We chose Chris Venter as our Honorable Mention for May because he has been an inspiration to us as a freelance illustrator. He was kind enough to give us some one on one time to ask him some of these questions.
Tell us about yourself and how your passion started?
Hi I’m Chris, and I’m addicted to drawing pictures, pulling all nighters, working for peanuts and most of all procrastinating. My passion for pictures started early, very early. In fact when my mother felt me kicking from within her stomach I was actually poking her with a pencil from the inside (probably trying to tell her to give me a coloring book)… I started off as a very quite loner child, I was either playing with my lego’s, drawing pictures for my grandmother or looking at the pictures in my picture books. In the end it all paid off, today I am an illustrator of picture books. Now-a-days instead of drawing pictures for my grandmother I give her signed copies of my picture books. I still read other picture books and when I see lego’s I still play with it.. so not much has changed since I was a child. I prefer it that way 🙂
Long story short, After highschool I went on to study graphic design at Cape Peninsula University of Technology. I obtained my Btech Degree after four years, achieving the only Cum Laude and winning the Merit award for that year [Editor: Congrats!]. This all happened between 2005 – 2008. During my studies I was immensely influenced by my illustration lecturer, (who is a world renowned and award winning picture book illustrator might I add) Piet Grobler. He showed me the ropes quite well, so a few months after I finished my studies I sent some of my work out through email to book publishing companies, and luckily it didn’t take long for me to get my first manuscripts back. I was one of the lucky ones to have made it in the SA book industry so far. I started back then and today I am still doing it. And I could not feel any more content about what I to. It’s hard work all of the time and sometimes the salary is good, sometimes it’s just okay, but in the end it all depends on how well my planning was beforehand. I wouldn’t want to do anything else than what I do today. I hardly notice the hard work that I put in every day. That’s just how fulfilling freelancing is to me.
What is your favorite character to draw?
This is quite a difficult question. There are so many. I love converting animals into characters. Also some of my favorite work featured a variation of different monsters. I also love drawing pirates for some reason. There is something great to me about a character that gets to say ‘Aaargh’ all the time 🙂
Which designing platform do you use to create your work?
I use a good pc, 8GB ram, 2.66ghz qaudcore cpu, Nvidia Geforce GTS 250 graphics card. It’s probably a bit out of date at the moment but I don’t have any problems. It still plays the latest games so… anyway, I might upgrade to a mac someday purely for my work, but it’s not needed at this stage. Programs that I use almost everyday are Adobe photoshop CS3, Adobe Illustrator CS3 and Adobe Indesign CS3. I think it’s also worth mentioning that I invested in a Wacom Cintiq 12 inch tablet last year. The price was through the roof because I had to have it imported, but it is worth it 100%. I CAN NOT go a day without my cintiq. It’s basicly an extra plugin and portable screen that I can draw and paint on directly using a special pen. It’s obviously connected with my pc. Believe me, this is worth looking into for all digital illustrators and even designers, and also worth every cent. My work is better and ten times as fast with my Cintiq.
What is your favorite piece of work?
Hard to say, I have a book coming out this month called “Waarvoor is seerowers bang”. This was definitely one of my favorites. Also my first picture book, “Karla Krullebol” have some successful pictures in as well. I was fortunate enough to win my first national illustration award for “Karla Krullebol” in 2011.
If you actually meant other people’s work here is my list: Anything by Quentin Blake, Oliver Jeffers, Piet Grobler, Niki Daly, Alex Ross, Jim Lee and even Tim Burton’s illustration work, is all I need to feel inspired. Also a few episodes of Naruto (anime) or good graphic novels also get me in the mood to do my own thing, so I guess these are all my favorite work.
Who was the biggest client you work for?
Lapa Publishers, NB Publishers, Oxford University Press and many more. These were just the biggest I think.
Any tips and advice on freelance work and acquiring new projects?
Keep deadlines; Never stop building up and breaking down your portfolio; Always be professional and know when to voice your opinions; if freelance is not for you, don’t force it upon yourself.. This is a hard industry and you will rarely find anyone caring about your aches and pains. So be absolutely sure this is for you. In the end I found that the more you expand your connections the more work will come your way. It helps to begin at the bottom as with any job, work your way up and become a regular somewhere. It helps to have an online portfolio!!! Lastly you are going to have to pay 18% tax (in SA) on everything you do so be ready for that. Get to know your target market, especially in South Africa with all its different cultures, you will soon realize what I mean with this. SA books are still a bit old-fashioned here and there against the rest of the world’s standards. So don’t expect to always have the freedom to work in your own style.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The best thing about this job by far is sleeping late, not having a boss, dodging morning traffic and being able to play games while all my friends are stuck at work 😉 Hope you enjoyed!
Here are some of Chris Venter’s others work
Thank you for the interview Chris, we appreciate it! Keep on inspiring!
If you want to talk to Chris then drop us a mail and we’ll get you in contact with him or mail him directly at supacee(at)hotmail.com
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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.