O'Neill Blue
Johan de Lange
Full name: Johan de Lange
Function: O'Neill ambassador, illustrator for the O'Neill Blue Campaign

O'Neill Blue

Illustration by Johan de Lange

Johan de Lange is an illustrator living and working in South Africa. His work runs the gamut from personal projects, to commercial work for the likes of Adidas, Red Wings and Samsung.


How has living so close to the ocean had an impact upon your artwork? Do you find inspiration from the ocean? Absolutely. The ocean is incredibly powerful. It's also extremely calming. It's crawling with weird almost extra terrestrial life, which I find absolutely inspiring. I’m often out with my plastic bag combing the beach for treasures in the form of smelly dead things to take home. Or finding little universes in the rock pools. After a period of intense work, I need to go to the beach, or walk up Lions Head and look out over the ocean, it brings balance to the city life.

You have recently begun surfing. How would you describe your experience thus far? Yes! It's something that I have dreamt about doing all my life, spending most my youth in land locked Johannesburg. I always saw surfing as this almost impossible and mysterious thing. When I arrived in Cape Town, some friends invited me to go surfing at Muizenberg. Within less than an hour I caught a little wave and stood up. It's was the biggest thrill, I was smiling for the rest of the day. I surf on a longboard so its super chilled. You need a good wetsuit though, the water is pretty cold. And watch out for sharks, they love those waters!

What’s the arts community like in South Africa? The illustration art scene is awesome. It’s super small compared to the States and England, so it's easy to know what everyone’s doing. There’s a lot of cool stuff being produced. Most of the guys that I have admired for years are now close friends. We inspire each other, and sometimes collaborate on creative projects. Cape Town in particular is a very creative art/design oriented place. With many shops and galleries dedicated to illustration, art and design. There are also the serious fine arts guys, it's a different vibe though, but absolutely brilliant work coming out of SA.

Your work tends to deal with the fantastical. Where do these bizarre ideas come from? I try to create worlds that you can look at over and over again, and see something different every time. Almost like it’s alive and preserved inside a vivarium. I’m intrigued by things that you can’t quite figure out instantly. The ideas are mostly just from my imagination but also rooted in things that inspired me while I was growing up. Day dreams, trying to escape the boredom of suburban life and school.

You have a very distinct personal fashion style – how would you describe it? “Ha ha!” I would say its a very nautical style. It varies a bit from time to time. Sometimes captain, sometimes fisherman and sometimes eccentric preppy guy who lives on his yacht.

What can we expect next from you? I'm having my first solo exhibition in Cape Town in July. Then I'm publishing some books later this year. And I’ve been brewing beer with a buddy, so that could maybe turn into something interesting too.

What are your favourite tools for the job (indian ink, pencils, mouse)? Rotring (13) technical pen for the black, and Wacom in Photoshop for the colour.