Illustration tells the waka story

Aspiring illustrator and third year Media Arts student, Juliann Smith, has produced visual interpretations of the Matariki Interactive Waka Project that is currently being developed. Explanatory and emotive illustrations of the sculpture in its proposed site show the structure’s relationship and connection to the Waikato’s people, landscape, and river. Working alongside Wintec tutor and PhD candidate, Joe Citizen, her involvement in the project has allowed Juliann to take on the role of a practising illustrator and contribute to the story of the Matariki Interactive Waka Project.

We recently caught up with Juliann to catch up on the growth of her illustration practice, latest collaboration, and her aspirations for the future.

Who are you and what do you do?

Juliann Smith. I am the youngest of four sisters. I am currently in my third year of the Bachelors of Arts degree majoring in painting at Wintec and plan on doing honours next year.

How do you work?

I almost always start with sketching in pencil. A lot of my work is representational, so I like to collect imagery; photos, videos, especially if the work has to be something specific like the illustrations I’ve been working on for the Matariki Waka Project.

Sketching details of the Interactive Waka Sculpture.

What themes do you pursue?

I am interested in the themes of nature and the relationship it has with us, humans. This comes out in various ways whether it’s drawings of animals and plants or more conceptual work.

This year I have also done a series of painting with themes exploring human nature as regards discrimination, and racial prejudice.

Why art?

Since I was 2, I have always drawn. What has influenced me the most to choose art is growing up reading children’s books. I was always attracted to the illustrations, and many of those artists that I grew up looking at are still some of my favourites (Robert Ingpen, Herge, Angela Barret)


Juliann completes a technical illustration explaining how the sculpture will operate on the site.

Can you tell us about your recent collaboration with The Matariki Waka Project?

This year I have been able to work with Joe Citizen to create illustrations of the Waka sculpture project. The pictures have ranged in purpose, from showing how the sculpture will look in it’s setting, to more informational and explanatory works describing some of the more technical aspects of the project in a way that makes them easier to understand.

What is your dream project?

At this point, I am still very open to the kind of projects I work on, but as I gain more experience, I have gained more understanding of the kind of work I am passionate about and the kinds that don’t fit so well. I think my dream project at this point will be to illustrate a book about something scientific but still very narrative based.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Don’t wait till inspiration hits. Inspiration comes from doing.

Where to next?

The next big thing is the end of year show coming up in November. After that I’m looking forward to a post-graduate honours year,  and after that the big world and the big job of doing freelance illustration.

Huge thanks to Juliann for sharing her thoughts with us!

You can find out more about the Matariki Interactive Waka Project here and follow the Matariki Intercative Waka Project Facebook page to keep up to date with developments.