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A conversation with Willie Schlechter

Cape Palette View from front

Willie Schlechter is a South African artist who has a passion for watercolour painting, particularly within the genre of botanical art. He has received several awards for his botanical paintings, and his works have been turned into interior products such as fabrics, scatter cushions, and art prints. In addition to his traditional watercolour paintings, Willie has also been busy creating beautiful ceramic wall pieces.

Willie Schlechter

He is also a committee member of the Botanical Artists Association of South Africa and is currently teaching Visual Art in Stellenbosch.

We took the opportunity to have a chat with Willie about his artistic inspiration and motivation:

 Where are you from and how does that affect your work?
I was born in Joubertina in the Langkloof, but has been living in the Cape since 2001. I think growing up in a small town with ample landscape around instilled within me a love and appreciation for the intricate beauty of nature. My work as a botanical artist is also greatly influenced by my current surrounding, and I often choose to paint fynbos

Who are your biggest artistic influences?
I am influenced by traditional and contemporary botanical art and artists. There is presently an interesting shift in the way botanical art is approached by younger artists who are pushing the boundaries of age old traditions, but not to the point of alienating its loyal viewers. As a traditionalist, I have to keep an open mind to these changes
       
Tell me about your favorite medium.
Watercolour is the medium I am most comfortable (and perhaps skilled) with, although I love painting in oils and nowadays enjoy experimenting and working with clay.  

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration from various sources, even though it may not necessarily be visible in my artworks. Looking at (mostly traditional) art inspires me on a technical level, while walking in nature forces me to look at plants from a different perspective and inspires me to illustrate them.

When is your favorite time of day to create?
I can work any time of the day, but am most productive in the mornings when everything is still quiet and I feel energized and focused.

Describe how art is important to society.
Art is everywhere and everything. It’s not just what you see, but how you see. It teaches us to listen, think and respond to the world around us, and in turn become more tolerable to things we didn’t understand before.

 What motivates you to create?
My own restless imagination moves/motivates me to create art. Quite often the crazy thoughts in my mind are manifested as demure and uncomplicated paintings. To me, the act of making art becomes more therapeutic than the product or message in it. My personality often contradicts my art, outwardly I appear to be very sociable and bold, while my artworks are crafted with patient care and tenderness.

How do you define success as an artist?
For me, success as an artist is no different to success as a person. When you have been true to yourself while working through difficult times and frustrations and manage to come out of this struggle with more insight and purpose in your life (artmaking), then you have achieved success. Some of the most successful people happens to be poor, just like many successful artists have never been commercially prosperous.

Does art help you in other areas of your life?
Besides being an art teacher and having to convey ways of doing and thinking to my learners, my own art practice is also my therapy. It is often more than an activity, but rather a place where I can find inner calm and shut down from my daily disruption (especially those in and on my mind).

How do you develop your art skills?
You only improve through practice and observation. I try to learn from looking at others around me, and trying to create as often as I can. Despite this, teaching is a wonderful way of taking note of what you do, and how you do it. You become very critical to your own ways and putting them to practice through others’ hands. In the process, you often find better and more effective alternatives.  

These pieces are just 2 of Willies Ceramic Wall Pieces that we have on display in our gallery and would love to show you the others.

Over the next couple of months we will be hosting an art class based around Ceramic Art with Willie, so keep an eye on our page to book your spots.

If you would like to join our WhatsApp group for Art Lovers Click Here: 

 

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