Interview: Helen Acraman of ZukZuk

Thank you everyone for the warm wishes for my small announcement! 🙂 I’m getting back into the groove of things, and I’d like to ease back into my regular posting with an interview with the wonderful illustrator Helen Acraman of Zuk Zuk. Her lines and hatchings are wonderful, as are her chirpy color schemes!

Jelly Bean Birds-Limited Edition Print

Name: Helen Acraman
Location: Toronto, Canada
Illustration media: pen and ink

Tell us a little more about yourself.
I’m 33 and I’m not blonde. I was born in Perth, Western Australia but my mum and dad and I moved to New Zealand soon after I was born so that I could grow up surrounded by all my strange relatives. I was lucky enough to spend a few years at a Waldorf school before being plunged into the public school system. Steiner (founder of the Waldorf school movement) had very particular ideas about children and art and children’s experience of colour; learning the language of colour is an important part of the curriculum. To this day I have fond memories of my first exciting encounters with colour at that school. Later on I studied music at university and really got into ethnomusicology which is a combination of anthropology and music.

Grassroots activism is close to my heart and I’m into growing things — my new thing is growing as many edible things as possible on my property and foraging for things that grow wild, it’s surprising how much there is to eat out there once you know what you’re looking for! I’m a huge fan of hiking and being outside. I remember getting my mum to let me sleep out in the backyard under the stars in my sleeping bag a lot. And I love to travel! Some of the best times I’ve had were backpacking and hitchhiking. The feeling of having everything you need (including your guitar) on your back is really liberating and I think helps to stave off any materialist tendencies you might be tempted to succumb to later on in life.

Family Tree Print

How did you get your start in illustration?
No impressive story here. Etsy was the catalyst for picking up a pen and putting it to paper. I mean, I drew stuff at school and doodled on the phone pad and all but never really pursued it past high school. My dad was an architect and I have some great memories of doing drawing related activities with him. He was really into trees and I have this one memory of us observing and recording in pencil and watercolour a branch of a Ginko Biloba tree over the course of a month as it went from bare branch to full leaved glory. That was nice.

What’s your favourite tool?
At the moment I’d definitely say pen and ink, I love the precision and the element of danger.

Are you a full-time artist?
Nah, I’m a full time maniac and this I attribute to raising a child. So I guess, in way, I am a full time artist. It’s pretty creative, there’s definitely a lot of crayon and paint involved!

Zukzuk Too Much Weather Print

What or who inspires you?
Nature for sure, other cultures, anything colourful. I am continually inspired by the amazing talent I encounter here on the Pikaland site and then there are so many neat Etsy artists! I really love guerrilla street art, not that that shows in any of my current work! The herakut duo do some pretty fantastic stuff.

What keeps you motivated?
I’ll level with you, I’m not so interested in the whole starving artist shtick. I’d like to make a go of this art project so finding out each day what I can do and making this new small business a success is pretty motivating for the time being.

Magic Jewel Bears-Limited Edition Print

What advice would you like to give people who would like to sell their works online?
Well, that’s easy — the world needs you!
Everyone who’s creative needs to get out there and do their thing because the world is in desperate need of more creative, original people with unique ways of looking at the world. I mean, have you been to Walmart or turned on the television lately? It’s a wasteland out there. Selling on-line can be an egalitarian approach to the distribution of your art especially if you are willing to create something that is affordable. People who would never be anywhere near a gallery can be exposed to original art and can purchase it in comfort from their home. A place like Etsy is a warm and fuzzy way to begin especially if you’re shy. There’s a supportive vibe there and the set up is super easy for very little expense. It’s fun! Give it a crack. If you do something like Etsy where you are in direct contact with the seller, a very meaningful and enriching mutual experience can be had. You rarely get that kind of satisfaction or service these days.

Where do you see yourself within the next few years?
Did I mention how much I like backpacking?

2 Heads Green and Tree Print

What message do you want to send out to people about your work?
Oh hell, I don’t know. I started off doing some illustrations around issues that were important to me like the environment and vegetarianism but no one bought them! Ideally I’d like to transmit great big themes about great big important issues but for the moment I’m just hoping to make something kinda joyous and alive with colour. I guess it’s about fun at the moment — I think lots of people are buying my stuff to put in their kids rooms so that probably tells you a bit about the message people are getting from my work; a five year old would like it!! But seriously, everyone is way too serious. I think adults on the whole need to lighten up and be a bit more childlike. It’s okay to have something on your wall that doesn’t match your beige couch.

Would you care to share with us a few pages of your sketchbook? 😉
Sketchbook? I can barely find my eraser most of the time. i mostly just doodle faces so i thought that’d be a bit dull (Ed’s note: that’s crazy talk!) so [at first] I opted for no sketchbook! but i’m trying to get over being so shy….

{Thank you Helen!}

P/S — If you’re fan of our interviews, you can read some more of our past interviewees here!


5 thoughts on “Interview: Helen Acraman of ZukZuk

  1. Thanks for presenting this great interview, and showing off this wonderful artwork. This is the first time I have encountered this illustrator, but I’m already fairly in love with the work just by looking at the work here. Skips off to check out the website

  2. I love Helen’s work and it was so nice to get to know her better through this interview. You do a very nice interview, Pika. I’d say she’s really on track with her work – I feel overjoyed by her sense of color and line every time I see her creations.

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