At first glance, artist Werner Bronkhorst's Instagram feed is full of heavily textured canvases with small images painted throughout. From a distance, it's hard to make out exactly what you're looking at. It's as if you're high in the sky getting a bird's-eye view of a snowy ski slope or a sandy beach. Once you get a closer look, though, Bronkhorst's miniature images are full of exquisite detail and no bigger than a few inches tall — and therein lies the magic of his paintings.
Bronkhorst is a South African-born artist now residing in Sydney, Australia. After sharing his artwork on social media, he now boasts over 200,000 followers on Instagram and over 100,000 followers on TikTok.
Only 21 years old, he has no formal art training at the university or college level, but his now viral artwork was born out of experimenting with leftover building materials, like wood, plaster, and paint. After plaster dried white on a canvas, Bronkhorst noticed that it looked a lot like snow, which then inspired him to paint miniature skiers throughout.
"I grew up in South Africa," Bronkhorst shares with Hunker. "I've never touched snow. I've never skied myself, but everything I do always comes out of either a mistake or just by surprise. I take things bit by bit, and it then evolves from there."
His skiing and snowboarding collection, aptly called "White Stripes," was released at the end of last year, and his mixture of miniature paintings on abstract surfaces resonated with people all over the world. He garnered thousands more followers, sold out his collection, and was able to transition to being a full-time artist.
Bronkhorst's most recent collection, "The Strokes," which features both beach and water scenes, sold out in just two minutes. His online community on social media has grown exponentially over the past few months, and the growth goes hand in hand with a major part of his mission: making art accessible to the masses.
"I inevitably have fun with everything I do, but I think it's important for the ideology people have that the art world is so serious," states Bronkhorst. "That it's all about big money and big projects or everything being so secretive and exclusive. I love making [my art] public … it shouldn't just be for the elite."
One scroll through Bronkhorst's social media pages and you'll no doubt see his artistic talent paired with his easygoing and welcoming spirit. Never one to gatekeep the materials he uses, Bronkhorst is passionate about sharing every step of his creative process and even encourages others to try painting themselves.
His accessibility mission isn't just for purchasing and consuming art; it's for creating art as well. "I never like keeping things to myself," Bronkhorst shares. "I love sharing, whether it's my personal life or my art life. For many people I know, creating content and creating art are two worlds. For me, it's the same thing. I love involving people in the process."
Bronkhorst's laid-back style and warm energy are reflective in all the work he produces, including his TikTok videos and his reels on Instagram. All of it is part of his identity as an artist. "I see an artwork not only as the end result but as the process of taking video, editing, music, some kind of film or photography — it's always a mixture," Bronkhorst says. "You definitely should be multidisciplinary, in my view. If you think about an artist like Leonardo da Vinci, he did more than just art. He made inventions and had building projects. I've always been inspired by the Renaissance man."
Bronkhorst could surely be seen as a Renaissance man of our time, as he shoots and edits all of his content himself. There certainly is a lot that goes into posting consistently on social media and staying at the top of followers' feeds, but Bronkhorst stays grounded and present by seeing it all as just part of his life.
His TikTok videos show simpler moments too, as he's sometimes seen painting while holding his infant daughter, Florence, or painting not only in his studio but in the living room or at the dining table. It all comes back to his mission of accessibility, and it also touches on Bronkhorst's idea that the whole world is a canvas. Sharing glimpses of his everyday life is just as much a part of his art as his paintings and videos are. He hopes that people realize that their own lives are works of art as well.
"You living your life … each person doing their own little thing, that's beautiful, and that's art," Bronkhorst says. " I portray everyday scenes, and if people see themselves being featured in an artwork, that's amazing. I hope people realize that they are artworks themselves … that's definitely part of my ethos and why I do what I do. We're all just tiny people in a big, beautiful world."