I am so happy and honored to present today the work and the interview of Jolante Hesse, a very talented painter from South Africa and the first place winner in the first juried “Artist of the Week XVII – The Semi-Annual contest” with her stunning work “The Painting”. It is always so inspiring! Jolante Hesse has so impressive portfolio of oil paintings and drawings, despite the fact that she counts few years in painting. Her skilled hands and eye, her very personal style and vision, and her unique palette are creating artworks of timeless beauty and classical excellence; mainly portraits, still life and landscapes. Hope to enjoy her interview and her work as much as I did!
FAWbyJWP. Would you like to tell us few words about yourself and your award-winning artwork?
Jolante. In 2004 I survived a panga attack in Mombasa, Kenya whilst working as part of a hotel opening team. I started drawing after the attack and found the process therapeutic and calming. My recovery took about a year. Although I was, and still is involved in my career, I started thinking about developing my love for art and painting. Little by little I started simplifying and decluttering my life and in 2010 I started art and painting classes.
While I had done art at school, I did not pursue it then. I did draw from time to time. Throughout my life, I devoured books on art and visited galleries in my spare time when on working assignments across the world. I always harbored a secret desire to paint in oils although I never really believed it would happen. I remember vividly when at the age of 5, I was mesmerized with a Frans Hals portrait; and dreamed of one day being able to do that.
“The Painting” that won the competition is a group portrait of Leon Fourie, my art teacher and collaborator, myself and Nomsa Msthini, a friend and my favorite model. The idea developed while I was painting another work of Nomsa and I saw us in the mirror discussing the painting. A reference was taken and the drawing was done from that. Nomsa and Leon posed at different times and I painted myself from the reference. However, my hands were done from life as the photos somehow distort what the eye sees. This painting took about 3 months to complete.
FAWbyJWP. What do you think that played a significant role to your decision to choose painting as a mean of creation and expose your work?
Jolante. Of all the visual art forms, I believe oil painting is the ultimate. It is difficult to master and requires in-depth knowledge. In line with my personality, I seek technical proficiency before artistic expression. This enables me to create a foundation that I can have faith in. I need to know exactly how materials can be used and must have the confidence to trust my skills. It is just how my head works.
My left brain wants to know that if I paint a painting, it will look the way I painted it 300 years from now, without it fading or disintegrating. I want to create texture, life, vibrancy and value changes without necessarily having to apply thick paint or relying on the accident.
FAWbyJWP. Which things you enjoy to paint most and why?
Jolante. I am always working on and thinking about figures and portraits, although I am becoming curious about still lifes and unusual landscapes that evoke an emotional response.
The work I love the most, but which is also the most stressful, is portraits with live sittings the stress relates to my concerns for the comfort of her sitter. I believe I am not yet mature enough as an artist to be able to disregard the comfort of my sitter. Therefore, all my live portraits are either family or close friends who are able to put up with my neurosis.
My greatest challenges are internal insecurity about the quality of my work is a constant. Every time I start a painting I am convinced that I can’t paint. I have recognized that this is something that will always be with me and I am slowly learning to manage it.
My proudest achievement in art is having one of my portraits selected as a finalist for the SPI Portrait Award in South Africa. It is the largest and most prestigious portrait competition in South Africa. Having only been painting for 18 months, it helped to give me the courage to continue to paint the way I do and not to follow art trends.
FAWbyJWP. Are there any artists that influenced you? How do you believe this is reflected in your work?
Jolante. I remember having a physical reaction when I saw one of Lucian Freud’s paintings. I understand his work on some gut level. Although my eyes see differently to his, he gave me the confidence to also try to paint the way I see. Isaac Levitan’s landscapes are to me, the most wonderful ones ever painted. I read somewhere that he ‘painted his philosophy of life in a landscape’. I can feel that in his work and hope that one day I can also do that with the landscapes of South Africa. Paul Cezanne’s still lifes and Richard Diebenkorn’s compositions are inspirational. Another artist that I can’t get enough of is Euan Uglow. His sense of quietness in the paint is wonderful.
FAWbyJWP. There are so many artworks on the internet nowadays. How do you think that your work differs from the rest artists and what motivates you to continue painting?
Jolante. There are many artists on the internet and I am represented on three of them. I have made good ‘friends’ with some and got some good advice from others. I enjoy the interaction and the exposure has given me confidence. My art is very much ‘my art’ and because of that, it would, therefore, be different.What motivates me to continue painting? I have something of a love/hate relationship with painting. It is a daily inner fight that is redeemed by those rare moments when you get it right. I enjoy the struggle of both drawing paintings. I love looking intently at something and trying to portray in the paint, exactly what I see. Maybe one day I will achieve that. I love the difficulty of that because my eyes keep seeing different things in the same subject or object.
FAWbyJWP. How would you characterize your activity in online communities like FAA or social media networks? Does it play an important role in your sales?
Jolante. I have never made a sale on any of the art sites, and that is okay for now. I know my art is not pretty and will never be. The art sites are important to me for the relationships I build and the odd artist that inspires me and I can learn from. There are also some photographers on the sites whose images I would want to interpret.
FAWbyJWP. Can art change someone’s life in a better way? Would you like to give an example?
Jolante. I can only speak for myself in answering the question whether art can change a person’s life in a better way. It did with mine. I live a simpler life, struggle with myself and, in a way, use it to deal with my ‘issues’.
FAWbyJWP. What is the best advice you ever heard for your work or your life as an artist?
Jolante. The best advice I ever received is to always remember why I paint. The moment I paint for something other than myself, my work becomes shallow. Because survival in society is all about the left brain deadlines, time management, dealing with conflict, etc. for real art to happen, the right brain must be as active as the left brain. You need to be mature enough to get to a place in your painting where the two halves are in balance. What this means for me is hours the only way to get into that state is to start painting and know that in about five hours I may just be starting to get there. Every now and then, everything is perfect – the light is perfect, the sitter is at ease, the dog is snoring at the right pitch, and the work is brilliant but the following morning it is not there anymore and you have to start the slog all over again.
….and for me, as an artist, you must accept that as part of the artistic life.
Thank you so much Jolante for this inspiring interview. You can find and follow Jolante Hesse and her magnificent work, original and prints, in her sites: