THE DUNES OF SOSSUSVLEI – MY FIRST AND MOST RECENT ARTWORK
I saw and experienced the Namib for the first time in 1999 when my family and I visited the majestic dunes of Sossusvlei, Namibia. The landscape fascinated and inspired me to the point of doing my very first Acrylic Painting of it in 2003. It has remained one of my favourite places in the world as I have been there two more times. I recently finished another acrylic artwork called “Dunes of Sossusvlei” – the featured artwork.
In this blog post I look back at my journey in art and what I learned while working with this versatile medium.
BLAST FROM THE PAST
The other day my mom asked me if I have ever shown my first artwork to my boyfriend. I hadn’t. I had to think a little before I could remember where I hid it. I finally discovered it behind a drawer in a dusty corner. After all these years it was good to see it again. A blast from the past.
I had just started with High School and took art as a subject – I was 13 years old at the time. Before this, I had never attended an art class and only drew with pencils and used some water colour. The assignment had something to do with making a collage (the combining of different elements) and then painting it – something like that. That explains why there is some random water bursting onto the scene.
My mom also asked me to critique my own work in hindsight. Three of my comments were:
- The best element is the meerkat in the foreground. The colours of it is very natural. The shape of the body and attention to detail is surprising for my level of skill at the time.
- The use of colour is very childlike. One creates the illusion of a three dimensional space (perspective and depth) on canvas by slight variations in colour and not just through the use of lines. With this artwork I clearly did not understand this yet 🙂
- The element that bothers me most would be the shape of the cloud with it’s white-straight-out-of-the-tube colour. One has to unlearn a lot of the drawing ideas you picked up in kindergarten if you want to be an artist!
FEATURED ARTWORK: DUNES OF SOSSUSVLEI
This Artwork captures the strong early morning shadow lines of the dunes down to the patterned ripples the wind made in the sand. I took this picture when we climbed this dune back in 2014. I can still remember the cool beneath my feet; knowing we have limited time to reach the top before the sun will heat the sand to the point of instant blisters.
This Artwork shows a true landscape of contrasts. The orange of the landscape and blue of the sky are complimentary / opposite colours (creating the strongest contrast when placed next to one another). There is also a strong divide between the dark purple brown colours on the shadow side of the dune as opposed to the bright and misty orange tints on the sunny side.
FROM RULES TO INTUITION
Becoming an artist is a trial and error affair. I might have been born with artistic talent, but the skills I have came from spending countless hours observing, studying, drawing & painting. I would like to compare it to learning a new language. No matter how much linguistic ability you have, you will still have to put in many hours of study and most of all, practical time spent listening, speaking, correcting yourself & battling with difficult areas.
Anyone who has ever had to learn a new language knows that there are rules in languages and always the dreaded exceptions. The same with art. There are general rules, but just as many exceptions. You will definitely get better with time, but there will always be room for improvement and new skills to be mastered!
As your language skills improve, you end up focusing less on the many rules and formulas and instead developed an ear for the different nuances of the new language. In art you develop intuition and a sense for what to do next without thinking too much about it.
3 THINGS I LEARNED
- Back to Front: I work systematically from the furthest point in the background to the foreground. When I started with Dunes of Sossusvlei I worked on the sky first. Then I started with the furthest dunes on the sides, followed by the main dune and finishing with the ripples in the foreground.
- Cross-Pollination: There is always an amount of reflection from any object to those around it. Even when I have “completed” an area I always add some of the colour I use in the foreground to the areas in the back and vice versa. A subtle dot or watery wash over an area usually does the trick.
- Work in Layers: By applying many thin layers of paint over a section, you can create that three dimensional effect as I mentioned in the critique on my first artwork.
With every artwork there is a battle (or sometimes even a few!) where something just doesn’t want to look right; it can be anything from a particular shape, a texture or a specific colour. These battles become opportunities to grow or abandon ship. I prefer the former 😉
I look forward to writing another post in a couple of years time in which I am able to share what I have learned since this post. I never want to stop improving and getting better at what I do. Please feel free to write me some feedback in the comments section below.