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Who is Johnny Kotze and what do you do?

I’m a freelance illustrator and designer living in the seaside town Vermont by Cape Town.

I started The Motel, a freelance illustration, design and typography studio, about 9 years ago after working in advertising in Johannesburg. I ended up doing a lot of illustration at the agency BBDO and decided that I could try do that on my own.

Since then I’ve branched out into different things like branding and design and 3d animation and sound design as well, as I have been producing music for the past 10 years or so.

Black Forest


Central aprk


Etsy Calendar - Letter X

How would you define your style or art?

I guess I have different approaches to different projects. I think this comes from having studied graphic design and approaching each project as it’s own separate experience in a way. My work is inspired a lot by 50’s and 60’s illustration styles like Alice and Martin Provenson, Jim Flora and Miroslav Sasek. Nature is also a reoccurring theme in my work. From wildlife to Fynbos and flowers or rocks and insects or snakes and birds. I like to create as much detail in my work as possible. A visual overload almost. I maybe have a problem letting go of images as they never feel finished and I often come back and just add more and more. I think its an obsessive quality that I have and it also translates into the work I do.

What inspires your work?

Mostly my own experiences and the surroundings here. But often also a brief from a client could be very specific. I’m really lucky to live so close to nature and we try to get out as much as possible. Hiking or swimming in the ocean. I love illustration and nature so it’s a good mix and nice to be out of the city noise but still close enough to be able to work on projects there. Music is also a big inspiration.

Hardened Criminals


Wimpy Kids

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently working on a local alcohol brand illustration as well as some 3d animations and then putting up some recent work onto my portfolio. I always have some personal projects that I have going on in the background so I’m finishing up a nature illustration too.


What advice would you give young creatives looking to do what you do?

Take your time and learn some skills or work in the industry for a few years. I see lots of young creatives fresh out of varsity freelancing and then getting disillusioned. Also balancing business with creativity and clients is never easy so learn those skills too. You can’t be creative if you can’t pay rent.

What has been the highlight of your career thus far?

I think every day I get to do what I love and learn new skills has been the most rewarding thing. I took a few months recently to learn 3d animation and I’m still learning new techniques every day. But having the freedom to do that is by far the best thing ever.

Having representation in Paris was also a big highlight and winning some awards like the gold loeries for illustration craft and publication design.

Where can our readers follow your work? 

You can follow my work at or Follow me on Behance I am pretty active on the Behance community as it’s a great place to get inspired and meet creative people from outside of South Africa. And staying relevant is important. So it’s good that there is a platform where I can connect with the outside world and incorporate what I experience there into a South African perspective.

Then I also have a Society6 store, Facebook page and Twitter and Dribble and all those social media sites..





Thug Life


Coca Cola 100 Artists Series


Gloabl Warming




The Explorer




Watch & Learn I


Watch & Learn II


SA Creatives

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