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Give Her a Crown—Empowering budding female artists with Ellsphee

We spoke to Sphelele Gumede, aka Ellsphee, to learn more about his involvement in the ‘Give Her a Crown’ initiative and how he used Affinity Designer for iPad to create his stunning artwork.
Tell us about your recent work with the “Give Her a Crown” initiative. Can you explain more about what the cause is all about?

I had the honour of collaborating with the South African based non-profit organisation, Give Her a Crown, to produce an artwork that would be part of the 2021 Crown Collection.

Proceeds from the collection not only go towards helping young women get started on a career in the creative field but also help shine a light on the issues that many women face within our communities.

The initiative was powered by Jaguar South Africa, and as part of amplifying the campaign, a selection of vehicles from their range were covered with artwork from the collection.

Being able to use what I do to help the next person is something that’s been very close to my heart from the start, and being part of this campaign has helped me express this.

How did you come to get involved in the project?

The organisation reached out and expressed interest in collaborating. Its values aligned with my own personal values, and so it made sense to me. The notion that what I do is bigger than me, and can change lives other than my own, has been an important one for me for a very long time.

“I think society tends to downplay the role that creativity plays in life. This cause and many others like it just goes to show how much value creativity can add to important conversations.”

What changes would you like to see in the creative industry in relation to this cause and the wider picture?

It’s always wonderful when creativity is given a platform to help drive change. So, I would certainly love to see more of that happening. I think society tends to downplay the role that creativity plays in life. This cause and many others like it just goes to show how much value creativity can add to important conversations.

Explain your thoughts behind the vision and message for this piece and how you developed the idea?

There’s a Gil Scott-Heron line that I relate to on a personal level. It’s a line from the poem ‘On Coming from a Broken Home’ and it goes, “My life has been guided by women, but because of them I am a man.”

Throughout the entire creation process of this piece, and I suppose even beyond that, I set out to make something in honour of women. The ones who have impacted my life both in a direct and indirect sense. The women that we know of and the ones we never get to hear of—this is for them. I wanted them to see themselves in this piece of art.

Why did you use Affinity Designer for iPad to create the artwork?

This might have been the third or fourth illustration that I did in Affinity Designer for iPad, so it was mostly just me getting into it. Fortunately, the learning curve between the desktop version of the app, which I’ve been using for some years, and the iPad version is almost non-existent. So, it was an easy transition. Pretty much all the features that I enjoy from the desktop version are in a compact device and easy to navigate interface. Being able to create from just about anywhere has been a big factor in creating my new works in Affinity Designer for iPad.

Talk us through the process of creating the artwork in Affinity Designer for iPad.

As with most of my artworks at the time, this illustration began its life as a very rough sketch on my notepad. I then took a picture of this sketch, placed it in Affinity Designer for iPad as a guide and began the digital inking process. This tends to take a bit of time as it’s where the illustration really begins to come to life. In this part of the process, I work in shades of grey—this helps me focus on creating contrast first before I start thinking about more vibrant colours. The idea is that if it works in shades of grey, it’ll most likely work in colour. It’s something I learned from my logo design and brand identity development days.

One of my absolute favourite features is the ability to bounce between the Designer and Pixel Personas. These two personas are essential to my workflow. As I approach the completion of the artwork, I love being able to make use of adjustment layers without having to export the artwork to a different app. I tend to tinker with various parts of the artwork all the way to the end, so never having to leave the app is extremely helpful to me.

How does it feel knowing that the initiative has managed to secure eight bursaries for eight students so far?

It’s incredibly humbling that we could contribute to someone else’s life in this manner, and I wish all of the students great success. What I’ve realised growing up in this part of the world is that what a lot of people lack is an opportunity. In the same way that so many people gave me an opportunity at the start of my career, we ought to be doing the same for the next wave of creatives.

“In the same way that so many people gave me an opportunity at the start of my career, we ought to be doing the same for the next wave of creatives.”

Are there any other causes that are close to your heart that you’d like to support using your creative talent?

Absolutely! One of the things I wish I’d done better at the start of my career is taking care of my mental health. When you’re starting out you feel unstoppable. I worked long days, late nights, learnt every app I could get my hands on, and that’s amazing, but I wish I’d taken it easier on myself. If I’m being honest, it’s probably only been in the last two years that I’ve started to truly prioritise my mental health. Right now, it’s a big thing that I’d like to shine a light on. In many cases, we also aren’t aware of the strain that we’re putting ourselves through, but more than that, we don’t really have many safe spaces for us to say “Yo, I’m not okay.” This is something I’d love to help change.

You can learn more about Ellsphee’s involvement in Give Her a Crown on Behance.

To see more of his work, visit his website, Instagram and Twitter.