In Studio With...

Watercolour wonder woman Claudia Liebenberg

Interview by Melanie Van Der Merwe

Self-taught artist and illustrator Claudia Liebenberg, works in graphite, ink and watercolour and has applied her hand to everything from logos to T-shirts, journal covers to stationery. 

She's especially in love with watercolour.

"What I find so insane about watercolour is not a single piece is the same – it never responds the same and it’s this unpredictability that makes each piece so uniquely finger-printed. Love it! To watch the ocean move and change colour, and then watch the paint do the same and then be captured in a shape I set out, man that is rewarding."

Coming from a small town where "ladies were ladies and the gents were rugged and hard-working" Claudia was exposed to old-world skills like garment design, carpentry, music, dance and fine art, all of which contributed to making her the artist that she is today. Living by the ethos that, "Nothing of quality comes easy. That’s a good thing, character takes time." Her motorhead dad and classic beauty mom have a respect for craft and an equal love for both machines and mascara.

How did you get into what you're doing today?
Becoming an artist wasn’t really an option, but reserved as a dream rather. To this day, I have never been in an art class. There weren’t any available at school and so that made it impossible to pursue after school. I headed to the Western Cape to go study Science at Stellenbosch University, and then went on to do my honours in Family Psych. It’s not weird at all, that path. It has it’s place and I hope to work some of it into my future plans. I kept at the art because I loved it and after the studies and pursuing some craft avenues (some being heavy dead ends), I was awarded this opportunity to pursue this passion.

What art do you most identify with?
I like intensity and honesty in art. Art with a story. My walk with art so far is drawn from my own heritage, other people's stories and the act of overcoming obstacles. Referring then to the leather shoe pieces; what grit is seen in these humble accessories. They take so many hits and get you where you need to be, and the best thing about leather is it carries its scars so well. It just gets better with age. In a society that praises youthfulness and beauty (no judgement, I’m still a twenty-something), appreciating the genuine textures that come with some distance is so inspiring.

What themes do you pursue? 
Honesty in lines, form and function. Graceful grit. The colour fill is the part that is set free to transform as it wants, and guided by the light reflected in the subject. Though I paint many other genres that I relate to personally - from botanical scenes to leather shoes, like these pieces that are featured here on Superbalist, Motorart is my main focus. Vintage motorcycles and the odd classic car is my day job. Heck, I’m not complaining.

What’s your favourite artwork and why?
That would definitely be the leather shoes! I love leather, and keep my hands practiced (and bleeding) with this craft. Shoes are just for the win. I think these are like maps, apart form the loyal friends, our soul’s milage is reflected in things like our journals and our shoes. I have pairs with so much story, they have been with me across borders, through winters and just never get old. Timeless. I love that!

What is your dream project?
Wow, so many! I would love to be able to travel abroad for some time and work on projects. California, Aussie, EU to name a few. Collect stories and pieces and compile it into a book, even if only for my eyes. Also, to be a part of some expo’s abroad, there are a few on my radar. 

Name three artists you’d like to be compared to.
If I must be honest I don’t mind being compared to another artist’s style by others, I just don’t do that myself. I haven’t been compared to anyone that I know of, so I can’t really name someone specific for you. With regards to style, the uniqueness of each individual comes through in their product and their product is a growing one as our influences and environments change. But making comparisons personally, I would rather look at artists (musos, photographers, illustrators etc) and business people's work ethic and character portrayed in how they go about bringing pieces/ products to life, be it woodwork or motorbike building or delicately curated homeware, and learn from their process.

Favourite or most inspirational place?
On the road. I love being on the road, and kilometers of space to let the mind run free and wild. I am inspired by silence outside, gosh we can live so fast! 
Music, nothing like a late night oil burn with loud classic rock, blues and fresh coffee. These caffeine-fuelled nights often leave me with pages full of ideas, and hands itching to start.
Explain the creative scene where you are based?
I recently moved into a garage space that serves as my studio. It’s perfect with it’s raw bricks and cement floors and I'll be making it more homey soon with some comfy seats, take to the walls with framed art and include some fresh plants... So exciting! I am based in Stellenbosch at the moment, a heritage filled town, and it’s art buyer ranges from modern simplicity to the mature-layered taste. This town knows quality. The Cape Town scene is fast and very talented, artists push out pieces with so much depth so quickly because there are so many in a small space (e.g. Woodstock), that one must often take a purposeful moment to appreciate the guy’s journey in making this, paying respect to the maker, knowing this wasn’t an easy journey for him either. Salute! It’s actually a weird question to answer, because although I work in these two local towns, I cater almost 90% for clients abroad. This is an amazing continuous learning experience and so humbling. The variety in creative scenes abroad keep me on my toes, I love it!