We spoke to Shitty Watercolour, the most influential student in the UK

He came first in The Tab’s Power List


The student behind Shitty Watercolour is a big name in every sense of the word.

Hector Janse van Rensburg is a third year Alcuin student reading PPE at York. He is an unrivalled BNOC and big internet personality because of his watercolour paintings and illustrations.

He is well known on Reddit, illustrates York’s best Yik Yaks and also has his own Wikipedia page which is every student’s dream. He goes by the name Shitty Watercolour and his portrait of Obama was published on the President’s official Tumblr and on various news websites, including CNN. He was named as one of the most influential Redditors in history by Business Insider and now has topped The Tab’s Power List which surely must be his greatest achievement…

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How does it feel to be voted the most influential student across UK campuses? 

The veracity of that claim is perhaps a bit tenuous, I think half of the votes must have come from my mother’s friends that she has coffee with, but my cockles have been warmed significantly as a result.

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“I dreamed a dream of times gone by, when grades were high and fucks worth giving”

When did you first start taking your drawings seriously?

I remember watching a Beyonce live performance on YouTube and thinking ‘holy crap what’s the point in trying’.  Even the very pinnacle of illustration couldn’t hold a candle to that magic, and I was stuck with the thought that illustration as a medium is for making lifeless things that might look cute on a tea towel. From there I thought about how to play to illustration’s strengths in an increasingly rich-media dominated internet, and decided to make my paintings less inert by doing them as quickly as possible, and to have them do things that other mediums can’t.

I’m a logical person when it comes to painting, so only when I realised that there was a place for me to do this did I take it seriously.

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What’s been your favourite illustration to date?

This one (below), maybe. I think we’ve all got a bit of turmoil kid inside of us.

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How often do you get recognised on campus?

It happens more often on nights out, where a couple of people might say hi in a slurred exchange that usually goes ‘Hey, I like your paintings’, ‘Thanks, I don’t’. But it’s nice and cool to hear people’s thoughts not over the internet.

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Heslington Hall in all its glory

Do you wish you’d done an artier degree?

Yes and no. I hadn’t started painting yet when I applied for university so it wasn’t really an option for me. But without any training or arty mind shaping I think I’m doing ok, so maybe it would have been a bad thing.

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Where do you take your inspiration from?

Artistically, Quentin Blake. Truth be told I don’t like most paintings, my own included, so it’s quite rare to find things I actually enjoy. Edward Hopper is another one, but you’d struggle to see any influence in my paintings. Most of what I do is painting things that other people say, so there’s no need for me to do anything like taking long walks or feeding ducks or whatever it is that actual creative people do to get ideas.

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How far would you like to take your drawing after University?

I can’t imagine doing anything else at the moment, so as far as I can take it for as long as it is enjoyable.

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