The launch of her career as an artist may have come from a very raw and broken place, but Driekie van Wyk’s paintings have become symbols of hope.
For Cape Town based acrylic painting artist Driekie van Wyk, art has become her life purpose. Although she grew up with the urge to create, it was only after a traumatic incident in her adult life that she re-discovered art or, as she puts it, “allowed art to find me”.
Growing up in a family of makers the creative seed was always there. “My father was a special role model. He was the first person in the country at that stage to make guitars in South Africa – the rest were all imported. He made all his own guitars from scratch, first building the tools he would need before carefully crafting each piece. I used to love playing with the wood shavings in his workshop, while he was busy working on an instrument. I think being that close to creation, and to the materials involved, fuelled my own desire to make things,” she explains.
She put her creativity on hold while carving a career in the corporate world, but when she experienced a traumatic life event, her life was turned upside down. It was during this intense grieving process that a friend encouraged Driekie to find a creative outlet to work through her pain. She gifted her with a large canvas and basic colours and Driekie started painting.
“I painted this African woman with a large afro. It came out really well and I put it up on my wall,” she explains.
Soon after, somebody saw the painting in a photo and wanted to buy it. “The gentleman asked me to name my price as I had explained that it wasn’t for sale. He was very persistent, and I eventually gave in. He actually ended up paying even more than he had offered when he finally saw the painting in front of him.”
Driekie bought another canvas and started a new piece as she was curious about the process that she had gone through with her first painting and wanted to experience it again and go a little bit deeper into it. Sure enough, another offer came to buy the second painting off the wall. So, she painted a third… and the same thing happened.
“That got my attention. I realised that there was something there. I knew I wasn’t looking for something, but it found me… and it was worth pursuing,” she explains. “Looking back, one of the worst things that happened in my life changed the course of my whole existence, my whole being, my whole life, in a good way.”
Seven years later and Driekie’s colourful portraits have garnered a solid following. Completely self-taught, using brush strokes and pallet knife edging, her process is never the same. “I never learnt to mix colours or follow a method, which keeps it fun and interesting. It was just in me from the get go”
It also allows for free flow of artistic expression. “As an artist, the process of creating is an immersive one. You have to be your own best friend, because you really are riding a wave. One minute, you’re on top of the world – the next, you’re crashing on the rocks. And then, just as suddenly, you’ll see the light again. The exhilarating highs are followed by equally devastating lows – that constant change is part of the deal.”
Faces are still her trademark and in addition to originals, Driekie also does commissions. “I’ve always been fascinated by human behaviour and psychology. A group of people can stand in front of one painting and each person will have their own opinion about what the face is expressing. What I like about it is the mystery, because only the person in the picture truly knows the emotion that lies behind it.”
In support of local businesses and sustainable practices, all her canvasses are purchased from a local family business, and she uses frames made from spruce, a sustainably managed timber with a low carbon footprint. The frames are covered with a cotton duck which is woven in South Africa and covered with an acrylic primer manufactured to exact specifications in Cape Town.
Her prints are printed with pigment inks on archival Epson Water Resistant Matte Canvas; a natural white canvas made from a durable blend of polyester and cotton. Each print is covered with new paint strokes, to personalise it, and finished with a varnish. This process takes up to two weeks.
Driekie’s wish is that viewers will forever be mesmerised by the expressions on the faces she paints, and she aims to get as many paintings in as many houses around the world as possible.
“I hope that people can come to their own place of serenity through my process, that the piece makes them linger for a moment, to pause and be present. But above all, my wish is that my work also gives them a sense of hope, because as much as my process may be intense, it is also about celebrating and loving life, looking for the joy in every moment.”
Driekie’s work is currently featured at Absolut Art, Stellenbosch; The Winelands Art Gallery, Durbanville; Anon Pop-Up Art Show, Observatory; Eye for Art, Umhlanga; and Hadani Gallery, Tel Aviv, Israel.
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