Animator, Illustrator and Co-Founder of Tulips and Chimneys
Ree Treweek is a creator of imaginative worlds, an animator, sculptor, painter and illustrator who’s been seeking out the space between visionary and real worlds her entire career. As it is here at this junction that her stories and distinctive visual language unfolds.
Co-founder of the boutique animation company Tulips and Chimneys, Ree specialises in handcrafted artistic animation. Much of it has a fantasy edge – surreal, dreamlike and intricate – meaning that when viewing her work you’re likely to discover new sub-stories, characters and details with each look as the layers of wonder.
A day in the life of Ree generally involves her waking up and remembering her dreams, excited about the things she’s seen and wishing she could get straight to capturing the fantastical visions that have emerged in her sleep. This is where most of her characters, stories and ideas come from.
Raised on a remote farm in Kokstad in KwaZulu Natal, Ree always knew she wanted to be an artist and her grandmother and mother, both painters, encouraged her as a child. ‘Growing up on a farm in the middle of nowhere meant the dream of becoming an artist had its challenges, so my brother and I moved to Cape Town in 2004 to pursue our vision. I remember clearly what it felt like when we drove our little blue VW Beetle packed with hope, desire and a couple of old computers to the new life that we would create here. Moving into an old warehouse, we instantly started working on our own projects.’
Having received a Fine Arts diploma from the Durban University of Technology, Ree was now ready to delve into new media. At the time animation wasn’t something that could be studied, but she started experimenting with shadow puppetry and teaching herselelf. Together with creatives Markus Smit and Janus Hendrikz she formed The Blackheart Gang. ‘All self-taught, our first project was a music video, it looked great visually but didn’t have a narrative so we decided to give it another go, starting to work on a short film The Tale Of How. This we literally produced in our bedrooms, spending every day and evening working together during the 9 months process.’
When the collective was invited to exhibit their creations at the Commonwealth Games in 2007, they began to attract international attention. The Tale of How, their animated short was recognised by the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and went on to win a further 12 awards that year. The unexpected recognition set Ree’s career in motion.
Today as the director of the award-winning concept and animation studio Tulips and Chimneys, the collective of five permanent employees and a group of freelancers attracts work from agencies in the UK and USA and they are currently working on two major project – one a feature film and the other a virtual reality project.
Animation is a very collaborative process and finding the right team of artists has been rewarding. In her studio the days are always different, depending on the current projects, and as challenging as this can be, the collective effort rewards greatly.
Most of Ree’s characters spring into being is without a plan. ‘I start doodling with a pen, starting with an eye and from there expanding to bring them to life. Sometimes I look in the scratch pad and don’t remember bringing them to life, as they have appeared effortlessly from my sub-conscious. I then think about relationships that these new and varied creatures would have, how they would coinhabit, would they be friends – and bring this into context as I develop their world.’
Looking around her home which resembles a museum filled with her creations, the fantasy land and adventure flows through every aspect of Ree’s life making room for endless opportunities. Very present in her bedroom is the magnificent Broccoli Monster who began as a tiny sketch and turned into a kind creature reminiscent of a comfort food of gentle friend that requires protection. He forms part of a world that Ree is developing called Postcards and Malicious, one to look out for and certainly escape to in the future.
In a world of animation where most people only see the end result, Ree is offering unique insight into the dedicated creation process with dinners hosted in her beautiful home.