Phila Hillie is a Joburg-based illustrator whose work is inspired by women, particularly women of colour, and explores various ways of representing and celebrating them. She also looks to the relationship these women have with culture and space in the South African context.
It was during her architecture studies that she developed a love of Photoshop. “I used it to set up my presentations,” she says. “First I was using Photoshop to make collages from paintings that I had scanned, and then I eventually started playing around with figures, shapes and making abstract spaces. Essentially, I taught myself and then started looking up other illustrators to get a feel for the style I wanted.”
Phila has always loved art and the act of making. “I’ve experimented with everything from fashion design, painting and even being a musician at some point,” she says. “Working with my hands is the best way that I can express myself, explore life and decompress.”
For her illustrations of Deborah Day Care for our 5 Compassionate Communities campaign, Phila created images of the children being cared for by the Parklands initiative run by Mary Ogboko, as well as some of the parents who have found support there.
“My style of illustration is very simple,” she explains. “It focuses on people and their stories, so it was important for me to capture the warm spirit of this day-care centre and also give these people a platform that makes them feel seen. It means a lot to me to be trusted with the stories of such special people.”