Biography South African artist Sue Dickinson

Biography South African artist Sue Dickinson

The composition of Sue’s paintings is critical; based upon the law of proportion known as the “Golden Mean” – an aesthetic principle used by the ancient Greeks. Sue’s focus is the animal itself.


Her experience has taught her that “what you leave out is just as important as what you put in”. Her stark, clean images concentrate exclusively on the animal and convey the wide-open spaces of Africa.


Sue’s preferred painting medium is watercolour. This much under-rated medium is widely acknowledged by artists to be the most difficult. “There is no room for error with watercolour – once it is on the paper, it is almost impossible to remove – so I work carefully and accurately. I’m not attempting to reproduce reality, so I want to work fairly loosely too.


It is important for the viewer to be able to see the mark of the artist, the journey I have taken on the page. I don’t want a slick look.”

Biography South African artist Sue Dickinson
Biography South African artist Sue Dickinson
Formal Art Education

I didn’t study art at school. Everyone believed that no one could actually make a living as an artist.


When I left school I had no idea of a career path. I tried jobs like nursing, bookkeeping, and working as a photographer in the University of Witwatersrand’s Medical School.


There I met Colin Richards, who was a medical illustrator. He was studying B.A.Fine Art part-time at a correspondence university called UNISA (University of South Africa).


I loved reading Colin’s History of Art assignments. He has an incredible intellect (and is now a Professor in the Division of Visual Arts in the Wits School of Arts, University of the Witswatersrand, Johannesburg, where he lectures in art criticism, studio practice and art theory). So it was all Colin’s fault!


I registered to study B.A. Fine Arts part-time at Unisa the following year, but I loved it so much that I enrolled at Wits full-time.

BA Fine Art & Failure

I felt quite overwhelmed when I first got to Wits because all the other students had studied art as a school subject and were already making fantastic art pieces of their own.


I loved it. But, without any warning, I failed my practical subjects (my majors) in my 3rd year – Drawing and Sculpture.  I was utterly devastated!


The Professor of Fine Art at that time, Alan Crump, wouldn’t discuss it with me either.


I completed my degree through UNISA (University of South Africa), but for the next 10 years I had no confidence in my artistic ability and didn’t make any art whatsoever.


I was a failed artist – therefore I believed I had no ability, no talent, no aptitude for art … nothing. So I drifted in the design and advertising industry for a long time. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t my passion. I just didn’t think I was good enough to be an artist.


In about 1992 I went for watercolour painting lessons with Sue Kemp, who is a fantastic teacher. I slowly got my self-esteem back and sold my first painting!”

Wildlife Art

I used to live in the city, but I went to the Kruger National Park so often, it felt like home. I was enchanted by the bushveld from an early age – I wanted to be a game ranger.

I dislike most wildlife art – it can be dreadful. There’s a stigma associated with wildlife art in South Africa. Often wildlife art is painted badly by people who have never seen the subject, not even in a zoo, and it shows in their paintings.

There is also some wonderful wildlife art though. See influences below.


Some very special people (who now own many of my paintings) took me on holiday with them to a luxury lodge in Thornybush and while sitting in an open Landrover, watching two male lions from a few meters away, I thought – “Yes, I could live like this!”


Painting and my love for wildlife dovetailed.

Soon after this I got involved with Thulamela in the northern Kruger National Park. As I was sitting on the massive roots of a baobab tree, painting the ancient enclosure, the decision to paint wildlife seemed the only logical thing to do – with a little help from some leopards.”

First Wildlife Painting Efforts

In 2002 Sue moved to the Lowveld, where she is only 60 km from the Kruger National Park. Her reputation as an award-winning artist keeps growing and growing.

First Watercolor Paintings

White Rhino & Calf 

Size: 40 x 28 cm

Kudu Bull

Size: 40 x 28 cm

South African Postage Stamps

Thulamela Postal Tags

Thulamela is the world famous archeaological site situated in the northern part of South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The amazing discoveries at Thulamela became the living history which is depicted in these watercolour paintings.


Order of St John 900th Anniversary

This special miniature sheet includes a depiction of South Africa’s former President, Nelson Mandela, wearing the Knight of Grace mantle. Established in 1099 in Jerusalem, the Order of St John celebrates 900 years in the service of mankind.


Early South African History

South Africa’s fascinating history is documented in these stamps – including the Taung Skull, dating back many millions of years; the priceless Golden Rhino from Mapungubwe; and the hauntingly beautiful ceramic “Lydenburg Heads”.

  • Wildlife Artist of the Year Exhibition (shortlisted), Mall Galleries, London, 2010
  • From Africa to the Amazon Wildlife Exhibition and Sale, Air Gallery, London, 2003
  • South-eastern Wildlife Art Exposition, Charleston, USA, 2002, 2003
  • Florida Wildlife Art Exposition, Sarasota, USA, 2003
  • Western Visions, National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, USA
  • Wildlife Art Gallery, Orlando, USA, 2003
  • Everard Read Gallery, Johannesburg, SA
  • Gallery on the Square, Sandton, SA, 2000
  • Christies Wildlife Art Auction, London
  • African Window Museum, Pretoria, SA, 1998
  • Norscot Manor Gallery, Sandton, SA, several exhibitions
  • White River Art Gallery 2013