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Artist Feature: Scott Harris

Artist Feature: Scott Harris

We get to interview an awesome artist today, who also teaches at DAS: School of Art and Design. He also hosts a few courses on Udemy.

On top of the above, he is a very patient person, I’d know because I forgot to reply to him before writing up this interview.

Let’s jump right in and get cracking.

Please tell us who you are and where you’re from

Cool! So my name is Scott Harris, Soli Deo Gloria, I am from Johannesburg South Africa, more specifically the West Rand (Shout out to Florida Park and Discovery!). I am a big fan of art. Especially character art!


What’s your job like for you?

You could say I’m kind of between jobs – all the time! I’m involved in a lot of art related things, from working on art for clients, running DAS, building new courses and online classes, to working on my own projects, and pursuing an endless stream of fanart I’d like to do. I guess the short version would be “art”, but the reality is that I do a lot more than just art related things day to day. Like play Street Fighter, de-rank in Overwatch because the matchmaking system is still terrible, and quite a lot of business administration on the side. I do however have those days of sitting in a coffee shop, drawing in a Moleskine and pretending I’m a Hipster in Cape Town, but the real work gets done in my office in 12 hour stretches. I have an Apple Watch now so I probably won’t die of a Heart Attack for sitting that long – well, maybe I will, but at least the watch will let me know before it happens!

Which artists have been some of your biggest influences on your career path?

I feel like I’m always adding to the list, but I’ll do my best!


By far the biggest influence to me is Samwise Didier (I love you Uncle Sam!) – I was in 6th grade and I saw his sketches in the Warcraft 2 game manual, and it dawned on me this was a “thing”, like, you could draw amazing things for a living. I loved (and still love) his style, the chunky look – a look that has essentially defined Blizzard, along with other great artists like Chris Metzen, Arnold Tsang, Glenn Rane and more. I know you may be thinking “But your work doesn’t look like that style at all really” – I know haha, it’s a shame!

In terms of concept art and video game illustration, I’d have to start with Feng Zhu, particularly his work up until around 2005. I love his character designs from back then! Syd Mead, Sparth and Ryan Church are legend to me. More recently, Paul Kwon’s amazing merging of Western and Asian stylization, and Luke Mancini’s effortless painting blow my mind daily. I also love the work of Cory Loftis, particularly his Wildstar artwork. Then, I cannot go without mentioning the amazing James Paick and Noah Bradley, whose environment paintings are the stuff of myth! The oft mentioned Tetsuya Nomura has also been a big influence – particularly his work on Final Fantasy X and Kingdom Hearts. Finally Yoji Shinkawa’s work, so intensely full of style and determination.

In terms of the world of comics and illustration, Kenneth Rocafort, J.Scott Campbell, Joe Madureira, Michael Turner and Jim Lee have been huge influences. I’m also one of the Stanley Lau faithful, being fortunate enough to watch him grow from an unknown to a big-name artist. I also love the work Lois van Baarle (Loish) and Eric Canete – this dude… this guy knows the secrets!

In terms of animation, Glen Keane, Brad Bird and the nine old men of Disney have been massive influences – I guess my work doesn’t directly show it, but so much of them is in there, the inner workings and thought process. Also, I couldn’t forget Don Bluth, The Secret of Nimh just fuelled my love of illustration and expression.

In terms of Manga, Ogure Ito remains my number one Japanese manga artist – his work on Airgear is brilliance.

Finally, historically I would say (in no particular order) Alphonse Mucha, Andrew Loomis, Frank Frazetta, Michaelangelo, Monet, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Da Vinci, Albert Bierstadt… many great realists realists, and so many more of them I cannot think of right now!

I’ve probably forgotten many, many artists in each category, but suffice to say I have very broad tastes and am constantly humbled by the skill of those around me.

What’s your favourite drink?

I’m going to have to go with 100% Arabica Cappuccino.

Which artist would you say, made a big impact on your career in your art style?

This is a really tough one, I’m going to have to list more than one!. In terms of the direction I tend to gravitate to, I think those artists would have to be a radioactive mix of old and new: Glen Keane, Kenneth Rocafort, Paul Kwon, Stanley Lau, Arnold Tsang, Glenn Rane, Andrew Loomis, Frank Frazetta and Ogure Ito. I don’t quite know why, but I really gravitate towards character illustrations, with slightly exaggerated proportions and stylistic features borrowed from both Western and Asian illustration styles, with so many influences from the above artists. Wow, that’s a long sentence!


What are some of your favourite time killers when you aren’t in the office behind a monitor?

Pretty much still behind a monitor – playing Overwatch! HAHA! (I’m a Tracer/Widow main 🙂 ) I also enjoy fighting games, Street Fighter, Guilty Gear, Blaz Blue, Marvel vs Capcom, Soul Calibur etc.


I love cinema, listening to film scores, treating Exclusive Books like a public library while drinking their cappuccinos, destroying drawings with my poor Copic marker skills, and vacuuming. Aristotle called vacuuming an “Emotional Catharsis”. That’s not a direct quote.

What’s your opinion on having multiple soft skills, but having two main skills as a speciality in digital art?

I think constantly learning new things in art is good, but specialising in something, whether one or two, is going to be the most beneficial in terms of in-studio work for films or games.

I do feel a lot of artists starting out want to be masterful at everything, but the reality is that this is quite challenging. Personally I don’t know many good artists who truly are masterful at more than a few things. I think I would add that in today’s world, it seems like a good idea not to just be an artist alone either – many other non-art skillsets can also be of immense benefit to your artwork and your life. Some things that come to mind include an understanding of User Interface Design, 3D Modelling, understanding Narrative Structures, Cinematography, and more.

Do you like chocolate?

Nope! I do like biscuits though!


Please tell us about your courses on

Udemy is a fantastic learning platform, it allows instructors and teachers to have global reach, and impact many more people than they could in just their locality. On Udemy I have four courses, two short courses, one on Art Fundamentals that is primarily theoretical, and another on learning digital art tools, using Photoshop as a base. These are great primers for people new to art and working digitally.


My other two courses, Character Art School: Complete Character Drawing and Character Art School: Complete Character Painting are in-depth 10 and 5 week courses respectively, covering character drawing and painting extremely comprehensively. I worked for more than two years on their curriculum, designing them to be efficient, clear, and hopefully the very best character drawing courses in existence. They even have art theories that challenge existing knowledge in them! So far, there are more than 15000 combined students (There’s a lot going on in the Q&A section daily, that’s for sure!).

I’m really enjoying teaching on Udemy, interacting with my students, and journeying with them as they pursue their goals in art. I may need some TA’s soon though!

Please tell us about your work at DAS: School of Art and Design

At DAS I serve as an Art Director, taking our full-time students through a 4 term curriculum on Entertainment Design or Advanced Portfolio Development, depending on which course they have enrolled in. I must say it is pretty hard work, but extremely satisfying. Depending on the term, I teach everything from Complete Anatomy, to Perspective and ID, to Light and Color, Environment Painting and more. Our curriculum is pretty hectic, but I benefit too – teaching is one of the best ways to learn!


If you could be any super-hero or villain, who would you be and why?

I’d be Neo, from the Matrix. He see’s the Truth, and he acts. What I love about Neo is that he is initially aloof, and believes he understands life and the world, until Trinity and Morpheus free him and reveal the truth of it all. Empowered by this, he no longer “lives” in the Matrix, but works within the Matrix, saving people from this false reality. He knows the Matrix is a lie, he isn’t afraid of it, and that makes him dangerous. Super cool!


What’s your favourite food?

Crème Caramel. I love that stuff!


Would you say daily drawing exercises are vital to getting better as an artist? (I’m asking because I carry a sketchbook and pencils with me EVERYWHERE I go.)

As long as the daily drawing exercises are based on intentionally learning something, and have a foundational theory behind them, then yes (I say this with regards to imaginative drawing). The goal must always be to reach a point of understanding and then move onto learning the next thing. However, there is a popular opinion that “just keep drawing stuff” will make someone better – that is unfortunately untrue. All work needs to be based on solid theory, there needs to be intentionality and a goal in the exercises so that eventually one gains the understanding they are striving for.

It’s always best to also separate art “Studies” from art “Work” – the learning act from the creative act. This is to ensure that we can learn without feeling like we’re the “worst artists in the world!” and we can learn without fear!

If we want to find you online and follow you, where can we look you up?



Social Media:


Twitter: @artofscott

Online Art Portfolios: (Not super updated… sorry…)




Digital Art Products, Tutorials and Free Downloads:

Gumroad Store:



Interview with Fantasy Illustrator & Concept Artist – Raymond Minnaar

Interview with Fantasy Illustrator & Concept Artist – Raymond Minnaar

We had the great pleasure of interviewing Raymond Minnaar, a friendly and talented freelance fantasy illustrator and concept artist from South Africa.. He’ll jump on Facebook out of the blue and submits exceptional works of art and we though it’s about time to spread the awesomeness.


Draw as much as possible, and try to learn as much as possible, be a spunge, and try and meet some people in this industry

Raymond Minnaar

Fantasy Illustration & concept art, Freelance


He also great insight in freelance work and and tips for future illustrators in the industry in South Africa. See more below! (Click on a question to be directed to his answer). Thanks everyone for submitting your questions!


What was your first job in the gaming field?

I Started out doing the odd thing here and there, but my first bigger job was a book cover I did, not really in the gaming field, but it’s still pretty awesome, soon after that I started doing some work for a few smaller indie game companies. which was a good way to get the feel for the type of work.

Where did you study?

I studied a bit of graphic and web design but nothing too serious, as for the art side of things, mainly online courses, I honestly can’t recommend an art institution, they’re often very overpriced,and the quality of knowledge is far from what you can get elsewhere, a far better option is to just go online schools or do mentorships, you can learn from the best artists in the world for a fraction of the price. aditionally the online community for artists is huge and you will definately bump into a few opportunites.

Do you draw on paper first or digital?

Its always good to sketch some ideas first of you want to create something, but normally I just stick to the digital side of things, I sketch, but not nearly as much as I should.

Personal Pro’s and Cons of being a freelancer?

I think this might be different for each person, it been a while since I’ve freelanced, but I can still remember a few things, Flexi hours f, your day is way more flexible, that can be a good thing and a bad thing, with a 9 to 5 you have a set amount of time and typically leave your home to go to work, there’s a big divide, and that’s a good thing, when you freelance from home there is no divide between work and home, so you either tend to work too much or too little, for some this might not be a problem, and for some it would. another thing would be the inconsistency of work, so it’s a good idea to get some savings before starting and making sure you have a few long term clients in the bag.

I started with a half day job, and half day freelancing, thats a good way to start.

Do you think it’s important to first get a job in an agency?

Not really, ive never worked with agencies so i cant really have a valid opinion.

When you get a commission from a client, what is the process from start to finish?

First thing would just be discussing some terms, signing a contract and just understanding what would be required, then some rough idea sketches, the client would choose one and we would go ahead with the art. Then, sending frequent updates until its finished, its a fairly simple thing that I for one got wrong so many times over.

Where did your passion for Fantasy and Sci-Fi creatures / settings come from?

Mainly games and movies from when i was a kid. more specifically conan, Diablo 1&2,Highlander, and then came along Morrowind and my life changed. i’ve never really read much as a kid, but thats changing now.

When creating characters from scratch, what process do you follow?

For me, its a bit tricky, i have a few different ways i can about this, but typically im starting with the basics, getting a proper pose and gesture to anything I do. working extremely rough and then slowly start adding things and polishing the art. Might not be the fastest process but its the one that works for me.

How do you overcome a creative block?

Well, typically whenever that kicks in, its either some external thing thats bothering me or its just the fact that im tired and need to rest a bit. so taking a break is a good idea, but if that problem persists I would look at whats distracting me and eliminate it,sometimes its just a good idea to go onto art station and look at what others are doing and get inspired, or watch a tutorial from your favourite artist or listen to a podcast.

Do you still have time to draw only for your pleasure?

Yes i guess i do, but at the moment everything i do has a purpose to it. but that doesnt mean it shouldnt be fun.

Favourite piece of work?

Oh thats a hard one, i honestly dont have a favourite from myself, i do however have favourites from other artists, but if i had to say its between the dragon chaser and the undead knight i painted some time ago

How many hours a day do you spend drawing?

It all depends on the work for that day, sometimes the whole day from 10 to 5 and then after work as well, sometimes not nearly as much as I should. For me there’s no definite answer

What would your advice be to aspiring Fantasy/SciFi illustrators in South Africa? (good resources, particular steps/milestones, channels they should follow)

To just draw as much as possible, and try to learn as much as possible, be a spunge, and try and meet some people in this industry, theres not allot of us here in south africa but almost everyone is friendly and willing to help out where they can, we have a group in johannesburg area, where we go out and draw in groups, its a great place to meet some awesome like minded people, here’s a link

What’s your experience with the Illustration Industry in SA, any advice for students?

Illustration in South Africa is not as big, but thats really not a problem, because we have internet and work generally comes from all over the globe, make sure you have an online presence, and you cant go wrong

A question from Lee Pistorius

“Are you aware of Gene Wolfe’s classic fantasy-science fiction Book of the New Sun, If not, what other fantasy and science fiction did you grow up on while living in South Africa?”

“Ha sadly no, I think he asked me that before. but I grew up not knowing much in the literature realm, ive read a few books since then, but nothing hectic, lord of the rings, Harry Potter, Witcher series, and then a few books here and there.” – Raymond

Where can people follow Raymond’s work?

Raymond has incredible galleries, we recommend you go have a look at the following galleries and social media platforms

Social Channels:

Thank you Raymond for your time, really great to hear about your insights in South Africa and the industry!

Another big thank you to everyone who submitted their questions!


Cobus the Maya Sensei

Cobus the Maya Sensei

One of our local Maya gods had the thought of making his own Youtube channel and without any thought of a good name, he took what his students dubbed him – Maya Sensei.
This week we chat to Cobus Van Staden, one of only two Autodesk Certified Instructors in South Africa. Now, what this means, is that this man went through his crucibles and completed the 12 tasks of Hercules to do what Prometheus did when he gave fire to humans.
To start off, this is no easy feat and anyone who completes this certification can tell you that this is not for the weak. So; without further delay, let’s dive right into this.

This video shows how to use the Modelling Toolkit inside Maya.

Formalities first, as always –

Please tell us a bit about yourself and where you come from

Thank you for honour and a privilege to have this interview with you, I’m 29 years of age. I’ve been into cg for almost a decade now and love sharing my knowledge and experience with people, whether it be life or cg.I feel most fulfilled when can help
others reach their potential.i got my autodesk certification as a Maya and Mudbox instructor in 2011 and recently got certified as a Vray licensed instructor for maya (2014)


What has been one of your defining moments in your career, that made you decide,
this is the route you want to take?

To be honest it was during my college years at The open Window where a few of my class mate told me that I have a really in-depth way of explain certain concepts. They tried to encourage me to do it more often because i’m good at it. It took me about a year to think this through and decided to start giving lessons during the evening where i honed my skills as an artist and at the same time become comfortable to stand in front of crowds. I am very grateful for those who stood by me and keep me motivated every step of the way.


Now, you are one of two Autodesk Certified Instructors in South Africa and this is really something we hear about very rarely.

What was the most rewarding moment for you, when you obtained this certification?

I would say the journey leading up to getting my certification was probably more special to me.

Please tell us about this journey, what did it entail?

Going to Vancouver Canada was an experience of a life-time and sharing the journey with a dear friend of mine, Chris Combrink who helped me so much on this journey and an amazing boss Gustavo Correa who gave me this amazing opportunity, was the most rewarding.

What was the most difficult obstacle for you to overcome during this course?

Calming the nerves and presenting in front of an audience half of them was pretend students and the rest was Autodesk certified evaluators. Check off all the things that I had to do and raising their brows when I did something wrong. It was nerve racking. In the end they were very chilled and we all hanged out afterward. We went to a pub and had a beer together.


This video explains Low-Poly modelling techniques.

You’ve really taught me a lot when it comes to modelling, I went on to your Youtube channel and I worked through your Maya Modelling Series and I always wondered if you would do more videos. Now, you started your recent Youtube Channel, Maya Sensei.

Please tell us what was the spark that set this fire alight?

The honest truth is that I wanted a way out of the regular teaching pattern and do more other fun projects and yet still teach at the same time. So i decided to take my youtube channel more serious and start promoting it more and more. My goal is to
have a strong enough following to start looking into Patreon and Gumroad for more exclusive content and in-depth one to one training. I would be in the clouds if I could teach people my workflows, have fun doing it and get a monthly salary for that.


This project is really amazing, what would you say is the heart and soul of what you are trying to achieve with this project?

Giving those who have no means to get a formal education an opportunity to also become artist. All they need is an internet connection and the will to work for the dream. There are many individuals who seek a role model and someone to help
them along the way and teach them the skills they need in pursuing this career. I would love to give people the platform and opportunity to do so.


What has been some little nuggets for you from your viewers, that made you feel you are doing something good?

(here’s a little nugget from me: I really love how you explain your work as you create items, you teach all the time).

I have to say it’s great to hear when people tell me that they enjoyed watching the videos and felt a sense of accomplishment after watching it. I’ve have a few people tell me that the learned more in one video than in a semester of formal training at an art institute. Those kind of comment really make me feel like the effort i’m putting into these videos means something and truly helps people

Have you ever thought that this would be something you would do?

I wouldn’t have thought that this would be a career choice for me, but i’m very glad it turned out this way



This video explains Maya texturing, using a Cola can as an example.

Something that always comes up, especially for someone like me, who like to ask questions and to gather knowledge, is about driving your own skill.

What would you say is an essential skill for all upcoming artists and students to learn if they
want to become the best they can possibly be at their craft?

Lesson 1 – Learn how to fail successfully. Allow yourself to make mistakes,failure does not mean you should give up. Becoming content with failure will shift the odds in your favour and make you more receptive to gaining knowledge.

I feel that aspiring artists should have a sense of drive beyond the classroom.

Seeking knowledge from many other sources.
Hence: Lesson 2 – never stop learning, try find one big thing to learn every year. I set a goal to learn a new piece of software every year.

Lesson 3 – Loose the ego, don’t be afraid to ask questions.Every person feels the same way in the beginning.

Lesson 4 – Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.

Lesson 5 – Goals mean nothing if you can’t enjoy the journey, this includes your struggles and the successes.

Lesson 6 – don’t get discouraged when looking at successful people, we only see the success and not how much they had to sacrifices to get where they are today.


Do you have a few tips for students, currently working on their showreels?

  • Don’t make your showreels to long 1 minute or so is long enough,
  • Only use your best work.
  • Cater your showreel for the position you would like to be hired for.


What are some essential habits to develop when just starting out in this industry?

  • Communicate with your supervisor.
  • Observation is key and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  • Learn how to productively look for reference and get familiar with search strategies.


What are a few necessary skills to learn, to remain employed in this industry after you’ve made your break?

Networking with others. This industry is more about who you know. Companies rely heavily on other artist who they have worked with in the past to recommend someone for a position.


If we would like to get in touch or learn more about you and what you do, where can we find you?

You can send me a message through my Facebook page:
Or send me a comment on my youtube videos:

Those of you that were curious about the livestreams that you see so often – here is the stream that Cobus modelled a paraffin lamp.

Artist Interview: Klaus Grabler

Artist Interview: Klaus Grabler

We’re always looking to find good talent and to tell others what we found, like a treasure hunt for hidden gems. Little do we know what we’ll find or when we’ll find something, but when we do, it is always something good.

This is exactly such an adventure. We met Klaus Grabler over LinkedIn and started with small talk over digital space, you know, world domination, how the death star could have been saved and how Pinky and The Brain would have succeeded if…

Not long after, we saw Klaus’ work and we were blown away by what we saw. It was official and we had to tell everyone about this. Read the article below to learn more about this amazing artist.

Please tell us a bit about yourself, who you are and where you’re from?

My name is Klaus Grabler, I was born in Salzburg, Austria, back in the sixties and emigrated to South Africa in the late seventies. I like Sci-Fi, pasta, astronomy and quantum physics, as well as (of course) 3D animation.


What’s your primary skill set?

Maxon Cinema 4D, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe After Effects and Adobe Lightroom .In addition I have some skill in 3D Max, Motionbuilder, as well as Adobe’s Dreamweaver and Illustrator.

What got you started on this career path?

I used to do photography for a living so knowledge of Photoshop was a necessity. After investing in Adobe’s Creative Suite I got access to After Effects which, at first was a curiosity but then became fascination and made me want to learn more. Through that process I became aware of the 3D animation field and after some trials I chose Cinema 4D as my software of choice and invested in that. I have never looked back since.


Tea, coffee or beer? (We are religious coffee drinkers)

Lemon Tea (tea with lemon juice instead of milk), one coffee in the morning and no beer. I don’t drink alcohol at all.

What’s been your most humorous experience so far?

Usually when clients think they can have results within minutes….that always makes me smile


Do you have any mentors or colleagues that you would like to send a shout out to?

Andrew Kramer? Does that count as a mentor?
[editor reply: YES!}

How do you deal with PC crashes?

(We’ve all been there, I tend to go quiet and walk away quickly and very silently)

Make sure the software is set to AUTOSAVE every few minutes. Took me a while to figure that one out…


We love all things games and film related, what’s your favourite game, film or series?

Film = The Matrix .
Series = Battlestar Galactica
Game = Grid 2, Command & Conquer, Driver San Francisco, NFS series….

Would you rather be a superhuman form another planet or a billionaire vigilante fighting crime at night? Or would you be a regenerating degenerate that everybody loves, regardless of you not being a hero?

I’m happy being just me …. wouldn’t wanna be anyone else.


What’s been your most memorable experience that has left you thinking differently about the way you approach your work and what you want to do?

I had a client that was totally frustrating and unreasonable, so stubborn, pigheaded and infuriating that I began to hate the work I had to do for him.I worked my ass off, pulling all nighters, doing DOZENS of revisions of every single element, and at the end of the contract, he still had the audacity to demand a discount!

I realised that money isn’t everything and so now if I’m not happy with the clients’ attitude or treatment of me I probably won’t take on the work.

Do you have any words of wisdom that you would like to share with aspiring artists?

Believe in yourself, never stop learning and trying, be your own best critic, and for God’s sake UNINSTALL ANY AND ALL GAMES FROM YOUR PC!!


Where can we find and follow you online?

My Youtube channel is Klaus Grabler (just google it) or email me at I am working on a portfolio website. Should be up and running by next year.

Some thoughts of wisdom from the King.

Some thoughts of wisdom from the King.

So it seems that we have a very event filled 2016 behind us and a fresh new year ahead of us, well, almost fresh, it’s a few days old already. But, what goes without saying, is that with the start of 2017, a lot of us are starting college in this field, others have finished last year and are now looking for work – if they have not found a position yet.

This is where we would like to come in and give you a little gentle push of advice from an industry professional.

We have the amazing Sam King from Triggerfish Animation Studios to share some of his thoughts and insights as well as an experience or two. Without further stalling and stealing the limelight, over to Sam.

Click here to learn about Modelling a Fantasy Character, by reading this tutorial written by Sam for 3D Total.

Please tell us about yourself, who you are and where you’re from?

I grew up in Cape Town and I am just your run of the mill, deeply uncool art nerd.

How long have you been in this industry?

I have been working in the industry for 12 years now, mostly in games and animated features. It’s been a great ride, but the vaguely terrifying fact I guess we all need to come to terms with is that you never stop learning. You can always do better. If I am feeling great about my work, I just go look at a Rubens painting and realise I am still a noob!

What role do you currently fill in your career?

I am currently the Art Director for Triggerfish Games Division. We are a team of 9, headed up by James Middleton with Darren Posen as our Animation Director. We do offsite games development work for anyone from small mobile developers to AAA console developers such as Electronic Arts and Disney.

Before Triggerfish Games, I was Production Designer at Triggerfish Animation Studios during the production of the 2015 television short “Stick Man”, based on the Julia Donaldson children book.  

What has been one of your most memorable experiences since you started in this industry?

Back in 2010, I was based in the UK and working on a Disney game. Our organisational structure allowed the leads to define the visual style entirely and I really enjoyed the process of working out how everything – environments, props, characters, and frontend – needs to look in order to work together.  I found out that I was very interested in art direction and design of the entire visual side of an entertainment experience. Everything on screen has to work well together, visual languages need to be found, and all of this needs to be communicated to the art team and owners for the process to run smoothly and well.

What has been some of your biggest obstacles that you’ve had to overcome to get here today?

The fast progression of the technology can feel overwhelming at times, especially when you feel like you have finally mastered something. I try and remind myself to just treat these programs as tools – learn them, use them, and discard them if ineffective. There really is no place for program loyalty.

While you were searching for your break, what has been some of your funniest moments that ended up being some of the best moments for your growth?

I went to the UK on a bit of a whim when I was 22 as I felt I had a better chance of working in games art. Randomly, I landed a job at a little company in Birmingham doing Ps2 games. I didn’t know anyone, wasn’t used to the harsh winters, or working overseas. It was quite a learning experience.

Another thing that has always been a great backbone to my creativity is I find traditional art very helpful and just relaxing as a break.

So I draw, sculpt, and paint.

I think if you are interested in the modelling, sculpting, texturing and concept side then this is all helpful stuff.

A lot of this stuff I do is kind of rubbish so I dont show it, but it is relaxing, helps me push out ideas fast. Something I have done in the past and that I want to do more is do really ridiculous loose sketches and then try to translate them to a full stylised 3d model.

It also gives me visual tricks that I can pull into my normal work if I want things to look more arty and not so ‘Cg’

What would you say is the most important attribute or aspect that every aspiring artist in this industry needs to strive towards achieving?

Discipline really is it. Hopefully passion drives the discipline. Those awesome artists you see are not really the recipients of a special gift. They have generally just worked extremely hard, investing many hours in and after work and have strategically chosen which are their weaker areas and how to improve on them.

Which superhero would you be and why?

The Taskmaster. He just looks awesome, cheesy and ridiculous all in one.

What advice do you have for any student starting their studies with this industry?

Follow your core skills always and don’t try learn what you think others are telling you. It is ok to specialise too, even if it feels as though the South African industry favours generalists.  Try to be excellent at a few things, maybe one or two even, not average at many.

Find an industry professional you feel is at the level you want to be at and make contact, most people are friendly and helpful. They may be busy, but you can find a mentor…for free! Give it a go, just respect their time if they can’t help.

What would you say to anyone, who can not study at an institution, but who would like to work in this industry?

Don’t worry. You may feel as though you are at a disadvantage, but it’s becoming easier and easier to overcome it. Online training centers like Gnomon, Schoolism and even online forums like polycount offer oodles of great top-end industry knowledge.

I have worked with plenty of incredibly talented self-taught artists. They just replace the structure of an institution with their own core discipline and direction.

What advice do you have for any students currently completing their last year in this industry?

If you want to be employed, tailor what you are doing to the style and feel of the employers you want to make contact with.  Also, choose a path; be it film, games, architecture, illustration. Commit to what you want to become, remove weak areas of your portfolio progressively to achieve that goal.

Look at where there are gaps in the industry, and tailor your skills to fill that gap.  For example, riggers are often in need. If you are a animator and rigger, you may want to polish your rigging skills as that may be something that is more likely to get your foot in the door.

Always be polite and don’t take anything personally. If your work is good enough you will find something eventually. If you don’t land a position, take the time to skill up, make your reel more impressive for the next time you get in contact.

Do you have 5 tips for our readers on creating an epic showreel?

  • Keep it short (2-4 mins)
  • Only show your best work. I can be two or three pieces even if they are all that make the grade.
  • Make it appropriate. To the studio and their style you are sending it too.
  • Music doesn’t really matter. Most leads / department heads turn it off.
  • Make your name and contact details clear. Remove any other intro fluff.
  • If it was a group effort, make it very clear what you contributed.

Generally realise that whomever is looking at your work may have limited time so make it short punchy and awesome with clear contact details if we like what we see.

To be honest, I don’t use a showreel! I just use websites and images. I think if you are interested in concept, sculpts, textures and maybe even lighting this would be ok.

Please give us 5 tips for presenting your work and yourself to potential studios

  • As with the showreel keep it to your best work and make it appropriate.
  • Communicate clearly what roles you are interested in and where you want to go with your work.
  • DO NOT plagiarise work. The industry is small and leads or seniors generally know who did what so just don’t even go there.
  • Remain happy and professional.
  • Do not be late. Everybody is a busy as you are.

What’s your beverage of choice? Coffee, tea or beer?

All of them!

What do you think is a good way to approach a potential new connection online?

For example, you’re browsing Facebook or LinkedIn and you see someone who you would like to chat to about their work. How would you go about approaching that person and start building a connection?


It’s usually fine to do this. I do it and I encourage others to do it. People are generally friendly and helpful. If they are too busy though, just let them be and try someone else.


Do you have any role models who you would like to give a shout out to?


  • Pascal Blanche
  • Brom
  • John Howe
  • Alan Lee
  • Mike Mignola
  • Simon Bisley
  • Cassegrain Didier


The rest are mainly artists of the past, but I continually find their work inspiring every day:


  • Frank Frazetta
  • Caravaggio
  • Angus McBride
  • Peter Paul Rubens
  • Gian Lorenzo Bernini
  • Ambrogio Borghi
  • Gustav Klimt
  • Alphonse Mucha
  • Most of the Impressionist painters

Where can we follow your work online?

I keep a bit of a low profile, but you can try these:

You can find my Artstation here:


And my CG society portfolio here:

If we would like to contact you, where can we get in touch?

Just find me on Facebook / LinkedIn and add me as a friend or contact.

We Interview Thinus Van Rooyen – The Bearded One, Tutor and Mentor To Many

We Interview Thinus Van Rooyen – The Bearded One, Tutor and Mentor To Many

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!