Timba

Smits

My name is Timba Smits. I make graphic art, illustration, custom typography and lettering, and I daydream often. I am a graphic artist because in school I was so bad at maths and science that I failed them twice. One over four to the square root of whaaaaat? I’m ok with drawing ninja turtles, thanks!

My work is all about versatility, detail (lots of detail!), colour, pop-cultural references, satirical humour and a small element of time-travel.

I grew up in Melbourne, Australia, but I now live in Berlin, Germany.

Over here in Germany, they like to make studios (and apartments) BIG and bright – which is well suited for a tall (6ft6), bearded, half-yeti, half-man creature like me. Oh, and the bratwurst is gooooood, damn! My studio is always pretty tidy; it’s full of art, collectables and plants, and it smells like a Japanese incense factory. I’m big on incense!

I live in between Berlin and London, but one day I hope to build a wonderful house and a large studio in a secluded woodland place somewhere at the base of a snowy mountain with a nearby flowing stream and a big fluffy dog named Bosco and a cat called Fudge. #lifegoals

I originally studied crayon wall painting (aged 4), but even at such a prodigic young age, my parents were not at all impressed with the early signs of my flourishing creative talent.

When I was in grade four, I won the class drawing competition for my super-rad-to-the-max illustration of Raphael - my favourite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. I remember winning a McDonald's voucher for a free cheeseburger meal; I thought life couldn’t get any better. Looking back, that was probably the first moment where I thought, hey, you can get stuff from drawing pictures, so I’m gonna experiment with this some more. Who else needs a picture? And what’s your McDonald's-voucher budget like?

I studied “making it happen” at the Melbourne College of Real Life (*editor’s note - this is not a real school. We checked). It taught me early lessons about self-realisation, taking risks, chasing dreams and the influential power of life after failure.

I think of myself as a full-time artist, part-time daydreamer and casual crime fighter who was put on this planet to make art, THINK BIG, spread kindness, help others, pat ALL the cats, and rid the world of bullies. What interests me most about being creative is that you’re part of a collective, worldwide group of adults; adults who decided to never give up their childlike sense of imagination, wonder, and pure and unfiltered love of creating your own fun.

The key to being good at something is remembering that it takes time. One of the most formative experiences of my career was taking the risk to start my own independent magazine and art gallery. Without pushing through my own fear and jumping into the deep end (floaties off), I probably never would’ve gone on to achieve the things I have, or met the people I know. Who knows? And for the record, I still choose to swim in the deep end.

Timba's Independent Magazine - Wooden Toy
Timba's Independent Magazine - Wooden Toy
Timba's Independent Magazine - Wooden Toy
Timba's Gallery - Gorker Street

The best thing about working on commercial projects is (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) but … DEADLINES! For me, it’s nice to have a point where my artistic persona is told ‘that’s it, that’s a wrap, and cut’. Otherwise, the artist in me just wants to keep going, wants to keep pushing until … well, who knows?

I also really love the chance to collaborate with a good team! Being freelance and working out of your own studio can get lonely sometimes – especially when your cat is ignoring you – so it’s nice to bounce ideas and designs around with others.

I’m most known for my iconic covers for Little White Lies magazine and the diversity of my graphic art and its appeal to a wide audience. From highly detailed portraits and graphic prints, to sweet advertising characters and playful type, my work has always been as varied as it comes.

Not long ago I collaborated with AirBnB Magazine to illustrate a set of seven portraits of film directors to watch in 2019. It was a rather special project for me as the selected directors are some of my absolute favourites, all of them indie directors working passionately to reshape the way we think about film and cinema. And I REALLY love movies!

Here’s a recent flower-powered poster I created for Paper Magazine*’s *Ember journal. I loved everything about this project: from early research of 70s psychedelic art and illustration; to imagining my own trippy and dreamy landscape filled with wonderful flowers, butterflies, birds and a colourful rainbow framed by some peaceful-looking wander-lovers.

One of my favourite projects recently was Music Oracles - 50 portraits of iconic musicians that I illustrated for Laurence King Publishing, London. The project was rather MASSIVE (beyond compare, really) but the chance to draw some of my favourite music artists (while I listened to each of their albums) was insanely fun and challenging.

I really loved working with British actor, comedian, writer and director Richard Ayoade on the cover design for his second book The Grip Of Film. I’ll always remember the early kick-off video call I had with Richard to talk about its design, when he asked if I could please hold on while he jumped off screen to say goodnight to his young child. So human. So cute. And a dream client to work with.

One of my all-time favourite projects I created was for a regular series of Timba Smits-styled fun pages in Playboy magazine. IN PLAYBOY MAGAZINE! I got to illustrate all sorts of weird and wonderful characters, draw cute pin ups, and concoct a whole lot of fun type. The brief was to support surprising facts, data, and statistics in a way that was new and exciting. The response to each and every new page was super fantastic and working with the Playboy art department was always such a dream-like experience. I mean, if I could go back in time and tell sixteen-year-old Timba that one day, my work would be published in the same magazine that I was hiding under my bed from some suspicious parents, I probably would’ve died.

Here’s another piece I’m really proud of. It was created for Miller Lite as part of an ongoing series of marketing posters I’ve created around their sports alliance, music, and events campaigns. The brief was simple but challenging: create a robot-type character made up of wonderful musical instruments with a steampunk quality. The style guidelines for each poster are always super-well suited to my art direction of employing bold graphic lines, minimal colour and good amounts of texture to create that signature Miller Lite look.

I love to see my name on stuff! Here’s some crappy illustrations for a collaboration with Who Gives A Crap that I’m really proud of:

I was lucky enough to create work for World Vision. It allowed me to use my creative capacity for a greater purpose and apply it to something much bigger than myself: supporting an organisation that truly cares about people.

Volunteering and donating my skills is an important part of my practice as an artist and person of influence. Every year I create artworks for charity exhibitions, give public talks and spend at least a few weeks giving free creative workshops in London to organisations and charities supporting youth at risk of violent crime.

It’s really important to dedicate time to personal work because I’m inspired by and interested in so many different things. I enjoy experimenting with different ways of working, learning new techniques and processes, and adopting more tactile ways of making art. Here’s a few of my favourites!

Lately in my personal work I’ve been tinkering on a new side project inspired by my love of daydreaming and working on a bunch of new experimental illustrations and paintings.

I’m really excited to experiment more with animation, motion and video in my process because it’s a fantastic new challenge and I love seeing my work come to life, move around and take on a whole new level of possibility. Plus, it’s a whole lot of fun!

Here are some pages from my sketchbook. I love conceptualising – into quick and pretty rough drawings – the random (and often silly) ideas that pop into my head on a day-to-day basis. I often have a good laugh at myself through working this way.

Most of my work starts with a passing thought, a simple idea and a rough sketch. Then I begin some research and gather references as I go before refining these ideas in any number of analogue and/or digital mediums, depending on the project.

I often get asked how I make my work and/or textures. I use a wide range of analogue and digital tools: from paper, coloured pencils, woodblock printing, inks and pens, through to photo and scanning equipment. Then it’s over to Photoshop and Illustrator to blend them digitally. Some of my work ends up looking digitally finished but more often, it’s a combination of all the above. Or I just keep it analogue, baby!

In recent years I’ve been fortunate enough to have been invited to speak at some amazing events and conferences, such as Forward Festival, The Design Conference, OFFF and Semi-Permanent.

That’s me! If you want more, check out my full folio and Instagram. Got a brief? Contact me and the good folks at Jacky Winter.

With Jacky Winter you work directly with the artist alongside a hands-on producer—it’s a power-up for your artwork commission.

With Jacky Winter you work directly with the artist alongside a hands-on producer—it’s a power-up for your artwork commission.

With Jacky Winter you work directly with the artist alongside a hands-on producer—it’s a power-up for your artwork commission.