This week we have an interview with a young, South African artist Iantha Naicker who in spite of being deaf shows her creativity to the world through her amazing paintings and artwork.
You make traditional paintings but you also create 3D images. When did it come to your mind to give it a try?
I started drawing in 3D about 2 years ago. It was a challenge; I love the idea that I can keep improving my skills. And nature really comes to life in this sort of artwork.
What is the difference between the two techniques (2D and 3D)?
For me 2D is a little easier. With 3D it’s a little more challenging; it’s all about perspectives and shadows. Having an image in your mind of what you want to put on paper and then trying to find ways to use whatever you have at your fingertips – pencils, watercolours, pastels – to create that image in a way that is as true to the real thing as possible.
You paint your pictures onto leaves or even your palm. Where do your inspirations come from?
I think I’m always looking for something new, something different, so I think I try to find material in everyday life that I can use – and nature is a big source of inspiration for me.
How do you paint on your palm? Do you make a sketch prior to that? What kind of materials do you use? What will happen to these paintings? Do you immediately wash them off? :)
It’s a little harder to sketch onto my palm because the surface is soft – so I’ll have a rough sketch on a piece of paper and use this to guide me. In cases where the position of my fingers or palm is incorporated into the image I have to just wing it without a sketch. Then I’ll just start the painting with water-based paint, it dries quicker and washes off more easily. Once I’ve taken a picture I wash them off, sometimes after a few hours if I really like an image.
Would you like to try other surfaces too?
Definitely! I enjoy testing out different surface textures – something soft like a palm compared to something bumpy like the a piece of tree bark. But I also like working on different sized surfaces – for example, practicing getting detail right on a really small seashell. I haven’t really tries huge surfaces tough – that would be nice.
Your paintings on the pine cone stems are very small. What do you have to take into consideration when the size of a painting is this small?
I think whatever you want to represent shouldn’t have too much intricate detail – or this gets lost in the smallness of the painting. At the same time, it’s not much of a challenge to paint something without any detail on a small surface. You also need to have the right tools, finer paint brushes, little pins to add bits of detail, something to correct tiny mistakes. And then you need to be prepared to sit for a long time hunched over something small. With the strain on your eyes and your posture you need to take frequent breaks to stretch.
Where did the idea come from to paint portraits on leaves? What kind of leaves do you use?
I have a lovely garden at home and spend time there; it’s got a few levels – a little bit of a slope and then a patch of garden up some stairs, so you have to sometimes look through trees and flowers to get a view. And I think this might have sparked the idea. I’ll use any kind of leaf I can find – it just has to be flat, a little firm and large enough to fit what I want to paint – sometimes I find the leaf first and like the way it looks and sometimes I think of something I’d like to paint and look for the perfect leaf. I’ve done a few where I’ve taken more brittle leaves and poked tiny holes into them outlining portraits – these look really nice when you hold them up to sunlight.
Do you have a favourite theme for your paintings?
Nature! Without a doubt, and usually animals.
Do you have favourite artists? Who had the greatest influence on you?
I love the work of Jackson Hlungwane, he often painted mythical creatures and a range of characters – it seemed like you were invited into his magical mind when you looked at his art. I also love Veri Apriyatno.
You live in South Africa. What are the differences between the African and the European arts? Do you prefer one over the other?
Traditional African art in South Africa – or what’s famous when we think of the concept now – uses a lot of geometric shapes and primary colours; you don’t really see this kind of distinct artwork outside of Africa, it’s unique to sub-Saharan Africa. In terms of sculpture, we use a lot of wood and bronze, rather than stone-based substances. I think my style is influenced by both African and European tastes. On a side note, the range of African art by country is so diverse, it really has to be individually explored.
You like using animals as inspiration: pandas, cats, birds, and fish. Do you have a favourite?
Artistically, birds are nice and challenging because of the different colours, the different perspectives of the feather positions and flight, and the different twists wings can take on; in the same way fish are great to paint because of the reflection of the water and light. Personally, I love anything cuddly and furry!
Nowadays thanks to the Internet we can see many beautiful works of art and a lot of talented artists can gain recognition. This is good for both the artists and the viewers, but after some time we can see many similar creations. In these situations how important is it for an artist to be able to renew oneself and to show/create something new?
I think it’s important if you’re trying to make a career of your art; to be able to get people to notice what you’re doing – because there is so much happening out there that we all have access to – new music, art, theatre, etc. But at the same time it’s important to stay true to what you want to do as an artist; not forcing yourself to create something just to have something. Especially for someone younger like myself, I’m still growing in my craft and I think if I can get a group of people who enjoy my art and they were happy to follow me as my work developed – that would be amazing.
Do you have a favourite Anime? :)
Saiunkoku monogatari, Bleach, Gintama, D-Grey and so much more! Besides the visual appeal of Anime, one of the biggest drawcards is that the plot and storyline are really good – and there’s always really good subtitles. Finding good TV if you’re deaf is difficult; the good shows don’t have subtitles (or have terrible ones) and the ones that do have subtitles are not that entertaining and are usually soap operas.
Do you have any other talents?
I’m pretty good at anything creative – painting, scrapbooking, sculpting, even sewing – but I think my talent stops there!
Do you have a dream project? Something you want to paint but have not come around to do it yet?
Not really a dream project, but I am playing around with pieces of clear PVC sheets, and I have some ideas about painting on feathers that I’m excited to start working on.