
Have you ever made other forms of artwork?
On a “professional level” just digital art; on a more personal level I love clay. I have made earrings and cups out of clay, it's something that keeps me creative when I’ve hit an art block or feel a lack of motivation.
What is the significance of flowers shown throughout your work?
To me, flowers represent growth. A field of flowers is a space where things can grow and bloom. Spaces that don’t allow things to grow can only be filled with objects - and objects do not grow, they break.
Black women are a consistent muse in your portraits, why is their representation so prevalent?
Solange Knowles once said “I am a Black woman so the work will always be through the lens of a Black woman” and I 100% relate to that!
ANDILE SHARES AN OVERVIEW BEHIND THE CREATION OF "LEMON TREE":
To start, I found reference images, sketched out the main element which is the lemon tree, added colour, then muted the layer so that I could create the girl holding the lemon tree plant.
I don’t have a special process aside from when I add textures. I struggled to balance the colours, [but overall] my favourite thing about it is the lemon tree. Honestly, this artwork started with just a lemon tree and I didn’t aim for anything specific. I just started it and it ended with that result.
[In terms of how I felt about it], I had doubts; I didn't feel like it was impactful but now I’m glad I shared it.
Have you ever reflected on past pieces that you’ve created and looked at them from a different perspective?
Yes, I titled it “Misty Water”, it was part of a 12 piece collection I did in 2020. I loved it from day one. I thought it was aesthetically beautiful and now when I look at it, I think it is my most honest piece of art I have ever created.
Relating to your art, do you have any goals for the future?
Yes, one day I would love to have an art channel. I could do it right now but I just have so much going on; but definitely in the future!
In the process of creating work, what have you learned about yourself?
That I am a storyteller. I had doubts before, but now I am confident in my ability to tell a story without words.
View more of Andile's work on Instagram: @artbyandileh
Order Wall Art & Cushions