Art South Africa: Artist of the Month

I try not to over-indulge myself on Facebook and post my art ALL over the place, so I’ve joined a select few groups, posting my work only when I think it will be inspiring to others. One of those groups is Art South Africa, where the support amongst the artists is quite cool.

An encouraging feature of the group is the chance to be named as AOTM and get your art pasted up as the cover photo for the month. It feels like awesome exposure and I very shyly puffed up a little (oxymoron, I know) when I was named as December’s AOTM. Here’s the interview and yes, I like to be a smartass from time to time… 😛

Who are you and what do you do?
I am a female (“Cole” is short for “Colleen”, but I forgive you if you thought I was a dude – you’re not the first) freelance creative.

I folded up my English Honours degree until the edges were really pointy and now I use it make stabbing gestures at people with bad spelling and grammar. Art is my first love, though, and I’m slowly but surely pushing it towards the FULL TIME cliff edge. I ride a Honda VT750, play the piano (badly), do fire poi, and do things for animal welfare when time and money permits.

Where do you come from and what’s your background?
I would tell you, but then… we’d have to go get drunk together and cry it out. I originate from a town in KZN (no, not telling you which one), escaped to Rhodes University for four years of hard lessons and an English degree and then tooled about for two years not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. It was then that I did some art commissions, but not thinking a career would come of it. I worked in magazines (still do), advertising, education and training, and marketing, before realising that I’m more suited to working by myself, for myself.

What themes do you pursue?
This is a bit of a tricky one. I try not to inject morals or politics into my work – it doesn’t really “stand” for anything. However, I want people to experience intense emotion when they look at my art – be it love, joy, connection with nature, etc. So if we’re talking about themes, then those would be them: love, joy, awe-inspired awareness of our humanity and our connection with the natural world, etc.

Although if I had to paint an apple now, I might be over-reaching in the theme department. Sometimes… it’s just an apple.

Who is your favourite artist and what is your favourite artwork of theirs?
Too many to mention. I love Dali for his pioneering strangeness; Van Gogh for his ability to create magic after surrendering to madness; Picasso for his prolificness (prolificity?) and unapologetic assholedom in the name of love; and Michelangelo for reminding David how much of a man he really is. That’s a reality check set in stone…

Oddly enough Rodin’s sculpture The Kiss will always be a timeless favourite of mine.

Describe a real-life situation that inspired you.
In 2005 I was visiting in London and accidentally (it’s a long story) went into the Saatchi Gallery. One of the installations was Richard Wilson’s 20:50. It’s difficult to describe (Google “Richard Wilson 20:50” and go to Images), but it’s essentially an entire room filled with recycled engine oil. Viewers are supposed to walk out into the middle of the installation and extend their arms out to the sides, and because of the reflection and perspective, it’s supposed to give you a sense of weightlessness. What did I experience? Vertigo. And I’ve had vertigo ever since then. It’s “inspiring” that an artwork could have had a physiological effect like that – I also want to make art that changes the way people experience the world.

What memorable responses have you had to your work?
Tears of joy. That’s always the clincher for me – being able to make people cry because the stuff I’ve painted has exceeded their expectations or moved them in an unexpected way. My latest “dusts shoulder” moment happened when I painted 3 portraits of a little girl for her mom, and when the grandparents saw the paintings, they stole one and refused to give it back. It makes me feel really proud that someone could enjoy/appreciate my art to the degree that they’d be willing to cause a family rift… I’m kidding, but the concept stands. It humbles me to know that people want to display my art.

What food, drink, song inspires you?
The Cranberries – “Wake up and smell the coffee”
There. Answered all three in one.

What do you dislike about the art world?
I intensely dislike the idea that there’s a “what you should paint” and a “what you shouldn’t paint” and a collective “they” that decides what is and isn’t appealing to The Art Market. It’s all a big illusion that’s being dismantled by the internet. Groups like this one, as well as artist websites, Instagram, and the power of self-promotion mean that all artists can empower themselves and expose themselves (yes, I just said that) to an accessible audience of art appreciators who want to spend good money on art THEY like. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a need for traditional constructs like galleries and exhibitions as a gathering space for artists and their audiences, but beginners, amateurs and professionals need to realise that that’s not the only way…

I also dislike the persistent bullshit invention of the “starving artist” persona. If you’re hungry enough and you can make art, you have a solution to your empty belly. Stop complaining and inject some gratitude into the fact that you have a means to an end. Figure it out until it works, but don’t subscribe to the victim mentality of “starving artist” because then that’s all you’ll ever be. (Please don’t get your knickers in a knot about my opinion – it’s what I tell myself so that I don’t slack off… because I also need pay for groceries with my art money.)

Name an artist you’d like to be compared to.
Pablo Picasso… but only for his prolific painting reputation and the ability to draw on a serviette to pay for lunch. And maybe Damien Hirst because I also want to be that rich on art when I’m 51

Professionally, what’s your goal?
Obviously being a full-time artist is the starting point of my Bigger Picture. But my real end-game is to be able to either donate paintings and/or money to fund animal welfare organisations and animal rescue efforts. When I see animal NPOs beg for money via social media to settle their 5-figure vet bills, I want to be that person who donates anonymously and settles the whole amount so that they can continue to do their good work.

In conclusion, I’m extremely humbled to be named as Artist of the Month and very grateful for the recognition because I’ve worked incredibly hard on myself and on my art. So, if you’ve read this far without rolling your eyes too much, thank you for your time and I hope you enjoy my paintings.

Pretty nifty…


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