Brandon Foutie, 25, was always intrigued by cartoons, especially Spider-Man. He would sit in front of the TV watching Dragon Ball Z or SpongeBob SquarePants and draw the characters.
Today, this young man from Beacon Valley is an intern at a book-publishing company after recently graduating from a Chinese college.
When Brandon was in Grade 10 at Oval North Technical High School, False Bay College held an open day at his school and he was drawn to the animation section. He failed Grade 11, and he needed matric before he could apply to the college.
But once he had it, he applied to the college’s Muizenberg campus and was accepted. However, without a bursary, he had to drop out of his course in the third term.
He kept himself busy doing illustrations for influencers and retail work. “I was working on the art and trying to understand it better,” he said.
He entered a competition at City Varsity, where he had to create a character of his own. He created a rusty robot with a TV on his head that read “Read a book”. The robot was placed in a futuristic world.
He then received a call from False Bay College offering to provide him with a stipend to help fund his studies.
“My 2D Animation lecturer at False Bay College, Riaan Theron, was like a guardian angel. I was grateful for the opportunity and graduated in 2019,” he said.
Mr Theron said Brandon had signed up for the 2D animation course in 2016 and had showed tremendous potential.
“Brandon applied, but due to his outstanding study debt was roadblocked. Brandon proposed to use the course stipend to pay off his study debt. The college accepted his proposal and he was allowed to fall in with the 2018 group,” he said.
Brandon had dedicated himself to his studies and had even assisted many of his class peers, said Mr Theron.
“Like a kite, Brandon and many other young talented people only need a small bit of assistance to catch the wind. Once a kite is in the air, it can make itself go higher,” he said.
Brandon then landed an opportunity to study abroad in China in 2019.
“The experience was amazing,” he said. “Covid-19 hit while I was still in China; my family and friends were back home, and I was worried about them but I was able to get through it.”
He graduated in May, this year from Zhengzhou Railway Vocational and Technical College, in Henan, China, with qualifications in coding, artificial intelligence and animation, to name a few.
He started working at Little Zebra Books, a Christian non-profit publisher of African-language books, where he is doing an illustration course and creating illustrated stories for primary-school children children.
“This is a step out of my comfort zone,” he said. “At Zhengzhou Railway Vocational and Technical College, it was strict and structured, whereas at Little Zebra Books,
they allow me to use my imagination.”
Illustrators of Tomorrow course co-ordinator Eleanor Whitaker said Little Zebra Books launched the course to recruit, equip and train young artists of colour.
“We have been incredibly impressed by the students on this course, for their energy, enthusiasm, and raw talent,” she said.
Brandon said he had had a difficult upbringing and had used his art as his escape.
“Many people do not know this profession so well. I’d always tell them ek maak poppentjies, so that they can understand my career,” he said.
Many young people with the skill only saw it as a hobby, but it could become a career for them, he said.
Brandon said his mother, Avril Foutie, had played a big role in his life. She had collected his drawings throughout his life in a flip file, and that had helped with his portfolio application at college.
Ms Foutie said Brandon had taught himself how to draw.
“I thought it was a phase, that the drawing would end, but it never passed. I am so proud of how far he has come and what he has achieved,” she said.
Brandon said in the years to come he would like to create a documentary project on someone’s life story.
When he finishes the course, he hopes to work as a professional illustrator, making movies and comic books, among other things.
“If you have a dream, never give up on it even if those closest to you think it is silly or not a ‘real’ job. Imagine doing something you love and getting paid for it.
“I love what I do – everyone else should have that opportunity to do what they love and inspire those around them,” said Brandon.