INTERVIEWED BY Michaela Stehr IMAGES Courtesy of 99Perspective
We chat with local illustrator Sinenhlanhla Chauke (@99Perspective) about their artistic journey, the vibrancy of African culture and identity, and their creative process.
When did you realise you wanted to be an art director/ illustrator?
Growing up in Kanyamazane in Mpumalanga I would always admire the art that was painted on barbershops, spaza shops and hand-painted signage. It always fascinated me how colourful and precise many of the illustrations were. A spark grew from there, and it continued as I went to study at the Academy of Digital Arts in Cape Town after winning a bursary through my talent and marks. I was always unsure of my direction but I always knew that illustration and art direction would be where I would end up. The flame for illustration and art direction grew more and more when I started my own business and continued to harness conceptual thinking and practising. So it has been a journey to realise why I wanted to be an art director and illustrator.
How would you describe the main vibe of your work?
The main vibe and direction of my work is creating work that speaks to identity, the African perspective, culture and people all of it living in a space and world that is colourful, vibrant, uplifting and bright.
What mediums do you use?
I use both physical and digital mediums: pen, pencil and paper, Wacom tablet and my laptop screen, but I use a lot of other mediums as references, inspiration and sparks to allow me to think deeper. Literature, music and film influence my work heavily and are where I look to sometimes for inspiration or to just take a break from the ideas and concepts in my mind and seek out a different perspective.
Do you prefer commissions coming up with your own concepts?
Both. I love a good sense of direction and a starting point, but I also enjoy finding my own way through a brief and creative challenge.
Have you done any exciting collaborations over the years? What would be your dream collaboration?
I have done many exciting collaborations over the years with Spotify, Redbat, Archive, Ford South Africa, Culoe De Song, The Loerie Awards and recently with the SAB foundation.
My dream collaboration would be to work on my own sneaker capsule and merchandise with a big sporting or lifestyle giant such as Nike or New Balance.
I would also love to collaborate with local brands such as Mr Price, H&M Home, and Bathu and create amazing capsules that merge my world with their worlds to creative cohesive and out-of-the-box concepts and products.
Give us an example of a day in your shoes.
I wake up almost every day at 6 to start my day with a run / walk to get my body going and active, as I do my morning exercise I listen to music a lot and aim to visualize and think positive thoughts about the day and myself. I begin work around 8/9 and begin checking emails, responding and getting admin out of the way, 12 I take my lunch and read a book for about an hour and a half, from then I work till 5:30 then take my final run/walk to end of the day with a boost of energy and serotonin.
How important is colour and colour choice in your work?
Colour speaks to the tone and mood of a piece, so colour and colour choice should have a reason, colour can change the emotions, thoughts and feelings of the intended target audience so it is important to be intentional with it. But also bending the rules of colours is something I love to do and experiment with.
What inspires your pieces? Do you go by a general theme or whatever tickles your fancy?
My influences and experiences influence every single part of my work, my identity, my story and my perspective as an early 20-something figuring it out step by step, day by day. I always try to have a process so working is easier. I can generate concepts quicker if a deadline has a fast turnaround time. I find mindmaps, sketching thumbnails and visualising work help me with that a lot.
How do you bring local elements or pop culture references into your work?
It is not a matter of how – because my work is heavily inspired by my black identity growing up as an African. The African narrative, identity, language, culture and people are so rich in inspiration that it is such a joy to infuse into my work depending on context.
Plans for the future?
My plans for the future are to create more impactful work. To collaborate and attract as many brands, people and friends to work and create magic with.