Thursday, January 9, 2020

DPW Spotlight Interview: Johanneke Strydom

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. To enter to win Johanneke's painting "These autumn days" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Johanneke's DPW Gallery Page:

Five years ago we left the city behind, and moved to the countryside in South Africa. We are still in the process of building up a run-down farm. An adventure in itself! In this new setting, I rediscovered myself as artist, being in awe of the ever changing beauty of the landscape and seasons around me. My 'studio' is a very rustic wooden cabin in a poplar grove. Surrounded by trees I came to love the silence and solitude. Here I spend many happy hours trying to capture the feel of what my eyes see. Apart from that, I have a full life as farmer's wife and homeschooling our four children. Too many good and worthwhile things to do in a day...

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

My mother tells the story of me (age two) sitting between her and my father on the endless roads in Namibia, happily drawing for hours on end. Totally caught up in the act of creating. Creating became my special place where I felt most alive and at peace. My parents supported my artistic interest, and provided art classes for me since I was six. After school I studied kindergarten teaching, and in my free time I started painting in acrylics, and then later in oils. But it remained only a hobby up to three years ago, when I read Carol Marine's book "Daily Painting". I was so inspired, I started to paint a small painting every day. And I have not stopped yet... I find it a wonderful way to stay in the creative flow, and practice, while not committing a lot of time to a large painting. It can speed up your learning tremendously.

Where do you find the time to paint?

When my children were young, it was really difficult to focus and have enough space in my head to spend enough time to progress in painting. I take my hat off to professional artists with small children. Now that my children are older, people still ask me where I find the time to paint. My answer: "I don't find the time, I make the time." I think it has a lot to do with mindset. I am learning to value my art making more, so I give it a large chunk of time everyday. 

These autumn days
(click to view)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Johanneke's interview.

What mediums have you experimented with? And which one has 'stuck'?

I started out in watercolor, pencils, charcoal and acrylics. They were all great fun, and have so many possibilities. But when I found oil paint, I was hooked... The intensity, the rich colors, the creamy texture, all of it... The possibilities with oils are endless. There are so many ideas and techniques I still want to explore. I will always look for ways to better express myself, to capture the essence of a subject, and to say more with less.

What inspires you most?

Creation. I feel a deep connection with the Creator when I am out in nature. Painting is foremost a spiritual experience to me.

I grew up in wild open spaces, with my father being a zoologist and taking us all over Southern Africa. It feels as if the African landscape is in my blood. It can stir me, and even drive me to tears. It urges me to express it, to capture something of the fleeting moment, of that which lay beyond words. I feel a connection with the land that I can best describe with a brush and thick oil paint. That is why I tend to paint fast and intuitively. Putting my impression down as raw and honest as I can. 'Plein air' painting is the ultimate art form to me, and I make it my biggest priority in my painting practice to paint on location as often as I can.

Cliffs of Mafube
(click to view)

Who are important influences on your work?

Edgar Payne for his use of color and brushwork, Sorolla for his quality of light, Georgia O'Keeffe for her search for solitude and immersing herself in the desert landscape, the Russian Impressionists, to name a few. But at the top of my list will be Kevin Macpherson. I love his loose brushwork and sensitive use of color. But what inspires me most is his Pond Project: a challenge to himself to paint the same view from his window over a pond, for every day of the year, in all seasons and times of day. I so admire determination like that!

I am thankful for all influences and see it as inspiration to find my own path.   

What does procrastination look like for you?

It looks like wasting my time. Keeping myself busy with things that are not mine to do, that does not benefit me or anybody else. But what procrastination really is, is fear. Fear of making, fear of being vulnerable and stepping out and the fear of failing. I know these feelings well, and work hard to overcome them daily.

There are great books to read on overcoming fear in the creative process. I can recommend "Art and Fear" by David Bayles and Ted Orland, and "The War of Art" by Steven Pressfield.

Road to Montagu
(click to view)

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

I would say to simplify my life. We moved to a farm five years ago, and here we live a very simple life with very little intrusion from the outside world. I learned to see my art as my 'work'. And I will tell my children I am going to work when I go to my studio. My art must have priority in my mind, before I will give it priority in my life.

And to do my best work, I must look after myself. I keep my life as uncomplicated as possible. It is important to eat healthy, get enough sleep and surround myself with uplifting things and people, as far as I can.

That forms a good foundation, to make it as easy as possible to do my work. I have a loose schedule for everyday with enough time not to feel rushed in the process. I get up early, get in the right mindset, and then start creating. I don't always know what I will paint. I don't always feel inspired.  But I will go and do something. I will start with something. Like Picasso said: 'Inspiration exists, but you have to find it working.'

I will also challenge myself at times. That commitment helps to make the time. At the moment I am busy with a thirty-one day creative challenge: to paint a small painting from life for every day of the month of January. Just to get myself going for the New Year. And forming the habit of daily painting from life. You can follow me on Instagram: johannekestrydom and join me!     

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I try to keep my eyes and heart open to feel what speaks to me. I love to travel and see new vistas, and be able to respond spontaneously to what I see. It is more like a dialogue. I 'feel' the inspiration by what I see, and then respond with a brush and paint.

I work a lot with small thumbnail sketches to get a strong design/composition before I start a painting. But try not to intellectualize anything.

I also like to do short series of one subject that speaks to me.

Eucalyptus Sunset
(click to view)

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging?

When I get tight in the studio, the best medicine for me is to go outside and do small color studies from life. I have a small sketchbook where I make small 2"x 3" oil sketches. They take 2-5 minutes each: no time for detail. I only put down color notes as accurately as possible. It refreshes me instantly. And helps to keep my work in the studio fresh and loose.

To avoid burnout, I try to live at an easy pace. I aim for a balance between self discipline and self grace. I take off one day a week for reflection, inspiration gathering and family time. I think it is important for an artist to be engaged in a rich life, full of experiences. Inspiration can come to you any time and in any place. Just keep your artist's eye open.

Here are some more ways I get inspired:

- I try to do a painting trip every few months. I love to really get into the wilderness and down to earth. My main aim on a trip like that is to do as many small color studies on location that I can. To immerse myself into the landscape and to really feel it. An experience like that becomes a well of inspiration for months to come.

- I look at my favorite artist's work. Really look. How they achieved a certain effect. When I get into a problem with a painting, I will go and look how some master handled the same subject.

- I limit my painting time. It works! After a day or two I can't wait to get back to my easel...

Nguni Calf
(click to view)

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

The business side of being an artist. Where to sell, how to price my work etc.  It is a steep learning curve, and not my favorite part of being an artist. But what I do like is making connections with other artists and clients, meeting amazing people, and building relationships. 

What makes you happiest about your art?

When I feel connected through the process of painting. To God, to nature, to myself, to other people. I find art to be a most precious gift to enjoy and share!

Thanks, Johanneke!

© 2020 Sophie Marine

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