We had the good fortune of connecting with Neil Badenhorst and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Neil, why did you pursue a creative career?
Pursuing a career as a creative seemed like the only way that I could actively pursue all my interests. Ever since I was a kid, I was an avid reader and lover of stories, pictures and imaginary worlds. I get to explore these interests in the various capacities of my career (illustration, fine arts and research).
As an illustrator, my job is to tell stories with image. Whether for a personal project or for a commercial client it’s all storytelling. As a fine artist, I love telling stories that don’t have a clear linear narrative structure. Rather, my artmaking process in the gallery space relies heavily on intuition. Sort of like how cartographers first trace the basic contours of a landscape before understanding its intricacies, as an artist I’m able to ‘discover’ the story of the work I am making in the process of making it.
My research is concerned with worldbuilding, rites of passage and visual narrative, so I get to formally learn and write about the things I’ve been intrigued by since childhood. How cool is that?!
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I actively work and pursue three different careers within the creative field. As an illustrator I work for small and large businesses creating digital images and design that respond to the client’s brief. As a fine artist, I mostly work with traditional media to create work meant to be exhibited and sold in the gallery space. I also then work part-time as a lecturer in design and am currently in the process of doing research for my PhD which I will be starting in 2023. The challenge is that although there is a large overlap in these fields, the work I do and each field’s respective audience may differ quite a lot. Often my clients who hire me for illustration might not have any particular interest in fine arts, or galleries might not be interested in showing illustrated or other digital work.
Despite pursuing different career paths simultaneously, these remain extensions of my overall research and creative interests which are worldbuilding, visual narrative, queer experience and rites of passage. Thus, despite the different capacities in which I work being quite different, I do not regard them as being separate but rather different contexts in which my creative practice occurs in. They also directly feed into each other. My practice makes me a better researcher, commercial work makes me a better artist and vice versa.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I really really love Joburg, so I think the itinerary would consist of gallery hopping (David Krut, Gallery 2, Kalashnikovv, BAG Factory to name a few), long walks in parks (Emmarentia, Delta, Emma park) and of course a good meal in any of the restaurants or cafés in Linden or Parkhurst.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I’ve had such a great many people play a vital role in my journey as a creative! Firstly, my mom really cultivated my love for story as a child. We’d watch all manner of films together and I remember in the early years, each time I finished a new chapter within the book I was currently reading I would call out from my bedroom ‘Chapter three mom!’.
Then as both an undergraduate and postgraduate student I have been surrounded by incredible artists and lecturers. At Open Window Institute, lecturers Maaike Bakker, Nina Torr and Jayne Robertson played a massive role in my development as a creative and my budding interest in research.
During my Masters at the University of Johannesburg, my super(duper)visors Professor Deirdre Pretorius and Dr Adrie Haese further cultivated my love for research and illustration.
Close friend (artist and illustrator) Balekane Legoabe and my partner (architect and VR artist) Izak Potogieter also play a big role in my creative process by allowing me to speak about my ideas and provide excellent feedback.