The artistic alchemist: Katleho Tsolo's creative magic as Art Bae Juliu

By Lindelwa Masuku

Step into the vibrant realm of Katleho Tsolo, the artistic powerhouse known as Art Bae Juliu. With 15 years of creativity under her belt, Katleho effortlessly merges traditional and contemporary art forms, leaving a trail of awe-inspiring masterpieces. 

In the realm of art, where creativity intertwines with introspection, one artist emerges as a captivating force, bridging the gap between traditional and contemporary mediums. Meet Katleho Tsolo, a multi-media artist known by her moniker, Art Bae Juliu. 

Hailing from eMalahleni, Mpumalanga, and currently residing in the vibrant streets of Fourways, Johannesburg, Katleho's artistic journey spans 15 years, encompassing a vast array of media, from graphite sketches to digital and mixed-media creations. 

With a remarkable portfolio that includes custom apparel, wall art, illustrations, and sculptures, she infuses her work with a deep appreciation for the human experience and the profound impact of food on our lives. 

Katleho Tsolo - The artistic powerhouse

In this exclusive interview, we delve into the essence of Katleho's artistry, exploring her inspirations, creative process, and the extraordinary vision that sets her apart.

1. Can you tell us about your background and how you became an artist?

My name is Katleho Tsolo also known as Art Bae Juliu originally from eMalahleni but currently residing in Joburg. My art career started 15 years ago, in primary and high school creating art for leisure. 

Eventually, I started creating a body of work spanning from different media such as graphite and charcoal illustrations to custom hand-painted apparel and accessories, wall art, sculpturing, digital art, and mixed media art.

2. Can you walk us through your creative process when developing a new piece?

It honestly depends on who I am creating the artwork for. If it’s commission artwork (artwork for clients) I engage with my clients and use my expertise and perspective to aid them in achieving the desired look and feel. 

Regarding my original artwork, I am inspired by how food impacts us as humans from different backgrounds and experiences. I always do research about different topics surrounding food and people to get an outsider’s perspective, I then do introspection to find out how those topics affect me because in one way or the other they do affect me. 

How I convey my message is through using animated characters and animated food, also combining rich colours and tones like Blues, Reds and Yellow and incorporating hints of complementary colours to give a more light-hearted look and feel to whatever message I’m trying to convey.  

3. How do you stay inspired and motivated in your art practice?

Creating not only for the sake of money but for the sake of self-improvement has really been the keystone of why my relationship with art has and will continue to grow.

4. How do you handle criticism and rejection when it comes to your art?

I’m honestly not bothered by it…we all have the freedom to express ourselves so that’s what I follow, freedom of expression.

5. Can you discuss a specific piece of work that holds a special meaning to you?

Binge artwork by Katleho Tsolo

My favourite piece of work is called “Binge”. I painted it in reflection of all the times I used food as a shield of comfort from my frustrations and fears which stemmed from financial woes. 

When I did use food, specifically fast food as a shield of comfort, I noticed that I would feel worse, low in energy and I almost became comfortable with not feeling my best that it became harder for me to even create or to surround myself with positive-minded people. 

“Binge” represents the endless cycles that many others (including myself) have put ourselves through all in the name of being comfortable with familiarity and not practicality whether that’s in the form of food or other things. 

6. How do you see your art fitting into the contemporary art scene?

We’re in the age of AI, some people feel as though AI will take the jobs of us artists, but I don’t believe it will. If anything, it will enhance our capabilities as creatives. Having that said, I feel that using the tech and other resources that we have today will help better convey my messages, improving the interaction between viewers and the artwork itself. 

7. How do you handle the business aspect of being an artist?

I endeavour to keep up with the latest business practices as well as leading my team by example. I strive to make an impact as a boss to my employees through dynamic and fun means. I hope that I leave an impact on my staff (past and present) that shows them, 1. How to navigate the art world (how they should treat others and how others should treat them), 2. Make a business of the art world, 3. How to continuously develop their art skills. 

8. Can you discuss any challenges or obstacles you have faced as an artist?

I have encountered many challenges from underpaying clients or clients not paying at all to clients changing designs literally at the last hour. 

Also, clients lie to other people claiming that they had their artwork created by an artist in Europe, completely disregarding that I had created it and that I’m from South Africa. The list really does go on.

9. Can you tell us about any upcoming projects or exhibitions you have planned?

My team and I at Make Art Bae, my art events and custom art business will be at various markets this week. We’ll be at The Bryanston Organic Market and possibly The Pour House in the Fourways area. 

We’ll not only showcase ready-made artwork but will also provide art services such as customised apparel and accessories (hand painted), painting and sketching workshops, live caricatures and portraits, and other take-home packages.

10. How do you see your art evolving or developing in the future?

I see it developing with new media and tools. I’ve found a huge interest in creating my artwork with AI tools, specifically motion graphic tools. 

Katleho Tsolo's artwork - Sweet As Hell

As we bid adieu to our captivating exploration of Katleho Tsolo's artistic universe, a sense of awe and inspiration lingers. Her journey from a young artist indulging in the joy of creation to a seasoned professional empowering others through her company, Make Art Bae, is a testament to her unwavering dedication and profound artistic vision. 

With a brushstroke of imagination and a palette of vibrant colours, Katleho Tsolo, Art Bae Juliu, infuses her artwork with narratives that resonate deeply within our souls. 

In a world where art serves as a powerful medium for self-expression, connection, and transformation, Katleho's creations stand as a testament to the boundless possibilities that emerge when passion and purpose merge. 

As she continues to evolve her art, embracing new technologies and media, the future shines brightly for this extraordinary artist, and we eagerly anticipate the mesmerising stories she will unveil through her unique artistic lens.

Katleho Tsolo's Artwork- Love

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