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Q&A: Malcolm Dewey

We chatted to local artist Malcolm Dewey about his beautiful Impressionist-inspired landscapes. When did you start painting? I started painting in high school and intended to study art further, but attended law school instead. However I continued painting gradually spending more time behind the easel instead of behind a desk. That would be about 25 years of painting and part-time art study. I started in graphic design, but quickly moved to the representational art that I am focused on now. Your work is reminiscent of the Impressionist movement. Which three artists inspire you the most, and why? When I first studied the impressionists I knew that this was the style of art that appealed to me above all others. The leading impressionist, Claude Monet, is a major influence and inspiration. Monet's determination to focus on light and atmosphere to depict a scene was a major influence on artist’s worldwide. Camille Pissaro inspired me to paint outdoors and to develop a painterly style with large brushstrokes, bold shapes and strong values. I have to mention a contemporary impressionist, Kevin MacPherson, who continues to inspire me to keep the plein air (outdoor) painting tradition alive. Take us through your personal artistic process. In the past five years my process has changed significantly due to the influence of plein air painting methods. This process entails me getting as much reference material as possible from painting and sketching outdoors. It is a method of getting to grips with a subject firsthand rather than trying to interpret a photograph in the studio. Ideally I get an early morning session of painting done on small panels, at the scene. I use a pochade box to hold my panels and paints on a tripod easel. I usually work in oils, but watercolour is also convenient at times. Plein air painting requires a quick and intuitive approach, which is very rewarding for me. Then I return to my studio with the painting panels. Some of these outdoor works are completed in situ while others may need finishing off in the studio. These studies are great reference material for larger studio works, as the colours and values are based on reality, not the interpretation of a camera setting. The late afternoon light is also good for plein air painting. In which area of South Africa do you enjoy painting in the most, and why? We are very fortunate to have a country with such a variety of fantastic painting destinations and excellent weather. I like to keep a balance between landscape and seascapes. My favourite area for landscapes is the Karoo region. If I had to choose a place for an artist's retreat it would be Nieu Bethesda. I love the region, the light and the peace. For coastal areas there are wonderful beaches along the sunshine coast, but I spend most of my time painting at Port Alfred whenever I can. All of these areas appeal to me because of their peaceful, uncluttered vistas. Old towns and villages also appeal to me for the nostalgia they evoke. What are your top 5 tips to an aspiring artist?

  • Do the work! An artist's nemesis is procrastination and it comes in many forms. There is no substitute for actual painting time so spend as much as you can doing just that. It is the only way to learn and improve your art.
  • Be persistent. Whether you are trying to make a living or work through a creative block you have to plug away until you make a breakthrough.
  • Keep learning. Study art, artists and methods. Try new things and keep yourself motivated and open to new ideas.
  • Try not to envy other artists. Each artist has their own burdens, so never run yourself down because you think others artists are better than you.
  • Gratitude. We can be grateful that we get to express ourselves through art.
Do you have any exhibitions coming up? I have an ongoing exhibit at Zest in Van Der Riet Street, Port Alfred. I am also spending much time adding to the art lessons and materials available on my website with a focus on plein air painting. There are also video projects which will be added to my online teaching programme. Of course, I will try to paint as much as I can and I encourage other artists to try plein air painting in 2014 too. For more information about Malcolm and to view more of his work, visit Interviewed by Lindi Brownell Meiring