22-year-old illustrator Seth Pimentel, aka CAT FAP, sat casually in the winter morning sunlight resting his arms on his legs in the courtyard of One Eloff. His black Thrasher cap with its yellow logo greeted me before his eyes did. I sat down next to him and we discussed his art and vision for exhibition Future 76.
Marcia Elizabeth (ME): Could you tell me more about your background?
Seth Pimentel (SP): I was born and raised in Johannesburg. I started drawing when I was 6 and in school we had to draw 9/11. I drew the shittiest piece of art, the worst 6-year-old drawing you can imagine and my teacher actually liked it. She put it up amongst some of the best drawings in the class. From that day it all just made sense. I went to the National School of the Arts (NSA) when I was 14 and after that I went to Open Window Institute [a private higher education institution focusing on visual arts and digital sciences].
ME: How would you describe your art?
SP: I’m an illustrator and a visual artist. My art is weird. It’s a lot of dark stuff that comes from me. I’m not a dark person or anything. Sometimes it’s just great to tap into some kind of energy and create something from that. It’s just me being me. Expressing what I can, how I can.
ME: In thinking about Future 76, do you feel like it fits into the scheme of what the other artists are doing? How are you thinking about creating a visually appealing flow for the exhibition?
SP: I definitely think I could fit in with everyone that is exhibiting. We all kind of know each other. When you are friends with people it’s easy to pick up on their energies and adapt to their style, and they adapt to yours. I never usually plan when I work, so whatever happens, happens. It’s youth month, so I think I’m going to work keeping youth culture in mind.
ME: You were saying that you don’t really plan your work. Does your work fall under the idea of automatic drawing?
SP: It is automatic drawing. It’s like sitting down and saying to myself, ‘ok cool I’m going to doodle something starting with one side of a face’ and 5 or 6 hours later I’ve got a full illustration. Then I look at it and think, ‘Wow, where did that come from?’. I’m never aware of what’s happening. It always just ends up becoming something.
ME: Do you feel as though the art world is competitive?
SP: I was oblivious to the creative industry when I started illustrating. It is a dog eat dog industry. If you don’t meet the deadline someone else will, so you have to do your best. Everyone, no matter who you are, compares themselves to everybody else. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing because if you engage with yourself that’s great. You push yourself to do better. Making sure that you as an individual transcend the level that you are at now. I look at other people’s work and for me that’s inspirational.
ME: Tracking back to the National School of the Arts, do you think it shaped the direction you chose for your art practice?
SP: I did industrial design at NSA. I went in thinking I was going to draw my whole life. And in a way I did. I made a lot of linocuts and prints, but I made more furniture and design aesthetic stuff. At Open Window I did Game Design and in my first year I picked up a subject called illustration. From there I was hooked. NSA did help me a lot, even in the way that I communicate with people. We didn’t have cliques or gangs. Everyone was friends with everyone. Racism wasn’t really a thing at my school and everyone was free flowing. I started stretching my ears when I was 16. It was great and different.
ME: Do you have a specific colour scheme that you go back to?
SP: I kind of stuck with colour for a long time. Colour schemes become their own motif and their own style and identity. I’ve been using the same colour schemes now for the past month, these weird gradients of greens, reds and blues. I stick to a routine and try use the colour I find on Kuler. If I don’t like it I’ll change up the hue and saturation, and tweak it until I’m happy.
ME: Do you work with titles?
SP: Sometimes the titles just come to me, but sometimes I have to force a title out because it’s something that someone wants to buy or it’s for an exhibition. 90% of my works are untitled.
ME: Do you try and create meaning in your work?
SP: I stray completely away from meaning. Sometimes it’s great for me because people make their own meaning. I had an illustration that someone else titled “Submerge, Emerge”. It’s a face that’s drowning in water.
ME: Are there any specific artists who influence your work?
SP: There are hundreds of artists I look up to. A lot of digital artists, and a lot of traditional artists. Sachin Theng, an illustrator, Natalie Foss, John-Michel Basquiat. A lot of local people as well like my friend Dylan Hartland and Elio the Illustrator. It’s a broad spectrum of people that I know and people that I don’t know.
ME: Has social media provided a platform for you to be recognized?
SP: It has, for a while I didn’t like it and then I realized that it helps. If you freelance it creates a space where you can be commissioned from. You kill two birds with one stone and you can survive in this really tough city doing what you love. I’m low key on social media but I love what it’s doing and where it’s taking a lot of people.
ME: Have you been involved with an exhibition before?
SP: Yeah I have. I had an exhibition with Imile Wepener and a bunch of other great illustrators like Shaun Hill. I’ve had two live paintings, one at the Johannesburg Hive and one at Joziburg Lane.
ME: Do you feel like you are a good representative of Johannesburg youth?
SP: Everyone in Johannesburg is so vastly different. I’d like to think that I am a fair representative of the skater, punk, hip hop and street culture scenes. I am a catalyst of all of these smaller subcultures in Johannesburg, so am I a fair representative to a certain extent.