The Artis­tic Road with Roelof Ros­souw

Premier Magazine (South AFrica) - - Contents - Text: Paula Ra­bel­ing Images © Roelof Ros­souw

From find­ing his pas­sion for art in the pages of comic books as a child, to ex­hibit­ing across the world in­clud­ing London, Chel­tenham, Glasgow, Gal­way, Ar­magh, San Fran­cisco, and Mi­ami – and in­clud­ing Clint East­wood on his list of fans – South African artist Roelof Ros­souw has gar­nered mas­sive suc­cess.

Fo­cus­ing on land­scapes as sub­ject mat­ter, Ros­souw paints freely with colour to ex­press emo­tion, with­out ab­stract­ing the iconic moun­tains and Cape Dutch ar­chi­tec­ture of the coun­try. The re­sult: calm­ing works of art that trans­port view­ers to a place of seren­ity.

PRE­MIER in­ter­viewed Ros­souw about his (not al­ways paved) road to suc­cess, how he cre­ates art, and his in­spi­ra­tions.

PRE­MIER: Why did you de­cide be­come an artist?

Ros­souw (R.R): My par­ents took me to ev­ery air show, and by the age of four I knew all the air­crafts and made draw­ings of them. Air­craft and flight was my first pas­sion, then came comic heroes like Tarzan, Cisco Kid, Flash Gor­don, and later Tintin. In­spired by the ex­cel­lent qual­ity comics and comic artists of the 1960s, I made my own comics in­stead of study­ing my school lessons. As a child I ad­mired the art col­lec­tion of my aunt. I would stand for a long time in front of those paint­ings, and one day I said, “I am go­ing to be an artist.” She replied that artists strug­gle and that I should rather be­come an ar­chi­tect or art teacher.

PRE­MIER: Would you say that your up­bring­ing has in­flu­enced your art? If so, why?

R.R: My mother and grand­mother read a lot of sto­ries to me, and I loved look­ing at the il­lus­tra­tions in books. That must have to been a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence. I was at­tracted to the colour and even the smell of the printer ink on the pages of the comics and books. My fa­ther would read the comic strips in news­pa­pers and I soon fol­lowed his ex­am­ple. I still col­lect re-prints of those heroes to this day.

PRE­MIER: What is your favourite as­pect of your ca­reer, and your least favourite?

R.R: My favourite is when a paint­ing is sold and the great feel­ing it gives me. Also, when a client is very sat­is­fied with a work. My least favourite is when I de­liver paint­ings to the city cen­tre and have to find a park­ing near the gallery.

PRE­MIER: What are some of the ob­sta­cles you have had to over­come on your artis­tic path?

R.R: Gain­ing recog­ni­tion and re­spect was not an easy path. There were gal­leries that re­jected my work in the early days.

PRE­MIER: To what or who would you at­tribute your suc­cess?

R.R: Estelle Ros­souw had a gallery in Pre­to­ria East and em­ployed me as an as­sis­tant in 1992. She be­lieved in my tal­ent and gave me the op­por­tu­nity to paint ev­ery day, and that is the se­cret to my suc­cess. That is the only way to im­prove – to con­tinue to paint. She helped me get into the art mar­ket and in­tro­duced me to fa­mous artists and art lovers. Af­ter a few months, I took my paint­ings to a very suc­cess­ful gallery in Nor­wood, Jo­han­nes­burg, and my work im­pressed Chris Crake. He or­dered three large paint­ings and soon they started sell­ing. Top col­lec­tors, banks, and high rank­ing busi­ness­peo­ple were buy­ing my works. I love what I do and peo­ple can see and feel my pas­sion through look­ing at my work. I en­joy work­ing di­rectly with clients and try and go the ex­tra mile by work­ing with in­tegrity, pro­vid­ing qual­ity ser­vice, and pay­ing at­ten­tion to their spe­cific needs.

PRE­MIER: What would you say is your great­est ac­com­plish­ment?

R.R: Early in 2009 a film agency walked into the Cape Gallery in Cape Town and hired three of my land­scape paint­ings to fea­ture as props in the movie In­vic­tus by Clint East­wood, about the 1995 Rugby World Cup. When East­wood ar­rived on the set and saw the paint­ings he was so im­pressed that he gave the in­struc­tion to his agents to buy two of the paint­ings for his per­sonal col­lec­tion.

PRE­MIER: How would you de­scribe your artis­tic style?

R.R: I have al­ways loved the im­pres­sion­ists, and in the early 1980s I dis­cov­ered mod­ern im­pres­sion­is­tic painters such as Ken Howard and Bernard Dun­stan of Eng­land, and Max Agos­tini of France. I be­gan study­ing their won­der­ful work which ap­peared in art mag­a­zines. I dreamed of the day that I could paint as loosely as they did. I would say my style is “Re­al­is­tic Im­pres­sion­is­tic”. My colours are nat­u­ral, my work neat and de­scrip­tive. I want peo­ple to see that it is paint. The last thing I want is to paint like a pho­to­graph – that is a job for the cam­era.

PRE­MIER: What in­spires you?

R.R: I find po­ten­tial in­spi­ra­tion and ma­te­rial in ev­ery­day sit­u­a­tions. The sub­ject mat­ter does not have to be grand or idyl­lic – it is ac­tu­ally quite the op­po­site. I can­not help but to ob­serve the ab­stract shapes and ex­cit­ing con­trasts cre­ated by the sun­lit and shadow ar­eas of build­ings – an old fac­tory, a har­bour, a crowded street, and farm­lands. Th­ese are the kind of vis­ual state­ments that in­spire me

to cap­ture them on can­vas. The cen­tral theme of my paint­ings has some­thing to do with mood, light, and colour. I try and cre­ate a par­tic­u­lar at­mos­phere and sense of time. By re­duc­ing un­nec­es­sary de­tail I fo­cus the at­ten­tion on the shapes and jux­ta­po­si­tion of colour.

PRE­MIER: Please go through your process, from de­cid­ing on a sub­ject to the end prod­uct.

R.R: The first step is to look for in­spi­ra­tion and reference. I al­ways work from some­thing, mainly pho­tos. I’ll search my files on my pc or go out and search for scenes to shoot. Then I use the com­puter to cre­ate a bet­ter com­po­si­tion. I of­ten use sev­eral pho­tos to cre­ate one per­fect scene. Once I am happy, I will then trans­fer the im­age onto my can­vas us­ing char­coal to roughly sketch the out­lines. Then I will block in the large shapes ei­ther with thin oil paint or acrylic paint. Once this un­der­paint­ing is dry I will start from the top to the bot­tom paint­ing in full colour. I work wet into wet to give the soft edge and blended qual­ity.

PRE­MIER: How do you feel your work has changed over the years?

R.R: I have de­vel­oped an eye for good com­po­si­tion. Bet­ter colour har­mony and mak­ing use of soft edges. I am also fo­cussing less on de­tail and paint with more con­fi­dence.

PRE­MIER: If you were not an artist, what would you be?

R.R: I al­ways loved the arts, any­thing cre­ative. I did drama and mu­sic at school. I en­joyed act­ing and wanted to be­come a movie star at one point. I also love play­ing piano and sing­ing and also wanted to be­come a rock star like El­ton John.

PRE­MIER: You have trav­elled ex­ten­sively – what is your favourite place, and why?

R.R: Venice is my favourite place. Wher­ever you stand and look you can find a scene to paint – the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less.

PRE­MIER: What are your plans for the fu­ture?

R.R: I want to be the best South African artist ever of course. I want to con­tinue build­ing my name and im­prov­ing. Per­haps delve into more ab­stract paint­ing. I will al­ways paint in my tra­di­tional way be­cause I have a very good mar­ket and know that I will al­ways have work.

For more info and to view Ros­souw’s work, visit www.cape­ and fol­low Roelof Rosouw Art on Face­book.

The Koo Val­ley

Un­load­ing Boxes of Snoek, Hout Bay

Roelof Ros­souw

The Stained Glass Win­dow

Sun­set on Camps Bay

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