It’s not often we get to see inside the workspaces of artists or sneak a peek at the tools and objects that are essential to their creative process. Here, we give you a glimpse into this intriguing world.
We recently asked seven artists who are currently big on the South African scene to show us their ‘survival kits’ – the things that they need around them while they’re painting or sculpting or illustrating or etching in order to make the magic happen.
Based in Cape Town’s Bo-Kaap, Morné creates work that is a celebration and exploration of colour and form. ‘My partner, Andre, and I renovated a floor in a dilapidated industrial building to make our home. My studio forms part of this space,’ he says.
‘I use most of these objects every day in my practice as a printmaker: mixing ink with the palette knives and using them to apply ink to a glass slab, evening the ink out with a brayer and inking up a matrix, or using the tarlatan to wipe up an etching plate, where the fine needles are used to create considered marks.’
Laura Windvogel aka Lady Skollie
With its bagged facebrick walls and big school-like windows, Laura’s studio is expansive, airy, and… a little cold. ‘I’ve made arrangements, like 360-degree oil heaters,’ she notes. Laura, who recently moved to Joburg from Cape Town, gets inspiration from her new home because ‘Johannesburg is a city that’s alive and its inhabitants occupy every bit of it.’
Of her workspace essentials, she says, ‘The loads of black pencils are actually products called China markers, which are predominantly used to mark film, but I use them as crayons because I love the texture. The old brush (one on far right) is my ultimate favourite. I’ve had it for six years and I’ve tried to buy suitable substitutes, yet here we are, I can’t find another one.’
Jaco Van Schalkwyk
Jaco’s studio has evolved through his work with colour. The artist’s workroom has spilled over into two spaces – one where he can paint and create freely, and one where he can get down to the nitty-gritty, like colour mixing, drawing and storing.
‘I love tools. I love looking for them everywhere, finding them anywhere, making them however possible and using them in unintended ways. These are some of my favourites,’ he says of the items on his studio desk.
Based in Artist Proof Studio in Newtown, Phillemon’s workshop is where he etches and does his printmaking. ‘This space is all about professionalism. There are so many artists who come in and work here, and they each arrive with new ideas, so you get to experience new techniques. In art you sometimes need a little encouragement and some of the artists come from overseas, sometimes with new ideas. It’s inspiring,’ he says. At Phillemon’s studio it’s essential to keep music, which allows the creative juices to flow all day long.
Any studio that Kyle works in needs to be pretty big: large enough, at least, to accommodate the giant metal sculptures he’s become known for. Now he works in a building shared with several others with a communal space for research.
‘It’s great having a shared space attached to the various studios for conversations and discourse. My area is divided into three sections: my foreman’s office, workshop and studio, which allows for multiple working stations,’ he notes. Kyle’s workday isn’t complete without ear and eye protection, earphones, sketchbooks, tape and a Swiss army knife.
‘I live near a nature reserve and 200m from the sea, and this is where I go and what I look at to take a break from my work,’ says Siwa of his studio in Kalk Bay. The recent fine art graduate, who works with beautifully patterned isishweshwe fabric, loves the serenity of the space.
‘That amount of colour, pattern and repetition can really stir things up internally and something as calm and soothing as the sea to look at is great!’ His working essentials include imphepho (a grass herb); measuring tape; cranberry, cinnamon and apple tea; Kirtan Incense; and earphones.
Mia’s Cape Town studio is a light and airy space from which she can paint her incredible impasto oil works. ‘The walls are painted white but freckled with paint, photographs and poems,’ she says. ‘I work best if there’s music playing and space to have all the things I need spread out around me.’
‘Every painter has their favourite paint colours and brushes that they are incapable of functioning without; these are mine. I started wearing gloves when I paint because it makes me feel like a doctor. I eat a lot of apples while I work because…health. Sometimes I have to write things down in my book because I have a lot of thoughts that I want to remember just in case I need to refer to them in future. The sweets are an obvious ploy to keep me working. As are Iggy Pop/Beyonce/Wu-Tang Clan playing in the background,’ she says.
See our September 2016 issue to view the studios of these local art geniuses.