Hector Janse van Rensburg

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Shitty Watercolour
Shitty Watercolour.jpeg
Born Hector Janse van Rensburg
(1993-10-27) October 27, 1993 (age 23) [1]
United Kingdom
Nationality British
Education Autodidact, University of York
Known for Watercolour, Illustration
Website shittywatercolour.com
Patron(s) Reddit

Hector Janse van Rensburg,[2][3] better known by his pseudonym Shitty Watercolour, is a British painter and cartoonist who started posting watercolour paintings on the social media website Reddit in February 2012, and later expanded to publishing his work on his own website, on Tumblr, and on Twitter.[4][5][6] He currently attends the University of York, reading Philosophy, Politics and Economics.[7][8]


Van Rensburg attended Hills Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge, UK. In 2011, he won a Wilkinson Quincentenary Prize, awarded by St. John's College, Cambridge to the best entries in an essay competition for high school students.[9]

Boredom and depression led van Rensburg to revisit an old watercolour set and seek subjects to paint. Already a reddit user, he realized that submissions, comments, and usernames on the website provided him with ample illustration opportunities.[2][10] At first the quality of his paintings was, in his own opinion, accurately described by his reddit username Shitty_Watercolour, but encouraged by the response from reddit users, among whom he gathered a devoted following, his painting skills improved greatly.[11] He uses art supplies manufactured by Winsor and Newton.[8]


Many people have mistaken the artist for Quentin Blake, best known for illustrating children's books written by Roald Dahl. The young painter considers this a compliment, and while denying that he is Quentin Blake, acknowledges that he is greatly inspired by him.[10]


Shitty Watercolour's rendition of 'The Birth of Venus' by Sandro Botticelli
Shitty_Watercolour's rendition of The Birth of Venus by Sandro Botticelli

Shitty_Watercolour became popular on reddit by posting his interpretations of pictures posted by "Redditors" (Reddit users), illustrating various comments on the subreddit /r/AskReddit, and illustrating usernames of redditors.[4] He often welcomes celebrities during their reddit AMAs ("Ask Me Anything") by posting a painting of them.[12] He has painted his own interpretations of classic artworks by painters such as Edward Hopper and Leonardo da Vinci.[7][13][14][15] Since early 2013, the artist has been going through a "sloth period", during which he has been painting sloths based on famous pieces of art.[16][17][18]

Van Rensburg now works for the BBC,[11] and has done paintings on commission for Intel, Lionsgate, ASUS, CNN, USA Network, BuzzFeed, and Prizeo.[19]


In October 2012, the artist streamed live a 12-hour painting session on YouTube to raise money for charity: water, a non-profit organization which aims to provide drinking water in developing countries. Redditors donated a minimum of $10 to have a photo of their choice painted in a 5 cm by 5 cm square.[20][21]

In July 2012, he painted a watercolour painting to help a redditor propose to his girlfriend, and more paintings to celebrate their engagement.[22]

Media coverage[edit]

Shitty_Watercolour is consistently listed as one of the most popular and influential Redditors.[20][23][24] The painter's portrait of President Barack Obama during his August 2012 Reddit AMA was published on the President's official Tumblr and on various news websites, including CNN.[12][25][26][27] This portrait of Obama was hung in the campaign headquarters.[11] His impressions of classic artworks and his paintings of sloths have also received considerable attention in the media.[7][13][14][15][16][17][18][28]


  1. ^ "Shitty Watercolour on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Knoblauch, Max (2014-03-12). "A Reddit Mystery Solved: The Identity of 'Shitty_Watercolour'". Mashable. Retrieved March 12, 2014. 
  3. ^ "Meet the man behind Reddit’s favorite watercolor paintings". Fox News. June 16, 2014. Retrieved June 17, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Watercutter, Angela (2012-06-12). "Reddit’s (Best) Worst Painter Turns Comment Threads Into Art". Wired. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  5. ^ Alfonso III, Fernando (2012-02-21). "He turns posts into paintings on Reddit". The Daily Dot. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  6. ^ "40 Really Bad Watercolor Interpretations Of Photos On Reddit". BuzzFeed. 2012-04-26. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c Watercutter, Angela (2012-12-10). "The Best Worst Artist on Reddit Recreates Classic Paintings in Watercolor". Wired. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b "Shitty_Watercolour's Reddit AMA". Reddit. 2012-09-19. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Wilkinson Quincentenary Prize Winners". St. John's College, Cambridge. Retrieved June 17, 2014. 
  10. ^ a b "'Shitty Watercolour' Paints Reddit Users Photos With Ease". The Huffington Post. 2012-06-04. Retrieved 9 June 2013. 
  11. ^ a b c Zhu, Olivia. "Art on Demand". Harvard Political Review. Boston, MA: Institute of Politics, Harvard University. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 
  12. ^ a b Mendoza, Dorrine (2012-08-31). "President Barack Obama gets upvoted". CNN. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Broderick, Ryan (2012-12-07). "10 Adorably Shitty Versions Of Classic Paintings". BuzzFeed. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Alfonso III, Fernando (2012-12-07). "Famous works of art reimagined by Reddit's shitty_watercolour". The Daily Dot. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  15. ^ a b Rueda, Drew (2012-12-12). "Legendary Redditor Artist Re-Imagines The Classics in Shitty Watercolor". newmediarockstars.com. New Media Rockstars. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  16. ^ a b Marshall, Chelsea (2012-05-14). "Artist Goes Through His "Sloth Period"". BuzzFeed. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  17. ^ a b Davies, Melanie (2013-05-14). "These Sloth Watercolors Are the Cutest Watercolors Ever". Jezebel. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  18. ^ a b "Artist Goes Through His "Sloth Period"". Zimbio. 2013-05-14. Retrieved June 9, 2013. [permanent dead link]
  19. ^ "Works done on commission". shittywatercolour.com. 
  20. ^ a b Hickey, Walter; Lubin, Gus (2012-03-13). "Meet The Redditors Who Rule The Internet". Business Insider. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  21. ^ Alfonso III, Fernando (2012-10-04). "Reddit's shitty_watercolour launches charity paint-a-thon". The Daily Dot. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  22. ^ Alfonso III, Fernando (2012-07-10). "Reddit's shitty_watercolour helps couple get engaged". The Daily Dot. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  23. ^ Collier, Kevin (2012-07-19). "The 6 best novelty accounts that turn Reddit into art". The Daily Dot. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  24. ^ Morris, Kevin (2012-12-14). "The 10 most influential people on Reddit in 2012". The Daily Dot. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  25. ^ "In case you missed it, President Obama met Reddit yesterday (and answered a bunch of questions)". barackobama.tumblr.com/. Barack Obama's Tumblr]. August 2013. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  26. ^ Testa, Jessica (2012-08-29). "The Best Of President Obama’s Reddit AMA". BuzzFeed. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  27. ^ Holt, Kris (2012-08-29). "Presidential memes: Obama believes in Internet freedom, kills Reddit". The Daily Dot. Retrieved June 9, 2013. 
  28. ^ "15 Celebrities As Sloths". BuzzFeed. 2013-08-28. Retrieved February 9, 2014. 

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