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Overcoming a creative slump with anime enthusiast Tshegofatso Nthute | #MemberSpotlight

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A creative and analytical Illustrator who "also happens to be a cinema, anime and milkshake enthusiast. Tshegofatso Nthute is an artist that enjoys capturing the human experience.

He likes to integrate nature and the cosmos into his art which is abundently clear in his incredibly colourful creations. Today, we shine our member spotlight on Tshegofatso and his surreal and uncompomising illustrations.

How did you get into the industry?

I enjoyed making art from a very young age, so it was one of the subjects I studied in high school. My Visual Arts teacher recommended a career in Graphics Design, so I taught myself how to use design software such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator and began my career as a freelance Graphics Designer in 2017.

Due to mental health issues, I took a break away from the industry in 2019 and focused all my time on finding a niche. For 2 years, I went back to basics, transitioned to digital art, and built a portfolio around my personality and interests. At the beginning of 2022, I began my career as a freelance Illustrator.

Where are you based now and who do you work for?

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I’m currently based in Durban, KwaZulu Natal and I work from home. Since finding my niche as an illustrator, all my projects, both conceptual and client related, have been traditional and digital illustration work.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

Web or Software Development. Alongside Visual Arts, I studied Information Technology and my first work experience was through a learnership at an IT company called BYTES. Though I would get by as a Web or Software developer, nothing gives me more joy and fulfilment than making art on a daily basis.

Can you explain your creative process? What makes it unique?

My favourite subject matter is portraiture, so it is prevalent in almost all my works. I approach my art more so analytically than creatively, so I obsess over details and well-defined features.

My creative process works like a scientific experiment, because most of my works are project-based. When I get an idea, either from myself or a client, I begin by making an observation through research and inspiration on creative platforms and form a hypothesis through putting all my reference material together.

The experimentation phase is where I sketch or outline pieces of my work based on the hypothesis and I analyze whether the data fits the overall idea. If I am satisfied with my sketches, I digitally redraw them, adding new ideas, or scrapping the ones that don’t work, and finalize the data by adding depth through colour and shading.

Finally, I draw my conclusions and present my findings. The experiment is a success based on whether the client or myself, is satisfied with the artwork and the idea it conveys. Even if the experiment is a success, I try and find new ways to improve the work by experimenting with different techniques and materials such as brushes or use of colour.

How would you describe your style?

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My style is a modern take on the characteristics of the Surrealism Art Movement, infused with the elements of the Pop Art Movement.

Which individuals do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

As a cinephile, most of my work is inspired by the Poster Posse agency. Creatives such as BossLogic, Doaly and Mondo, who create film related art and alternate movie posters are my heroes because they share my enthusiasm in celebrating cinema and the effect it has on art and pop culture.

What tips would you give to aspiring creatives looking for work?

Keep pushing beyond the limits of your abilities and learn something new every day to add to your evolution as a creative. It may be today, tomorrow or years from now, but your work and effort will be acknowledged.

What tips would you give to other professionals to get more clients?

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The pride and effort that you put in your work is a valuable currency. When working with a client, keep them constantly updated, allowing them as much input as they can offer and share ideas that enhance their vision. Handle each project, conceptual and client-related, with respect and professionalism, and put your best work out there and the results will speak for themselves.

What kind of tools/kit/software could you not do without?

A pencil/pen and any piece of paper is where the art begins and Adobe Illustrator allows me to bring every style and technique together. Without any of these components, my art cannot be brought to life.

What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

Staying true to oneself. Talent is a double-edged sword; in that it can either inspire you or overwhelm you. Rather than despair and give up because of creatives way more talented than me, I take every day as a chance to polish my instincts and let my talent bloom in the best way that I can.

What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

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#FromNowOn, an illustration submitted into the 2022 Fak’ugesi Annual Poster competition. Unfortunately, it didn’t make it to the next round, but I find joy in the evolution and final artwork that I put out.

Back in 2019, I was in a creative slump and on the verge of renouncing my art career, so I threw everything I knew out the window and decide to create an illustration based on pure instinct. Upon completion, I showed it to various people, asking for their opinion and one of the answers was that it was good, but it would be difficult to convince someone to buy it.

That statement really affected me because it made me fear putting out my work at all. If it’s not good enough to be bought, why would it even be acknowledged? But I also took that statement as a means to better my art and myself as an artist, reworking the illustration and other artworks as much as I can.

When the competition came around, whether it would be acknowledged or not, I decided to enter the illustration. I decided to do the same for all my works and put them out into the world and I started getting recognized by other creatives and potential clients. This is my proudest work achievement because, despite not making it through to the next round, the illustration had a tremendous impact on my life and art career.

What is the one thing that you would change about the industry?

Social Media marketing, which can make or break creatives looking to put their work out into the world. Whenever I used platforms such as Instagram or Facebook to showcase my work, I felt inadequate due to the lack of engagement. And for an introverted person like myself, putting yourself out there can be daunting, especially if there is little to no acknowledgement.

Fortunately, there are creative platforms such as Creativepool and Behance, which I use to showcase my work. I wish there was more coverage on these platforms because the engagement from other creatives and potential clients really gets one motivated to keep putting out their work.

Any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

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I would recommend creative platforms such as Behance or Pinterest, which offer a whole lot of talent and creative inspiration. But if I had to be honest (and cheesy for a moment), the world is an all-you-can-eat buffet of inspiration. There is so much to consume that recommending a couple of things wouldn’t be enough, so I would recommend gaining knowledge from as many resources as the world can give you.

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