Posted Sep 9th 2011 by

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An interview with
Timba Smitswords by , September 2011

Timba Smits is one of those guys who just seems to be associated with all things ultra cool. Not only has he created beautiful type and illustrations for Wired, Computer Arts and Thames & Hudson, he also regularly speaks at events such as Semi Permanent, is a full time exhibiting artist and self-publishes the amazing cult-magazine Wooden Toy Quarterly. It’s incredible that his schedule even had time for our interview. But it did, and this is what he had to say!

Hi Timba, how’s tricks?

Tricks are good. Busy (as usual) but good!

For those unfamiliar with your work, could you tell us about yourself in 3 easy-to-follow steps?

First step is… Having fun with my work. I like to have fun in life so this creeps into my work for as long as I’m holding a pencil to paper. Step 2. Hard work and dedication. I’m extremely passionate about what I do and spend a lot hours doing it. Step 3. My work is stylised to reflect the things I love. In every piece of work you’ll find something that reflects my personality. I think this is very important in discovering your personal style as both an artist and designer.

Timba Smits Computer Arts Projects Cover

Computer Arts Projects Cover

Fontopoly Screenprint

Fontopoly Screenprint

You’ve been working in the design industry for a long time, could you explain how it all began and how things have evolved for you over the years?

I started just over 10 years ago when I took a computer graphics course at Shillington college (Melbourne), going from a know-nothin-about-computers kinda art guy to the whacky designer/illustrator/artist/ninja I am today. I believe in the saying ‘to create something good takes time, to create something GREAT takes a lifetime’ so I’ve got a long way to go yet. But everything I’ve achieved to date has been a slow and patient build up of work and style since my grass roots days as a freelance designer.

Tell us about your illustration process. You’re quite a tradionalist aren’t you?

Yup! Sure am. Almost everything I work on begins with a hand drawing. Whether it’s a logo or an illustration. So my approach is very traditional, calling on my art background in drawing and painting. From here (depending on the brief) the job at hand either gets completed by hand or becomes a mash-up of drawn and computerised techniques. I have quite a lo-fidelity look to my work quite common in late 50’s/early 60’s design using halftones and quite a good spraying of texture. I love old shit you see and I shy away from glossy or shiny things – so i tend to think that’s why my work is kinda different.

Actorbet Screenprint

Actorbet screen print

Wired Magazine Cover

What does Timba Smits get up to on a typical day?

Wake up, excitedly hurry to my studio, stopping only to grab a coffee on my way so as to not waste any time away from my work. I’m kinda lucky to have one of those jobs where you can’t wait to get in to work and struggle to leave for home at the end of the day. I know this is rare in some people’s eyes and so I treat it with the upmost respect. When I’m at the studio its usually head down, bum up for most of the day working on my projects with my studio manager ‘Flash’ and the occasional freelancer to the sound of some smooth reggae and chirping swallows outside. Then after work (usually when my eyes have gone crossed) I will walk home and cook some dinner, watch a film, sleep, rinse and repeat.

What are you working on at the moment?

A few new T-shirt designs for Johnny Cupcakes and Dephect Apparel, a ski design for APO snow, some illustrations for an Australian client and a whole bunch of plans for personal and studio projects. Busy bees!

Timba Smits x Johnny Cupcakes

Timba Smits x Johnny Cupcakes

Timba Smits x Johnny Cupcakes Packaging

Timba Smits x Johnny Cupcakes

Who do you think is setting the illustration world alight?

Loving the work of Gary Taxali, Ken Taylor, McBess and Bec Winnel . These 4 are insane and are the REAL DEAL. I’m proud to know them individually (apart from Gary) and they’re truly inspiring people.

What else are you loving at the moment?

My beautiful girlfriend! >.<

If you could collaborate with one other artist who would it be?

Hmmmm, well, I’m collaborating at the moment with Chris DeLorenzo and Clark Orr of Johnny Cupcakes, which has been an awesome experience and I’ve wanted to work with them for a while so that’s working out. Outside of this maybe Gary Taxali who I mentioned before. I’d love to work on a book project with him. I think our styles would really gel nicely in print.

What’s the one best thing about living in the UK and what’s the one thing you miss about Melbourne?

The best thing about being in the UK is the connectivity I feel as a designer to the rest of the world. It really feels like the centre of the world here and I love that about the UK (London especially). The one thing I miss about Melbourne is my family, close friends and my adorable cat Lord Smudgelington.

Lord Smudgelington

Lord Smudgelington

Do you have any exciting new plans for Wooden Toy Quarterly and Lyrics and Type?

I’m working on the next edition of Wooden Toy slowly, aiming for an end of year release and at the same time planning a new Lyrics and Type exhibition. More to be announced soon folks. Stay tuned to my websites for weekly updates.

Wooden Toy Quarterly

Wooden Toy Quarterly

Wooden Toy Quarterly

Wooden Toy Quarterly

Finally, what’s the one thing everybody should do today?

Break your comfort zone and try something new!

To check out more of Timba’s mind-blowing work just visit the Timba Smits Website.

You also need to stay up to date with the Wooden Toy Quarterly Magazine and all the exhibitions over at Lyrics and Type because your life depends on it.

Get social with Timba Smits on Twitter or befriend Timba Smits on Facebook.


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