12 Sep 2023Mont Marte

Dive into a world of wonder and fantasy with social media artist, @kiaraintheforest. Using watercolours, gouache, markers, pencils, and more, she brings her magical creatures and landscapes to life through the pages of her sketchbooks.

We asked Kiara about the source of her inspiration and setup when creating so we could understand her art journey. Join us to learn more about this imaginative South African artist and be whisked away into her enchanting illustrations!


1. Kiara Maharaj sketchbook illustrations of dragons

1. When’s the best time to create?

For me, I find the best time to create is whenever I feel a strong emotion - fear, sadness, hope, awe, all the intense parts of living as a human is what inspires me the most, and the need to express these emotions and thoughts with paint or words.

2. How did it feel when you started to show people your work for the first time?

It felt amazing! I have always loved showing people my sketchbook and talking about my creations to anybody who would listen. I remember sharing my pencil drawings of comic books with other students in my grade in primary school. And now making video content of sketchbook tours to share with thousands of people. It brings me so much happiness and joy to share my magical creations and inner world with other people. I feel a reader brings my stories to life.



3. How does being a social media artist influence what you create?

Social media has been such a positive influence on my art. I know a lot of artists who burn out with content creation and pleasing the algorithms, which is true for the most part. I believe we, as artists, can utilize social media in a positive way without burning ourselves out. Since sharing my work on social media such as Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest, I feel I have developed my skills more and learned to understand my own art style and inner world better.


2. Dark mansion painting alongside a mushroom artwork and a cowskull sketch

4. When was the last time you felt a creative buzz after making something?

Last night! I love to spend an hour or two in the night with a candle, like a misunderstood 19th-century writer and just write down ideas for stories and illustrations. I love connecting with nature and the universe to find new ideas for adventures, business endeavours, solutions, and illustrations. I find I best feel that creative buzz when I am alone with a pen and page.

5. How do you choose the subject matter for your works? Pure imagination, research, or a combo of both?

I would say it’s a combo of both! Nature is the root of all my inspirations, the eerie and dark aspects of our earth, such as mushrooms and bones, and ancient towering trees with secrets. I might come across a funny-looking fish from the deep ocean and use that as inspiration for a faerie. Even something as simple as an interestingly textured rock serves as a muse for my next artwork.



6. Where do you like to go to unwind?

I have a spot in my front yard veranda, where the midday sun hits all the greenery and flowers growing around. I live in a valley, so the hills in the distance are higher and sprout a few tiny trees. It’s not a fancy view, but I love daydreaming while looking at the jumble of tall palm trees, sparrow nests, rose bushes, ants, and grass.

7. Where does your mind drift when you create?

When creating I believe my mind is the most connected to nature and the universe. I find that I explore other worlds and write them down or draw them as a token of my adventure. In other words, my mind drifts to adventures in forests with an old cocky wizard.


3. Sketches of dark, twisted trees with lore annotations

8. You write as well as illustrate (very cool!). Do you prefer to illustrate first and let the words follow, or the other way around?

Thank you! I think I’ve always been writing first. I often tell my mom that my illustrations are a front or misdirection because my real scheming is happening when I write stories. I started illustrating as a way to show people my stories visually and get them interested in reading them. Since then, I’ve realized that paint and words go together very often, as both are ways to create a world.


4. Kiara Maharaj trooping faery illustration with annotations

9. What’s your fave Mont Marte product?

My favourite Mont Marte product is my hardcover sketchbook. This is special to me because it’s the first sketchbook I bought for myself with my first paycheck. I also consider it a really lucky sketchbook with magic paper, because the things I’ve illustrated on it and written in it have started coming true.


5. Welcome to my sketchbook illustration of mossy rocks and a branch

10. How do you setup your creative space?

I love this question! My creative space is my room, where I gather my rough ideas from adventures and turn them into something more tangible and logical like a completed short story or painting. I often feel like a pixie or witch, so my desk where I work reflects those vibes. I have my art supplies stored in jars and a special skull-shaped jar that changes color depending on the paint I dip into it. And lots of plants and mushrooms! The whole setup makes me feel like I am the protagonist of a Tolkien-esque story, or a tinkering alchemist in the age of Camelot.


Sketch of glowing mushrooms and cave titles The Waters of Nowhere


We hope you caught onto Kiara’s creative spirit and feel ready to DIY your own fantasy world at home. Why not try combining writing and illustrating to inspire yourself and bring your imagination to life?


See more of @kiaraintheforest by checking out her feature in our gallery. Check out some of our other featured artists for more ideas on getting creative.


Explore the magic of illustrating and discover our sketchbooks, gouache, and watercolours.


If you get creating, #montmarteart or tag us @montmarteart on Instagram or Facebook. We’d love to see what you make!


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