Thinus Van Rooyen is one of those special and one of a kind tutors you’d find in a million to one ratio. He would never admit it but he has a special way of encouraging students to improve themselves and has a knack for sharing and imparting knowledge. We wanted to do a special interview with Thinus to give this man the exposure he deserves so we asked his students to send us questions they would like him to answer.

He also has great advice and tips for future artists and talks about where the industry in South Africa is heading. See more below! (Click on a question to be directed to his answer). Thanks everyone for submitting your questions!

Tell us a bit more about yourself?

I’m 27, and very fortunate to be a teacher at The Animation School, where I run the visual narrative course. This is a fancy way of saying I show people how to draw pictures, and how to make those pictures make sense. When I’m not doing that, I spend my time working freelance as a storyboard artist and character designer. Whilst I’m doing that, I love listening to either fantasy and science fiction audiobooks, or if I’m feeling particularly hipster, my classic rock vinyl collection. When I’m not doing that, I like to write and draw my own stuff. When I’m not doing that, I also practice kendo/kenjutsu, sport shooting, motorcycling, reading, playing guitar, and taking luxurious candle-light bubble baths whilst I comb my beard, shushing it gently whilst making cooing noises. It’s the small things in life.

Where did you study?

I got a BA in Creative Writing at UNISA. Whilst doing that, I taught myself drawing, animation, and digital sculpting on the side. Currently, I’m finishing up my Honours in Digital Arts at Wits.

Who is your mentor/inspiration?

First and foremost, my parents. They are the most hard working, loving, and honourable people I know and inspire me every day. Artistically, I’d say guys like Dan LuVisi had a big influence on me as an artist. I used to try and emulate Dan’s and Dave Rapoza’s work so much years back, and I think I learned a great deal from it.

As for mentors, I’d say I consider my close artistic friends to be my greatest mentors. Barend Chamberlain, a fantastic designer and his fiancée Gretchen Schoeman were my first true mentors, I think. Another is Lesego Vorster, a fellow animator. Vorster and I were the first two lecturers at the Johannesburg Animation Campus, and through that we forged a strong bond. We think similarly about stuff, but constantly challenge one another to improve. There’s no one-upmanship there – just the desire to work on our craft. If you want a mentor, I can’t think of a better type of person than that.

Lastly, I actually consider our headmaster, Nuno Martins, as a mentor as well. He’s been a constant guide and shoulder to lean on when it comes to working with how to work with students, and how to always push as far as one can.

Why did you get into journalism before animation and does it synergise well with your current job?

Journalism felt like the natural starting job for me when I was studying Creative Writing – it’s where quite a few famous writers started out, actually. There’s also the fact that, apart from my fellow artists, very few people thought it was a good idea for me to get a job in digital arts. They could either not see the connection it has to storytelling, or didn’t believe SA’s industry was big enough.

To be honest, though, ten years ago the industry probably wasn’t big enough, so at the time they might have been right.

There was this day, though, that my editor walked up to me and said :”Thinus, why aren’t you doing anything with your art it’s so good oh, by the way this article on truck tyres isn’t exciting enough we’re not extending your contract OK thank you bye.”

So I decided to take her advice, and well, I haven’t regretted it ever since.

As for synergy I can say it might seem weird that a background in journalism would help as an animator, but the fact is, I wanted to be a writer first. So, my experience in creative writing has had a big influence on me as a visual storyteller. Ultimately, wether the picture is just in your head, or on a piece of paper, it still needs a story. Story is everything in animation, so I feel it’s helped me teach our students a great deal.

How do you even?

I don’t. No one does. Life is chaos and out of anyone’s control. So stop worrying so much.