[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Never be scared of a blank canvas. If you make a mess, you can paint over it.’ @diwhiteartist” quote=”‘Never be scared of a blank canvas. If you make a mess, you can paint over it.’ – Di White”]
My professional training was in Engineering Drawing. I then developed my skills and started doing Architectural Drafting for a firm of Architects and Land Surveyors in Somerset West. However, my love and talent for painting started from an early age, even before I was singled out to attend art lessons with Harold Riley, which was a great honour and encouragement. It was he who really inspired me and he who awarded me my first prize for painting (a box of chocolates).
It was not until I moved on from my architectural career that I was able to take up painting seriously again.
I knew I was on my way when my work was chosen for the prestigious Sanlam ‘First Signatures’ award in 2003. Two years later I had my first successful solo exhibition at the Rialto Gallery in Somerset West and in subsequent years I have been honoured to receive awards from both our local art society and from the South African Society of Artists.
At the beginning of 2016 I opened my own gallery in Somerset West – something I had always dreamed of. Here we show selected work by artists from across the Western Cape of South Africa and my own latest works, of course. We open a new show every 6-8 weeks, which is so exciting every time.
My studio is in Somerset West, near Cape Town. I set up my workspace behind Bright Street Gallery, the art gallery that I opened 18 months ago. The gallery hosts regular group exhibitions by selected local artists and has proved to be an excellent source of inspiration to me.
I try to paint every day, usually starting around 10 o’clock and then I can paint and paint for hours, lost in that special creative space in my head, where the mind almost unconsciously directs the brush. At least that is until one or other passing artist pops in to have a chat or seek advice. Pleasant as this is, it does interrupt my flow and I suppose this is the one drawback to working behind the gallery.
Method and Approach
My technique is loose and energetic. I love to do splash paint and I get a huge thrill from vibrant colours. I particularly enjoy painting animals and landscapes, but in a loose and fun way. I really love using acrylic inks; they are so rich and they flow so well. My inspiration might be from something relatively mundane but then I change what I have had in mind into lively and vibrant images and so the animals I paint become almost caricatures and take on their own personas.
I paint rapidly and am a prolific artist. I usually complete a watercolour in a couple of hours. A more complex mixed media piece can take two or three days. Sometimes I will return to a painting which I completed sometime ago; one that has been niggling away at me because I had never been quite happy with it. I will work on it again. Often with very pleasing results, but occasionally the process gets away from me and I end up painting over the whole canvas. Of course this launches a whole new set of possibilities.
Marketing and Promotion
Joining art societies has been invaluable. My membership of the South African Society of Artists has opened a lot of doors and created new opportunities for gallery representation and exhibitions which might not otherwise been open to me.
I use a range of social media tools. Facebook and Instagram are the ones I use most. I also have a website presence and a twitter account. Using Instagram is particularly engaging as it is so visual and immediate and reaches such a wide spectrum of people. The blog which is attached to my website has also attracted a good following. Although Instagram is my preserve, I do have an assistant who helps out with my admin, marketing and other social media – otherwise I would hardly ever get to paint. Together we spend at least three days a week on promotional work.
Exhibitions and Shows
I exhibit in galleries in Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Somerset West, Hermanus and at various exhibitions which are held in the beautiful Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens in Cape Town. All these avenues have worked well, especially Kirstenbosch which has lots of visitors every day – particularly people from overseas, who have been very good buyers. I have also had a number of commissions from overseas visitors to the Kirstenbosch exhibitions.
For me the highlights are when people begin by purchasing one painting and then start to follow me and continue to buy. There are a few special people who have been collecting my work over many years. It is such a wonderful feeling to see the pleasure they have derived and continue to feel from having my work hanging in their homes. It is also an honour and a special feeling to receive an award, particularly one bestowed by the South African Society of Artists where your work is judged alongside so many excellent artists.
Obstacles and Challenges
When I first took up painting again I desperately wanted to become more loose and abstract. Every work by other artists that I had ever viewed and was thrilled by was in that category. It has taken me many years to overcome my straight lines and my leaning towards realism. But, like any other objective, which you want to achieve, what is required is practice and more practice and never give up. I am there at last and what a pleasure!
Tips and Advice
1. Never be scared of a blank canvas. If you make a mess, you can always paint over it. I have, many times.
2. Don’t be worried about showing your work – don’t hide it under the bed!
3. Join an art society where you will get inspiration and support.
4. If you join an art society take any opportunity to get feedback. Don’t be afraid to put it to ‘crits’ – it really helps to find out where you’re going wrong and what you’re doing right.
5. Make sure your work is professionally presented. Paint the sides of your canvases and mount your watercolours neatly if they are not already framed.
6. Visit as many art galleries as you can. Look at the work. Look and the composition and the brushwork. Try to understand the artists’ techniques. Just seeing and appreciating other artists’ work will help tremendously.
7. ‘Instagramming’ is a great tool when you are confident enough with your work. Put it out there!
8. Blogging is another great tool, which can bring you followers. Talk about what you do and how you do it.
9. Try picking a gallery, which you seem to have a ‘fit’ with. Send a picture of one of your works with a click through to your website.
10. Never walk into a gallery without an appointment and expect them to look at your work.
11. Take good quality photos of all your work before it goes to the framer and keep the images where you can easily access them.