Wesley van Eeden is an artist, illustrator, graphic designer and painter, and his portfolio matches his boundless talent. He is part of the RVCA Artist Network Programme, his work decorates walls across South Africa, and he just released two brand new prints.
Here’s what inspires his momentum:
What influences your work (online and offline)?
As I am nearing my mid thirties, my family has become the biggest influence in my work. Watching our 2 year old boy grow and be stoked on life and discovering new things has given me a renewed interest and appreciation of life on a different level. You certainly look at life differently when you become a father.
I try my best to steer clear of looking at art on the internet nowadays and try and look at things in my local environment to help generate unique points of reference for my work. I think the worst mistake a creative can do is just look at things globally to find their own voice – it’s important to delve into one’s own roots, culture and environment.
Tell us about the RVCA Artist Network Program. What are you working on for this project? How did you get involved, what does the programme mean to you and what (in your opinion) is the significance of the programme in a local context?
I discovered the RVCA Artist Network Program around 2005, when one of my old bosses came back from a trip to California with a copy of RVCA’s ANP Quarterly Zine. At this stage I had already discovered artists such as Barry Mcgee and Margaret Killgallen and this edition of the zine had some really cool interviews with them and Ian Mackaye from Fugazi.
Growing up in the South African Punk scene the zine resonated with me and I started to dig a little deeper on the brand. So I discovered that RVCA does more than slap t-shirts on an artists’ back. They help support artists in funding projects. RVCA also owns galleries, which gives artists the opportunity to show their work in a public space. Most of the artists on the programme do not fit into the stereotypical “art scene”, and usually come from a more organic aesthetic – whether it’s from skateboarding, punk rock or the township.
I think the significance behind the programme is that RVCA helps these “would be outcasts of the art world” to further themselves and their careers with the continued support that they give to the artists. If you know anything about the art world you’ll know it can be snooty at times and not all galleries like this type of work. I think now that RVCA is in South Africa we can feel the impact that they’ve created with the ANP. Since becomming part of the programme, I’ve had the chance to meet a lot of influential South African creatives, like Christian Conradie and Fuzzy Slipperz! There is not much funding going on for artists in South Africa, so RVCA’s support is invaluable.
Learn more about RVCA’s Artist Network Programme here.
What was the inspiration behind the mural at the Zig Zag offices in Durban?
I have done a couple walls for RVCA before, and this time we approached Zig Zag to do a mural at their new offices in Durban near Florida road. RVCA usually gives me free reign on projects, with a bit of direction. Seeing as this mural was for the only surf magazine in South Africa, I wanted to convey a “surfey” message in the work in some way. I thought about what surfing meant to me, and it’s all about finding that perfect wave and the anticipation when you see it coming. The story behind this mural is about a surfer who sends out seagulls searching for a perfect wave.
What was the brief for the MyCITi Bus station in Milnerton, and how did you come up with the mural you produced? Please take us through your conceptual process.
This is the second mural I’ve done for MyCiti. It was an open call to creatives, who were asked to come up with a presentation of what they would like to do for a specific station. I chose Milnerton for its history and conservation in the area. Originally my idea was to create a mural depicting some of the first people to settle in the area, famous land marks and sporting activities. After discussion and guidance from Roger van Wyk, who is the director of the project, we nailed it down to creating a composition focusing on the wildlife in the conservation nature reserve.
After doing a few sketches I often look for a “design hero” which would help kind me with creating a unique composition. It usually is not found within the same context of the subject matter that I am trying to portray, which is really great as it brings about unexpected results for the design. So, in other words, if I need inspiration I look at how others have composed a series of elements, which often helps my creative juices to fill in the missing gaps in the graphic solution.
What was the first live painting you did? How does painting live affect the way you work, and what you produce?
My first live painting was at Artspace Durban in 2006 where I first exhibited my artworks to the public. The mural I did was in collaboration with Stretch and a bunch of other local graffiti kids. Since then I have done quiet a few live paintings, Design Indaba and one big one was for a Momentum conference in Joburg. In all honesty live paintings has always scared the crud out of me!
Tell us about the live painting you did at the Cape Town Art Fair in 2013.
I was invited to do a live painting at Luvey ‘n Rose’s booth at the inaugural Cape Town Art Fair in October 2013 and they wanted me to paint a huge canvas in two days! I usually spend a lot of time on a painting and decided to work on something digitally which would then be printed and merged with a painting over the two days at the fair. When doing live paintings I have to consider how much time I have, the environment and what I would be painting on.
How did you go about the Interpret Durban Project?
I try and do at least one charity art event a year as I think it’s good to give back to our community. Interpret Durban is a creative party run by Durban’s Street Scene – a local tourism company that takes people around Durban to experience real life on the ground level, experiences like a trip into a local township, and eating a bunny chow.
Last years theme of the party was “Concrete Jungle” and they invited artists to create an artwork on an old skateboard at the party, which would then be sold to help raise cash for a youth centre. I usually use a mind mapping technique when coming up with ideas for artwork. So, for this one I used the word “concrete” and then listed as many activities that relate to concrete or use concrete in some way or another. Durban’s beachfront is probably the most well known piece of concrete and everyone and everything from rickshaws, and moms, to surfers all make use of it. This inspired the concept for my design.
Tell us a little more about the commission for Jam Clothing Head Office.
You know the story about exposure right? When a client offers you exposure but can’t pay you but the exposure will bring you fame and fortune? As much as I agree on this statemen, I would say consider your options where exposure is on the cards. I got the JAM commission from an art director who actually bought the skateboard I painted at Interpret Durban Party, so in that sense the exposure has paid off.
Jam Clothing wanted to create an interior mural for their head offices which would depict their history on how they started and where they are today. Jam has a distinct target market and a strong South African flavour, so I wanted to create something that was heavily influenced by South African street signage – you know those hand painted salon style signs. We also had the issue of a brick wall to paint on so we decided to paint on found wood which would then be hung on those bricks. The result was really awesome merging found wood and direct painting on the wall.
What has been your favourite project thus far, and why?
The RVCA x Zig Zag mural has by far been the best project so far. I do a lot of graphic design and illustration work, often being stuck behind a computer and it was really great to get out of the studio and paint in the sun! Durban is my hometown and it was really great to leave my mark on the city.
What are you working on today?
I am prepping all the artwork for the limited edition print run that has just been released!
The Pigeon Keeper and Secret Country are A3 Limited edition prints on archival paper, and I’m releasing a limited number of 30 units, signed and numbered today.
Details on how to win one of these prints, and a t-shirt below.
Which other local creatives inspire you?
There are so many! However, the ones that inspire me the most are the ones I make contact with and we usually become friends. I would say Paul Senyol, Christian Mugnai, Spoek, Christian Conradie, Mj Lourens as well as creative studios like amicollective and studio muti.
Any projects we can look forward to?
I’ve got some exciting projects on the go, but my lips are tied right now. However one that I am really, really super excited to be doing is the Durban Film Festival campaign. As a student 10 years back I used to collect the poster designs for this festival. I also have a design crush on Richard Hart who did most of the posters in the past. It was pretty tough getting the gig as it was an open call to local creatives.
To win one of Wesley’s freshly released prints and a t-shirt leave your name and email in the comments, and share this post on Facebook or Twitter.
The three winners will be announced on Friday, 28 March.
This competition is now closed. Good luck to all who entered!
UPDATE: AND THE WINNERS ARE…
Karen, Orpa and Olwethu.
Enjoy! Wesley will be in touch about how to claim your prizes.