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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.

Your beard is pretty legendary, When was the last time you shaved your beard.

2013. I was required by law to do so. True story.

Who’s your favourite super hero?


What effect has martial arts had on your animations?

I would not have been able to deal with the crippling frustration and gruelling failure after failure of learning how to become an artist, if I had not first studied martial arts.

Martial arts teaches you discipline and perseverance, true, but more than that, it teaches you to accept defeat. Martial arts teaches you that the only person who can make you better is you yourself. Everything we have to become great comes from within us.

If you were iron-man what is the first thing you would do?

Give free tablets, 3D printers, and internet to everyone on earth and open an online university where people can study for free. Free clean energy would be next. Then I would make a streamlined version of Iron Man MK III an open-source thing everyone people can download for themselves. Just think how awesome it would be to have elderly people be able to run around and interact with the world again. And then have them blow shit up in a geriatric hailstorm of fire, death, and destruction.

OK, maybe I’d put some cash into CRSPR research too. That seems promising.

Batman or superman?

Did you just assume my preference? I’m so triggered right now. It’s so typical of the patriarchy to just fit everything into some self-appointed binary value system. I’ll have you know, the answer is Szeth Son Son Vallano, Truthless of Shinovar.

That’s just what I identify as, so there.

How many hours a day do you spend drawing?

Sometimes I do 12 hours or more, others just one. I try and not draw on weekends. I can say it’s not healthy to just draw all the time- you’re just asking for burn-
out that way.

I tell my students that you should do at least an hour a day. It takes 10 000 hours to get good at something and even if you’re doing life drawing classes twice a week, that barely adds up to 100 hours a year – which is not much at all, really.

Favourite medium? (or any mind blowing tip that changed your style forever!)

Like Musashi says “In all things, have no preference.”

I like to experiment as much as possible, but I’m probably most comfortable on my Cintiq on either Photoshop or Krita. But if you want to see a dramatic change in fluidity and energy in your drawing, I recommend drawing from life. Draw people at restaurants, and drawing sessions, wherever. Just draw. Everything else falls into place afterwards.

Favourite piece of work?(your own)

I really can’t say I have a specific piece. I like paging through my sketchbooks and feeling an overall feeling of improvement. That’s more important for me than a single piece.

Favourite piece of digital work from a local artist? (or international your pic)

Man! There’s so many!

Dan Clarke’s work is amazing, Nico Lee Lazarus is a beast, Kwabena Sarfu, Lesego Vorster, Tim Jardim, Ray Whitcher, Dan Snaddon, Ben Guldemond, Ben Geldenhuys….. There’s way too many super amazing local artists and I gush like an anime schoolgirl noticing her senpai over every single one of them. Seriously, we have amazing talent locally.


All hail the supreme lord of motion, Glen Keane. May his chisel-point 2B pencil guide us all into the safe harbours of the 12 Principles.

Traditional or digital?

Both. I love my watercolours, and I love my Cintiq. You can’t appreciate the one without appreciating the other.

What is your Hogwarts house?

Urgh. Man the patriarchy has totally brainwashed all of you.

I identify as Edema Ruh.




How many students have you made cry?

I’m usually very neat and tidy and like to keep track of everything, but look, once you hit the high thirties of anything you’re going to lose interest and stop keeping count.

[Editor: Lies, all lies!] #SeeBelow

To my students:

I’m proud of you guys. You’ve climbed mountains and crossed seas.

Keep doing the Thing, guys.

Thinus Van Rooyen

We heard you’re one heck of a Dungeon Master in D&D, any favourite encounters/traps you’ve set up or where players surprised you?

I once had a student, whose character was a burly paladin, open up a chest that contained a cursed bright pink thong that attached itself to his armour. Every time his posse attacked a new group of monsters he had to roll 18 or higher to stop the creatures making fun of him.

What do you plan to do next after teaching at the animation school?

I’m working on creating some of my own stories as comics and animation, and also helping friends with theirs wherever I can. If I can publish my stuff one day I would be very happy. Having said that, I can’t imagine myself not teaching others one way or another.

Who does Thinus think he’s more like Gandalf or Dumbledore?

Gandalf is Istari and one of the Maiar. He was there during the Music of Ainur. He has a sword that’s so badass most orcs and goblins just nope the hell out of the way when he’s there. He’s got some amazing advice to his friends throughout all the books and is really kind and wise, but not afraid to take action when it’s necessary. He’s a Ringbearer.

Dumbledore basically didn’t read the label right on a horcrux and got magic-cancer in the process. He also has a dopey bird that hasn’t figured out how to die properly yet. Like, it’s not that hard. Just die, and stay dead. Does Dumbledore’s phoenix stay dead? No. It gets it wrong and starts over every time. Maybe Dumbledore feels sorry for it, which is nice, but still, it makes him look incompetent by association.

So I’d say that I’d like to be like Gandalf, but I’m probably more like Dumbledore.

Any advice on time management for people who moonlight and have a full time work?

No matter how much you love your work, it will never love you back. Make time for your loved ones, other passions, and friends. Make finding a way to do that your biggest day-to-day priority.

What’s your dream job?

Interplanetary Freelance Logistics and Privateering Specialist.

Any tips for future animators and illustrators?

You’re going to suck at this for a long, long, long time before you start getting good at this. Just keep pushing. Don’t give up. If you’re not going through an A3 every 1-2 months for personal drawing practice, you’re not drawing enough.

Don’t lie to yourself. Whether you’re a 3D guy by trade or a storyboarder – if you don’t draw constantly, you’re putting yourself at a massive disadvantage. Someone who draws a lot and has the keen sense of observation that comes from it will always, years down the line, have an advantage over others.

Where do you see the animation industry going in a few years?(Growing/specific areas,etc)

I can’t say for sure, but I can say wherever it’s going, there’s going to be work to be done for us. 2D is coming back in a big way. Mind’s Eye, for example is doing animation for Netflix at the moment. Then there’s Blue Forest busy grinding away at Kariba. Things are looking pretty good for the industry at the moment, and I’m amped to see where these things take us.

Where can people follow your work?

I don’t have a lot of time for online posting nowadays, but you can see my stuff at

Or just follow our Take It There Challenge on Facebook. It’s a monthly drawing challenge I and a few other animators/artists manage to promote art sharing and creation with each other.

Their Social Channels:

Thank you Thinus for your time, stay awesome meneer! You’re the architect of building a strong foundation for our industry 😀 #SoProud

Another big thank you to everyone who submitted their questions!



Written by Ruan Smit

Ruan Smit started Pixelsmithstudios with the vision of creating a new design orientated environment of sharing, learning and expertise development amongst local Animators,Illustrators,Game Developers and VFX artists in South Africa.