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Sunday, 16 July 2017

Connecting with people in Botswana through art

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I guess truer words have seldom been spoken, given the right picture is matched to the right audience. But sometimes, the right picture can also spark a thousand words and introduce a conversation you could never have foreseen having with the most unlikely of audiences. This was the case for me during a trip to Botswana.

Setting up a temporary studio in the dining room

As I was going to be staying for a few weeks (it turned out to be three), I packed my paintbrushes, canvasses and oils before setting off. My friend, Louise, had expressed a desire to continue her painting lessons. She had only just started with lessons before, when she had to give it up and all these years later, she still wished to be able to explore this hobby more fully. I can imagine fewer activities that are more fun to do with friends, than painting, and thus the scene was set for a really good time.

My friend Louise sitting down for an art lesson

Louise had her own things to do and seldom had time to sit down for a lesson, but she did manage to do a painting or two and I was very impressed with how quickly she grasped what I had to share with her. Considering that she understood very little about perspective, graded backgrounds, mediums, or even the choice of brushes, I found her final product to be rather phenomenal and remain very proud of this star 'pupil' of mine.

Louise's finished painting

As the community of Pitsane is a very small rural one, neighbours and friends tend to drop in unannounced at any time of the day. As a painting stranger in town, I presented just enough attraction to ensure that this happened slightly more frequently than I suspect would usually be the case. I did not mind this at all, as painting on your own, can become a very lonesome exercise.

Deconstructed Buffalo by Miekie

The first painting I did was of a 'Deconstructed Buffalo' and I think it must have blown people's minds. Everyone tried their best to be polite, but let's face it, abstract art isn't everyone's cup of tea. It was only once I started joking about the subject that people started to relax. I know there are many people who take art very seriously, but for me, it is meant to add an aspect of fun and relaxation. It is just a picture, and you are welcome to like it, or dislike it at your ease. I love to hear people's opinions about art and this painting was just the thing to free people's tongues to express themselves. I wrote a blog about this painting for A Pretty Talent. Feel free to click on the link if you are curious about the process involved: Deconstructed Buffalo.

Lonely by Miekie

One of the more interesting conversations that all of this painting sparked, was about my choice to not paint facial features. I very seldom do. To me, a figure is more universal without facial features. By neglecting these, I force the viewer to take note of other visual cues to understand the emotions or thoughts of the figures, such as body language, colour choices, line work, brush strokes, etc. In the above painting, I have secluded a figure in loneliness. Follow this link to the blog written for A Pretty Talent about this painting: Lonely.

Quiet Woman by Miekie

It is even possible to use only a few lines and some 'smeared' paint, to create a portrait that evokes reaction, with only the barest of essential lines, as in the Quiet Woman above.

Cat by Miekie and Miekie

Cat by Miekie (Take 2)

Of course not all paintings are meant to be taken seriously, and when a little four-year old took an interest, I promptly sat her down to help me paint a cat. I wasn't too pleased with the outcome and did another as soon as she was gone, but she loved every second of it. This is what art should evoke in all of us. I love painting with kids. They are so unencumbered by life. By the way, the little girl carried the name under which I paint, Miekie. If you want to see the steps for painting the actual cat (not the joint effort featured above), you can read A Pretty Talent's blog: Cat In Oils.

Serenity by Miekie

What I love about art, is that you learn so much about people when they relax and simply start to talk as the focus is not on them. Paying close attention to people's reactions, it was easy enough to tell which pieces my hosts liked best and I left these behind as gifts to thank them for the stay. My host preferred Serenity above, while my hostess preferred the much more dramatic portrait below, in I See You.

I See You by Miekie

As interesting as all of this was, it was the conversations I had with Blessing, the cleaning lady, that I enjoyed the most. Initially, Blessing could make little sense of the reasoning behind the abstract and impressionist paintings I was doing. That was when I grabbed my iPod and leafed through a number of artists' works that I had in the Photo Gallery. I opted to concentrate on paintings of musicians, as Blessing and I had also found common ground in our taste of music. At first I showed her a couple a realistic paintings which were extraordinarily well done and takes your breath away for the sheer skill required to execute them. As expected Blessing was in awe. Who wouldn't be? Then I showed her some more modern, abstract and impressionist paintings of musicians, pointing out how the artists used colour, lines and brush strokes to capture not only the image, but also the raw emotion, almost bringing sound to the canvas. Blessing was enraptured and immediately grasped what so few seem to understand; there is a space and purpose for every art movement to exist and each adds its own unique attributes to the large collection of art. Well done, Blessing! You may not have finished school, but there is absolutely noting amiss with your intellect or reasoning abilities.

All That Jazz in ink by Miekie

Saxophone Player in pastels by Miekie

At the end of my stay, art had managed to bind a wide group of strangers together, even though we came from diverse backgrounds and had diverse interests and likes. Art is a language all its own with the ability to bridge divides, if we allow it to speak for itself, instead of trying to force it into being something serious that is above the grasp of anyone outside of the elite art circles.


Marietjie Uys (Miekie) is a published author. You can buy my books here:
You can purchase Designs By Miekie 1 here.
Jy kan Kom Ons Teken en Verf Tuinstories hier koop.
Jy kan Kom Ons Kleur Tuinstories In hier koop.
Jy kan Tuinstories hier koop.
You can follow Miekie's daily Bible Study blog, Bybel Legkaart, here in English & Afrikaans.
You may prefer to follow the traveling blog, A Pretty Tourist.
For more crafty ideas and great product reviews, visit A Pretty Talent on Facebook.
If you are in a literary mood, follow Miekie's musings, stories and poetry on A Pretty Author - Miekie.
Remember to keep nurturing your TALENT for making life PRETTY.
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