Shelflife Artist Tee Series: Mpumelelo Bhengu

Shelflife Artist Tee Series: Mpumelelo Bhengu

We start our Artist Tee Series in 2019 with artist Mpumelelo Bhengu. Mpumelelo is graphic designer, illustrator and art director based in Cape Town that's known for his unique cartoon style. He is a big Cartoon fan and an avid Comic Book collector, themes that are very present throughout his work. His art always seems to reference pop culture in some way, with references to modern and retro brands, hip-hop, sports and even retro gaming being paid homage to.

We were given the opportunity to ask the man himself some questions about his line of work and what inspires him. Check it out below! 

Where did your love for graphic design and illustration begin?


I was always drawing as a kid, that’s all we did. It wasn’t until I started being aware, not just watching cartoons but actually being aware of how much I couldn’t live without, that I realised that there was something really awesome and cool about drawing and I wanted to do it 24/7. Shout out to He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and Late 80’s and 90’s Saturday Morning Cartoons in summary. 


Who are some of your biggest influences?


There are way too many to mention. Firstly, cartoons play such a huge role in my life (was intrigued by everything that Hanna-Barbera did). I could watch Cartoon Network the whole day if I didn’t have bills to pay. Comic books and Video Games also played a huge role in my life. 


I’m a huge fan of Genndy Tartakovsky, the creator of Samurai Jack. In my early years as a graphic designer I became obsessed with a 123 Klan who had such an influence on me, especially when it comes to bold lines and bright colour palletee. Kaws, Shepard Fairey, Mike Mignola, Robert Crumb just to name a few more. 


What have been some of your highlights as an artist so far?


Truth be told I would say that every project that I have done recently has been a highlight 'cause it made me realise that everything has been leading towards this direction, which has been an interesting journey thus far and one I'm constantly grateful for. Staying true to my style has led to working on some really awesome gigs. There’s also been a few highlights on the 9-5er spectrum, but it's kinda boring and I'll tell those to my grandkids one day.


If you could collaborate with one artist, who would it be?


123 Klan


How did you interpret the concept of the Shelflife "S" into your 



I dig cartoons, mascot, mascot logos, mascot characters etc and I wanted to incorporate that into my concept. I made the tail of the tiger to curve into the S letter and I think it complements the pose, the swagger of the tiger. The baseball uniform, and bright orange, embodies some street culture swagger too.


What are your essentials you use to create your work?


I always have field notes and sketchpads with me. Pencils and post-its to scribble down or sketch ideas. Once an idea starts to excite me then I scan it in, switch on my Macbook, plug in my Wacom then listen to MF Doom really loud…oh and draw.


What would an average day for Mpumelelo look like? 


I do some design work for a publishing agency on flexi time and that takes up some time on my day to day and other freelance work most of the time. I try and make time to review personal ideas, sketches and most importantly setting and doing self-initiated briefs. I’m just constantly drawing and working to improve, on a daily basis. I also try to squeeze in a game or two of NBA 2K.


Any advice to those wanting to get started in the industry and stand out? 


Trust your style, draw everyday to develop your craft. All those hours add up to some of the most dopest adventures of your life, have fun. 


Find your thruth…the rest falls into place.


The Shelflife Artist Tee with Mpumelelo Bhengu drops tomorrow 2 February at our CPT, JHB and online store via first come first serve at 10am.

Units are extremely limited so act fast to avoid missing out! 


Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL