The composition of Sue’s paintings is critical. It’s based upon the law of proportion known as the “Golden Mean” which is an aesthetic principle used by the ancient Greeks. This is because 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”. As a result, her stark, clean images concentrate exclusively on the animal as well as conveying 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 – because once it’s on the paper, it is almost impossible to remove. Consequently, I work carefully and accurately. I’m not attempting to reproduce reality, therefore I want to work fairly loosely too.
It is important for the viewer to be able to see the mark of the artist, and also the journey I have taken on the page. Certainly I don’t want a slick look.”
I didn’t study art at school. This was because 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. So, 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 had an incredible intellect (and was a Professor in the Division of Visual Arts in the Wits School of Arts, University of the Witswatersrand, Johannesburg, where he lectured in art criticism, studio practice and art theory). So it was all Colin’s fault! Sadly, Colin died recently in a tragic accident.
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.
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.
From the start, I absolutely loved it. But, without any warning, I failed my practical subjects (my majors) in my 3rd year – Drawing and Sculpture. Consequently, 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. Certainly I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t my passion. But 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!”
Formerly, I lived 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 and, as a result, all I wanted to be was a game ranger.
I dislike most wildlife art because some of it can be dreadful. There’s also a stigma associated with wildlife art in South Africa. Often wildlife art is painted badly by people who have never even seen the subject, not even in a zoo, and it consequently shows in their paintings.
However, there is also some wonderful wildlife art. This can be seen in my 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 whilst sitting in an open Landrover, watching two male lions from a few meters away, I thought – “Yes, I could live like this!”
Consequently, painting and my love for wildlife dovetailed.
Soon after this I got involved with Thulamela in the northern Kruger National Park. While 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.” You can learn more about this experience of Thulamela here.
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 1995
Size: 40 x 28 cm
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. You can see all the Thulamela Postal Tags here.
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. You can see the postage stamp and first day cover here.
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”. You can see all the postage stamps here.