see the images throughout this article)
Ree Treweek is part of the trio that is the Blackheart Gang, a talented illustrator "with red hair, freckles and braces; she also has a very short temper, a ticking time bomb of sorts." She has very generously answered my questions and provided lots of unique imagery and insight in what is the first part of the Blackheart interviews on SiouxWIRE.
The Tale of How is available to download HERE and more information is available in previous posts HERE, HERE and HERE.
You grew up believing that a giant snake living beneath your bathtub would drink up all the soapy bath water once you had pulled out the plug. Can you share a little more about this belief and does it have anything to do with the description of The Household that says, “The function of The Household is to purify our bath water and to make soap”? And will we ever see “Rooster Bear” in animated form?
I grew up on a farm just outside of a small town called Kokstad. When i was younger a powerful Songoma (African Witchdoctor) called Ghotsa lived in the area. It was believed that he had control of a river spirit who took the form of a giant snake. When angry, Ghotsa could summon the snake out of the river. Outside of the water the snake took the form of dust Devils or great winds as he would travel by spinning his tail round and round.
The Household is completely powered by our old bath water which turns a giant cog in the centre of the universe. Soap is indeed one of the main industries of The Household - in fact after the 100 yrs of madness the Piranha birds eventually make their way to Soap world and become soap merchants. We will definitely see rooster bear animated one day-he's kinda Markus's character that researches the Household. The plan is to begin on the bear Histories once we are finished with the Dodo stories.
"...if i were to describe him I would say he is a cross between MacGuyver, Buddha and God."
Many of my drawings are unplanned. I pick up a pen, start drawing and get to surprise myself with what appears. Eddie and his family are the result of one of these unplanned wriggles. Eddie is definitely one of my favorite characters - if i were to describe him I would say he is a cross between MacGuyver, Buddha and God. His tail is constantly falling off and then crawls along the ground before burying its tip into soil and growing into a pink flower. Thus wherever Eddie wanders a trail of pink flowers remains. Eddie is the creator of the Household. (see the pic entitled Eddie and Family)
"I was fascinated by the attention and time placed on detail and the blur between fantasy, myth and real life."
Since I was a kid I loved fantasy art. Early influences were African Myths, books like the Tales of Narnia, movies like The Dark Crystal and Willow...my father fueled us with stories of the Spice Island races ...pirates, cowboys, diamond hunters ....
... later I discovered the art of Patrick Woodroffe, Bosch, Medieval art, Russian Folk art, Mayan art, Eastern art, etc... My style really began to develop after my first trip to Indonesia. The temples, puppetry and craft are incredible. I was fascinated by the attention and time placed on detail and the blur between fantasy, myth and real life.
"...I did mostly street art at the time...making little sculptures and paintings that I hid on road sides to surprise people as they walked to work in the mornings."I understand all of the Blackheart Gang are self-taught; is that right? And would you tell us about the course you took (in regard to learning) to get to where you are today?
Both my grandmother and mother paint so as long as I remember I've entertained myself by creating creatures. After school I studied Fine art for three years...I did mostly street art at the time...making little sculptures and paintings that I hid on road sides to surprise people as they walked to work in the mornings.
After studying I traveled the East and Australia for some time and then found myself in Cape Town. Not long after I arrived I met Markus and we immediately inspired each other. We formed a once off group with some friends calling ourselves the Matchbox Orchestra. Over a period of two weeks we produced a shadow puppet show that we showed at a small theatre called The Armchair Theatre.
Not long afterwards Jannes (Markus's Cousin) moved to town. Markus introduced us to each other and we immediately hit it off and decided to make a music video together for Markus over a weekend . The weekend project ended up stretching into a nine month project as when we began we had very little idea of what we were doing - Jannes and I working obsessively every spare moment. It was really an experiment through which we developed our animation style and The Blackheart gang began.
In regards to your drawing technique, do you begin with outlines of the major objects and then add detail, or do you begin with the details and follow them? And what tools do you use and why?
I begin with the outlines, often drawing straight into pen when possible... I then do the patterning and detail. I generally draw all the elements as separates and then composite them together later. Usually i do all the coloring in Photoshop.
You mention that there were prints, animation, and sculpture on exhibition. How was sculpture used in the project? Or was that something created afterwards? And who created it? (If it was you, would you tell us about the sculptures?)
I got five beautiful sculptures made of different Piranha birds the last time i was in Indonesia. This was the beginning of an idea I've had for some time - to build a museum of the household. Since then i have been collecting and making relics for the museum. - old priest chairs, perfume bottles, Moroccan knifes, magical pieces of jewelery ....... I am currently making the bones of all the piranhas that the pirate piranha kills in the third part of the trilogy. It's going to take me some time but my aim is "find" a relic in every country I go to - eg. designing a carpet of twisted patterns of the household and getting it made in Turkey. Its kinda like a treasure hunt, a story though which to experience the world.
"It will be a heavily illustrated coffee table book that will come with a soundtrack and DVD of animations."
The exhibition will be styled like a natural History museum. Let me take a character to explain what i mean.....
The Pirate piranha (you can spot him in the animation, he's the one human legged eye patched guy) will be standing next to a wooden throne holding his Moroccan knife. Hanging around his neck is the pendant of poison which he used to kill the king. Around his feet lie bones of piranha birds he has suspected of plotting against him. Bird heads on stakes surround the throne. The throne is falling apart...we are in a tropical island type environment, the Piranhas are very tribal at this stage. A pirate chest overflows with loot on the side of the throne.
We will have installations like this for all the different main characters - the King, Eddie, the Priest, etc. There will also be maps depicting the route of the Piranha's 100 years of madness, maps of old Otto as well as old drawings of the creatures the piranhas have encountered, writings, sound installations, prints and of course the animations. In short a complete history of Piranhas will be on display.
The book will be like one of those old 'turn the page to sound' Books. It will be a heavily illustrated coffee table book that will come with a soundtrack and DVD of animations.
"I then begin by building up different layers of color with brushes set at very low opacities..."Would you tell us about the colour palette you use and your technique for colouring? What attracts you to these colours and how has your palette changed over the years?
I draw everything in pen and ink first. I then scan it in and color in Photoshop. I generally use photo textures multiplied over the entire image to begin with. I then begin by building up different layers of color with brushes set at very low opacities....usually about 19%. I color by zooming right into the image at 200% In the case of the Household prints after drawing and coloring the elements for each scene I handed them over to Jannes who then composited the prints. In other cases i lay out the elements myself and usually bind them together but placing a texture or color over the image set at a low opacity.
Me and Markus work together on the concept for the stories...sometimes he writes to my drawings and sometimes I draw to his writing."
I try to tie in all my personnel projects with the Household as its such an extensive project that we need an immortality potion to give us enough time to finish "researching it". Perhaps how i became the "motivator" for the Blackheart Gang is that pretty much every thing i do relates to the household in some way. My favorite piece that I've created yet is a picture i drew of BogWorld. I'm also having a lot of fun building relics in ceramics. I am slowly beginning to transform the inside of my house into a forest/museum scattered with pieces of furniture and relics from the Household. I live in an upstairs wing of an old asylum ....so i have plenty of space inside to gather and grow things in. Me and Markus work together on the concept for the stories...sometimes he writes to my drawings and sometimes I draw to his writing. I also do commercial campaigns and illustrations...clients have included Virgin Atlantic, Levi's, Musica, HP.
PS. Any chance of a cameo by a cat headed peasant?
We don't have a cat headed peasant as yet - we do however have have a floating Cat Brain who belongs to Dr. Benjamin and his better bottom Claude. ...but I wouldn't be surprised if we bumped into a cat headed peasant some where in our wondering the Household.
Thank you, Ree. I'm looking forward to meeting you and the others at Otto's hill.
Read the second installment of the Blackheart Gang interviews with Mr. Jannes HERE.
BG Interviews Part 2: Mr. Jannes
The Blackheart Gang Myspace
The Concise Overview of The Household
South African Cartoonists - Ree
Liberated Films - Ree
The making of The Tale of How(YouTube)