Where: Melbourne, Australia
Who is Rudi De Wet?Well, I grew up and went to school in a little town on the South African Garden Route called George. It's a beautiful town but I always found it very restrictive and a little bit suffocating because it’s so small. It’s only now, many years later, that I think I could return there and really appreciate it for what it is. When I lived there I had no idea what I wanted to do for a living. And creative work wasn’t an option. I took art at school because I had to choose between art or accounting... it was a bit of a joke. After school I went to Holland for a while, where I discovered that I could work as a creative person and that it was a viable profession. This happened after I went to a really good graduate exhibition at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in The Hague. After that I enrolled in a BA Fine Arts Degree at Stellenbosch University and that's where it all started.
It's weird because if I look back at my life all the signs were there – almost all of my school books and text books had doodles and hand drawn typography in the back of them or on top of some scientific diagram(!), which didn’t make me very popular with my science teacher, who ironically also taught bible studies – something I never understood!
Rudi, on being a South African illustrator…Throughout my studies we were always heavily influenced by our lecturers who really pushed us to explore the African/South African vernaculars. It would not impress them if you did anything that looked European. That was great because we were encouraged to put down the Graphis Annuals and explore the townships for inspiration.
His first job…My first job was with the Am I Collective. This all came about in my final year of studying. I met two crazy guys in a bar who were really passionate about making really great work. They told me to bring my computer to their then ‘studio’, which was really just the living room of one of their houses. They were just starting out and I had no idea what was to come. I knew very little about ‘the industry’, which was great because it felt like there were no restrictions. I basically decided to go with my instinct. I had this feeling that if I just stayed with them and stuck it out that I would probably learn more than what I would at an agency. I knew I would be involved in some great work and things would naturally progress. I just had no idea how big it would become. It really became more of a family than a regular job. We did everything together, which was great and incredibly testing in terms of high standards of work and hours of work. It was an experience and an opportunity I will never forget and always be grateful I had, because it helped me set standards for everything else I do now.
Work work work…Besides the Am I Collective, I worked at an advertising agency called Junior in Brisbane, Australia. Am I Collective was great – a very big learning curve for me and I'll always be very influenced by what I learnt there. Junior was also an interesting experience. I'd never worked in an ad agency before so I needed to learn a lot very quickly. The work that I did there was not ideally what I wanted to do so it was very challenging to stick with some ideas and executions that I thought were really bad. That said, it was a good experience to be a part of it and good to see how some people do amazing work in that environment. It was also essential in giving me the push to go it on my own. It helped put things into perspective for me.
Inspiration…I am pretty much inspired by everything around me. I love texture, hand painted typographic signs and lettering, ornamentation, wallpaper and patterns. My partner Lizenka inspires me. She keeps me motivated, and I know if she doesn’t like something that I have done she will tell me immediately, even if I think it’s great! I trust her visual critique when it comes to my work.
Current news…Right now, I'm doing interior artwork for a newly developed woolstore in Brisbane. It’s great because it’s an amazing massive industrial office space. I'm looking forward to seeing my work on such a large scale. Naturally, when you’re on your own you take on some very serious corporate work, which is good because it pays the bills. I think it’s necessary in the beginning. I've learnt to set proper timelines and deadlines, especially when working with other designers, because if things aren’t clear from the beginning there will always be problems.
Love vs Money…Well, to be honest, I haven’t really worked for money, although I suppose working at an ad agency was more for the money than the work. I think it’s necessary to get paid and make money, but it shouldn't be the dominant factor in how you approach a job. Working for myself has been great so far, although I can always take on more work. The hardest part is telling yourself that the days spent on admin are also part of the job.
How the magic happens…I prefer work that has a more organic process – something that develops as you work on it. I find it interesting and the results are always exciting. I tend to have a pretty clear idea of how I want something to look, but it always ends up looking different because great things develop during the experimental process.
Where the magic happens…My studio is at home. It’s a lovely space with lots of natural light. It's been a challenge getting used to not having people around me but it’s also great because I put more pressure on myself to get things done and I work faster with no distractions. Also, being at home, I tend to work longer hours. I need quality coffee, paper, ink, the internet and some good music. I'm really enjoying listening to aKing, a talented South African band, at the moment.
Location, location, location…It’s not important because most communication is done digitally. So it doesn’t really become an issue. It’s only a challenge when you’re working with someone in a different time zone.
A new country, a new style?Moving hasn’t really changed my style. It's just given me more insight, experience and self confidence to try different things and develop them. I find it incredibly interesting being exposed to a different creative scene. I enjoy it because it challenges any old preconceived ideas I had about art, illustration and design.
The hurdles…At first it was a challenge moving to a different country. Starting from scratch again is a massive challenge. But it’s worth it. Melbourne is an incredible city – very visual and an inspiring place for a creative person to live.
In the future – South Africa, Australia or somewhere new?Definitely back to South Africa. Being away from family, friends and your culture puts a lot of things back into perspective. Although Lizenka and I are very keen to give Belgium and/or New York a go first. Lets see how things go!
Formal education…I think education is incredibly important. It teaches you to think about your work and other people's work in a different way. That said, it’s only a foundation, the challenge only really starts after studying. I think although education is important, what I find is that most people in the industry don’t really care what you did in the past, as long as your work is good, and you can deliver what they want. That’s all that matters!
The last piece of work that made him go 'Wow'…There's so much. I wouldn't know where to begin! But recently Micah Lidberg’s work really made a big impression on me.
Jealous why-the-hell-didn't-I-think-of-that moments…Yes of course I have those! I think it’s only normal to be a little jealous of other peoples work. But it’s also great to see work that’s inspiring and see people really passionate about what they do. It’s overwhelming how many talented creatives are out there. It can be intimidating at times! But I try not to let it affect my little world. Only inspire it.
In the near future he'll…Do some great work. Illustrate a children's book. Travel. And have fun doing it all.
Just for fun…I really enjoy exploring Melbourne – all the great galleries and hidden laneways. I also enjoy drinking good wine and eating/cooking great food.