1 You studied Fine Art, majoring in painting and sculpture. Tell us about your childhood and when and how you realised you would be an artist.
I knew from the time I could talk that I would do two things with my life…become an artist and help injured wildlife. I was exceptionally lucky to have had understanding parents who left me alone to develop my natural inclinations, both in art and nature. I was allowed to rifle through the garage or the embroidery cupboard to find materials I needed to create my artistic visions. They allowed me to study nature, collect shells, feathers and old birds’ nests, study bird books and go camping and hiking in the wild. I also grew up surrounded by animals, which was a crucial part of me developing an understanding that all creatures have their own personalities. This idea of each bird having its own hopes, fears, dreams and ambitions is an important element of my paintings today. I paint each bird as though they were individuals within a flock of hundreds.
2 Why are you so drawn to birds?
Birds are symbols of hope, courage, joy and freedom. They teach us about seeing life from a higher perspective. Birds make me happy.
3 Tell me about your work in wildlife conservation after your studies? Where does your love for nature come from? Tell us a bit about the work you did and the different countries you lived in. After completing my honours in Fine Art, in both painting and sculpture, I moved to Swaziland where I began studying Nature Conservation. I had every intention of completing my nature conservation studies, but found myself surrounded by the fascinating world of wildlife rehabilitation. I consequently dropped my studies and became fully immersed in wildlife rehabilitation. Over the course of my life I have hand-reared everything from baboon to owls, and was even responsible for the care of cheetah in Botswana. Part of my wildlife rehabilitation duties included working closely with nature conservation and wildlife veterinarians, assisting in the rescue, rehabilitation, release and monitoring of wildlife. Working closely with birds lead to me studying their physical appearances, which I now utilise in my paintings.
4 How and why did you end up living on the North Coast? Tell us about your life here.
My husband and I were drawn to Ballito because of its wild, lush coastal forests, the huge trees, warm ocean and abundant bird life. Our family consists of myself, my husband, two dogs and a menagerie of rebellious pets including a cockatiel called Cheese Cake. My hobbies include snorkelling, hiking and Qi Gong (a form of internal martial arts). I am currently training for a 250km hike called the Tankwa Camino.
5 Do you have any advice for young, up-and-coming artists?
My advice to younger artists would be to paint what you love. If you do this is will show in your work. Be original and be brave. Find your own voice, but be disciplined.
6 Where can we view your work?
In Toto Gallery (www.intotogallery.co.za), Kim Donaldson Gallery (kimdonaldsongallery.com), Call of Africa’s Native Visions Galleries (www.nativevisions.com) and The Green Gallery (thegreengallery.com).
Text: Leah Shone
Get It Magazine (Ballito/Umhlanga) June 2018