Reynier van Zyl is an all-round visual artist from Fish Hoek who has chosen the medium of digital art as his speciality.

Whilst growing up, Reynier took extramural classes in watercolour and acrylic painting and spent much of his time drawing at home. He began experimenting with cartoons and Japanese “anime” drawings, and after finishing high school, he completed a year-long course in photography.

Reynier’s interest in digital art started about a year ago, when he bought a computer tablet and began creating simple drawings on the computer programs Photoshop and Painter. “It was very difficult at first,” he said, “because I had to teach myself how to use the tablet. It is very different to the other traditional mediums that I was used to.” Once he became competent at digital drawing, he turned his attention to digital painting. Digital art is still a relatively new concept in South Africa, and because of this, there aren’t many courses teaching it. He thus had to resort to YouTube and other internet videos and tutorials as his instruction manuals. He also began to study books on anatomy and perspective.

Although he no longer works as a professional photographer, Reynier believes that his knowledge of photography has helped him to get his art up to the standard that it is today. “Photography taught me about light and tone. It taught me how to look at an object and to understand the technical aspects of what I see.”

Landscapes and people are his favourite subject matter. He says that most of his artworks are images of life, and the mistakes that are prevalent in many societies. For the moment, however, he says that he is more focused on developing his technical skills and abilities than addressing social issues in his work.

Reynier is especially interested in concept art, which involves an artist producing a visual image for any given idea by using a digital medium. This could involve the creation of visuals for films, computer games, advertising and much more. In South Africa, however, there are very few concept artists. Reynier refers to the Italian digital artist Frank Frazetta as “the king of concept art” and aims to, one day, be just as good as this artist who has served as an inspiration to him.

Although he is currently working full time in the carpentry industry, Reynier practises his drawing almost every day and hopes to one day turn it into a career. In order to motivate himself to practice, he created a fan page on Facebook onto which he uploads a new artwork once a week. Fans have the opportunity to comment on the images, thus giving him valuable feedback.

He says that one of his digital paintings can take anywhere from three hours to three days to complete, depending on the amount of detail it contains. Even though it was difficult to get used to digital painting as a medium, Reynier now feels that there are many benefits that one does not have when painting an image traditionally (on a canvas or on paper). “You can’t press an ‘undo’ or ‘erase’ button when painting with traditional mediums,” he explains. If you make a mistake, or something does not look right, it is easy to erase that part and re-do it. You can also leave the image as it is, and return to it later, without having to worry about blending colours while the paint is still wet.

Whilst many may look at Reynier’s work and think that he has mastered his trade, he believes that he still has a lot to learn. However, with his natural talent, and dedicated practice, it should not be long before he becomes as good as the artists whose work he admires.

Anien Botha

Anien matriculated from Fish Hoek High School in 2006 and is currently doing her honours degree in English Studies at the University of Cape Town. She hopes to pursue a career in journalism after she graduates.