After initially pursuing a passion in fashion design, Ruan Jooste turned his focus to photography and now creates dazzling digital art.
We were excited to chat to Ruan about his unique approach to digital painting and the playful blending of luxury fashion elements and South African brand iconography. The nostalgia these well-known local brands hold for so many of us are a reminder of our shared memories and associations, and such fun! See a glimpse of his process of digital painting on his laptop and drawing tablet and read more about his inspirations below.
View Ruan Jooste's artworks for sale here>
After having worked in many different fields including fashion, corporate and photography, you started officially creating work as an artist during Covid.
Can you tell us a bit more about your journey and the decision to start creating digital artworks as fine art?
My journey as an artist has been a long and winding one. I've always had a love of creativity and art. Since I was a child I wanted to be an artist and was always drawing, but growing up in a very small town, a career as an artist wasn’t considered a vibe. I’ve regretted this way of thinking many times but I’m also a firm believer in everything happens for a reason, and maybe this is the road I had to follow to get where I am today.
I’ve always been drawn to technology and new ways of doing certain things. With traditional media like paint or charcoal, once a mark is made it can't be undone. With digital art possibilities are endless, I have the ability to make changes and adjustments at any point in the process. This allows me to experiment more freely and to refine my work until it's exactly the way I want it.
Digital art or traditional fine art, it’s just a medium, what matters more to me is the idea, and what the viewer sees, the message behind the work and the meaning of the pieces. I'm so glad I made the leap and I'm excited to see where this journey takes me in the future.
What are some of the key themes you explore in your work?
As an artist, I find inspiration in many themes, but one key element that always guides my work is a celebration of South African people. In a world where negativity and differences are often emphasized, I strive to highlight the positive and bring attention to our shared humanity. My artwork often features classic South African iconography that celebrates what makes us unique as a people. I want viewers to feel a warm sense of nostalgia and be able to connect with my pieces through their own fond memories. Ultimately, I hope my art inspires unity and a sense of togetherness by reminding us of what we have in common.
Your subjects are made up, incorporating many different elements of fashion, branding, iconography etc - can you describe how you develop the concept and what your process looks like, bringing everything together?
When it comes to developing my subjects, my process typically begins with observing my surroundings and finding sources of inspiration. I draw inspiration from the people and culture that surround me. We have such a colorful nation, everywhere I go I see inspiration.
Often, my initial ideas come from something small or seemingly insignificant that catches my eye. For example, I might see a man walking with a chicken and think, "That's an interesting image, I want to incorporate that into my artwork." From there, I begin to develop the concept further.
One of the key steps in my process is to ask a series of questions about the subject I am creating. I think about their profession, their background, and what they might wear or carry with them. By answering these questions, I am able to develop a more complete picture of who this person is and what their story might be.
Throughout this process, I am always looking for ways to bring a sense of celebration to my artwork. I want my subjects to be colourful, vibrant, and full of life. By incorporating elements of fashion, branding, and iconography, I am able to create unique and dynamic characters that capture the essence of our culture.
In the end, my process is all about bringing together a variety of different elements and ideas to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts. By starting with a small idea and building on it with careful consideration and attention to detail, I am able to create subjects that are both visually striking and meaningful.
'Lekker Bubblegum' by Ruan Jooste. Archival pigment print on paper, 90 x 125cm framed.
Can you explain a bit more of your practical process and how you create your digital art?
When it comes to creating digital art, I use a variety of tools and techniques to bring my ideas to life. The process can be quite complex and time-consuming. One of the key tools I use is a drawing pad that is connected to my laptop. This pad allows me to draw directly onto the screen, using a pen or stylus to create my artwork.
Once I have my drawing in place, I begin to add layers and brush strokes to create depth and texture. This is where digital art really comes into its own, as I have access to an enormous range of brushes and tools that allow me to create all sorts of effects and styles.
Throughout the process, I am constantly thinking about the overall composition of my artwork. I consider the colours, the balance of elements, and the overall mood and tone that I want to convey. It's a very careful and deliberate process, and I find that it requires a great deal of focus and attention to detail.
One of the great things about digital art is the level of control it provides. Everything is customizable, from the brushes to the colours to the layers themselves. This allows me to experiment and play with different ideas, and to make adjustments and refinements until I am happy with the final result. In the end, my goal is always to create artwork that is beautiful, expressive, and meaningful. Digital art provides me with the tools and techniques I need to bring my ideas to life in a way that is both visually stunning and emotionally engaging.
What are the most essential items for your art practice and why?
When it comes to my art practice, there are a few essential items that I rely on to create my best work. Of course, as a digital artist, my tools are a bit different from those of a traditional artist, but the principles are the same.
First and foremost, I can't do my work without my computer, my digital drawing pad and my stylus. These three items are the foundation of my creative process, and I rely on them heavily to bring my ideas to life. The drawing pad allows me to draw directly onto the screen, using a stylus to create my artwork.
However, there's another item that is even more essential to my art practice, and that is research. I am an extremely curious person, and I am always reading and researching ideas, concepts, cultures, and history. I find that this research infuses my work with a depth and richness that it wouldn't have otherwise. Whether I'm exploring the history of a particular region, or reading up on the latest trends in fashion and design, I am constantly seeking out new inspiration and ideas.
Research is so important to me because it allows me to create artwork that is both visually stunning and intellectually engaging. It gives me a sense of context and perspective, and helps me to understand the world around me in a deeper way. Without research, my work would lack the depth and meaning that I strive to achieve in every piece.
So while my computer and digital drawing pad are certainly important tools for my art practice, it is research that is truly essential. It is the foundation of everything I do, and the source of the inspiration and ideas that drive my creativity.
Describe an average day for you, working on your digital art pieces?
An average day in my life as a digital artist involves a lot of time in front of my computer screen, but I try to break it up with other activities to keep myself energized and focused. I usually start my day by walking to my favourite coffee shop. This gives me a chance to get out of the house and to get some fresh air before settling in for a long day of work. I often use this time to do some research.
Once I'm back home, I settle in for a day of digital art creation. I typically put on a podcast or some music to have something to listen to while I work. I spend most of my day in front of my computer screen, using my digital drawing pad to create my art.
But I try not to let myself get too bogged down in the work. I make a point of taking regular breaks throughout the day, whether that means going for a walk or doing some exercise, or just taking a few deep breaths to refocus my mind. I believe that taking care of my mental health is just as important as my physical health, and I try to prioritize both in my daily routine.
What is your favorite part of creating an artwork?
For me, the most enjoyable part of creating an artwork is the conceptualization phase. It's great to take a small idea or seed and gradually develop it into a fully realized piece with depth and meaning. I especially love adding smaller, more subtle details that may not be immediately apparent but reveal themselves over time as the viewer spends more time with the artwork. These hidden meanings and little nuggets give the piece a sense of intrigue and complexity that I find truly satisfying. Things that wasn't overtly obvious, but it added a layer of meaning to the piece that deepened the overall message. Overall, I find the process of conceptualizing and adding these smaller details to be the most rewarding part of creating an artwork.
'McDaddy' by Ruan Jooste. Archival pigment print on paper, 65 x 91cm framed.
Can you describe the perfect location where you would like to see your work displayed?
As an artist, I envision my work on display at the most prominent contemporary art museums, where it can have a significant impact on a diverse audience. Venues like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain stand out as ideal locations to showcase my art. My artistic creations aim to convey the stories and experiences of South African people, which I believe can resonate with people from all walks of life, regardless of their cultural background. Therefore, exhibiting my work in such renowned museums would provide a unique opportunity to share my art and the narratives it embodies with an international audience.
What are you looking forward to in 2023? Any upcoming projects or exhibitions?
I’m always working on new art and new ideas. I might be exhibiting later this year or early next year at an Art fair in Venice. I’m also working on some new mediums to include in my work which I’m very excited about. I am always trying to push myself with new ideas and new concepts, and I can’t wait to share this new art with the world.
'Boss Lady' by Ruan Jooste. Archival pigment print on paper, 123 x 88cm unframed.
Follow Ruan on Instagram: @ruanj_art
View more of Ruan's latest available digital prints for sale here.