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we chat to capetown based illustrator theodore keys

 we chat to capetown based illustrator theodore keys

Who is Theodore Key and what do you do?

I live in Cape Town and I work as a freelance illustrator. I focus mainly on books for both children and adults, editorial illustration, cartoons as well as taking on various commissions here and there. 

How would you define your style or art?

My approach is hand made illustration with an emphasis on the hand made feel. Freewheeling pen and ink with watercolours is what I am usually getting up to. I am a cartoonist but not of the loony variation, if a safe falls on one of my characters they don’t get up again. Illustrative cartooning, is that a style? If it is then that is what I do.

What inspires your work?

Nature is a great inspiration specifically observations of human and animal behaviour, though these are staples for most cartoonists really now I think of it. I am most drawn to things I find funny and I do my darnedest to make my own work as funny as I can. In the world of the arts and entertainment I would say Peter Sellers, Jean Jacques Sempe, Gary Larson and Michael Sowa left a big impression on me.

What are you currently working on?

Writing and illustrating a fictional book about the world of dog shows.

What advice would you give young creatives looking to do what you do?

Don’t just listen to my advice, get loads of it. Don’t be scared to ask for advice, no matter where you are in your career. We are all learning. 

Cultivate other passions and hobbies, these hobbies will feed your drawing work and open up other unique and unexpected niche markets to you as a freelancer down the line. One moment you are drawing insects in your sketchbook the next you are illustrating bugs for a science magazine. One moment you are colour tinting black and white photos for fun and the next moment you are the leading post mortem cosmetics artist. You never know what you may end up doing. 

Keep things moving, keep making things and keep putting your work out there, it gets a life of it’s own. 

Protect the things in your work that make it unique even when trends are doing other things. 

What has been the highlight of your career thus far?

Hard to pick a moment or project. Seeing my illustration in print in a magazine for the first time was a thrill. To be honest most of the highlights are just private moments at the drawing desk during and after completing a drawing I am really happy with. Those tend to stick in the memory for a long long time

Where can our readers follow your work? 

My website is and you can also find me on instagram: Theodore Key @level_shelving

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