South African artist Deodanda Pretorius (Brown) was born in 1974 in Bloemfontein and grew up on a farm in the Free State. Since childhood her passion for drawing and art was evident but she only pursued painting much later in her life. Her interest in nature and agriculture led her to formally study plant and animal sciences at the University of the Free State. After obtaining her Honours and Masters degrees in science (M.Sc) she continued to work for the university as a forensic, medical and veterinary entomologist and academic researcher, whereafter she started her career as scientific writer in the pharmaceutical industry.
The year Pretorius turned 31 she relocated to Cape Town and it was during this period that she also decided to take up oil painting as a hobby for the first time. But working full time and with no opportunity for formal training or an art mentor she developed her painting skills during the evenings by studying the teachings and works of master painters from around the world. The after-hours hobby soon became a much more serious pursuit that led her to enroll in the 4-year online painting course by well-known British art instructor Bary John Raybould from the Virtual Art Academy. Her continued efforts to study the language of painting led her to the painting methods of many acclaimed masters such as Sherrie McGraw, Stephanie Birdsall, Daniel J. Keys, and Kevin MacPherson to name a few.
With a love for still life and floral works and with an interest in the classical paintings of the Dutch and Italian old masters of the 15th century, she studied for the better part of 4 years the online teachings of contemporary master David A. Leffel. Most of her still life work from that period was strongly influenced by the use of chiaroscuro as a design concept. But she also fell in love with the expressive naturalism approach and superior draughtmanship in the floral and still life works of Michael Klein and Richard Schmid whom she considers her art teachers alongside Leffel. During this time she took a clean break from landscape painting and returned to this genre 4 years later, revealing a strong post-impressionistic influence in her landscape work as she continues to study one of Britain's greatest landscape masters from this period, Edward Seago and also South African late master Errol Boyley, two master painters whose methods and paintings continue to remain a strong inspiration for her landscape painting as well as her painting program in which she teaches people with no artistic background to become fine art painters themselves. Pretorius is also a vegetarian who is against the use of animal skins and meats and uses her cattle studies to bring awareness towards the physical beauty and intelligence of these farm animals. Her Nguni paintings is an example of her efforts to appreciate the lives of these animals by displaying fine artwork against a wall instead of draping a Nguni hide over a couch.
For a decade Deodanda managed to juggle both painting on a daily basis and her full-time job as medical writer but realized that the time spent on art in the evenings after work was not nearly enough to sustain her artist soul. At the beginning of 2016 she decided to follow her heart's pursuit and exchanged her medical writing career for a full-time career as painter. She is an accomplished oil and pastel painter who is also passionate about sharing her journey with people. She gives oil painting classes and workshops to adults at her studio in Durbanville. She continues to rely strongly on her scientific knowledge as background for her artistic processes and exploration of subject matter and enjoys writing about her painting materials and experiences. Deodanda has published as guest author for well-known US manufacturer OldMasters.com and as oil and pastel demonstrator in the South African Artist magazine.
My Journey As a Career Painter ~ A few thoughts and reflections:
I consider myself an expressive naturalist painter, not bound by style or contemporary trends; instead I explore introspective, expressive as well as emotional elements in myself and in the subjects that I choose to paint. I use many of the technical elements available in representational painting which I hope will make for a good artwork, but what I see in the natural world is always influenced on the canvas by my spiritual emotion and personal circumstances. I wasn't born with so called talent, I had to work really hard (and still do) to develop my artistic skills. It is not an easy journey to work as a career painter and despite what it looks like it usually means lots of personal sacrifice and getting used to failures, frustration and worry that is part of everyday life. Making art is one thing, marketing your paintings is a completely different story. But still I would never go back to the corporate careers, because I believe you are born an artist, it is in your blood to create and your curiosity is what fuel your passion to discover the physical world through the eyes of someone who uses paint and brushes instead of words.
But what I have also experienced in my life is that more and more people are turning their lives away from God, losing interest in their marriages, loved ones and in their Creator, unable to find lasting happiness and fulfillment. Maybe it's because modern society offers people everything they need, it is almost like our society doesn't need to believe in God anymore - people simply buy whatever they need and even friendships are build on money and favours. But so many of these people are in a constant state of sadness and are searching for meaning and purpose in their lives as they continue to follow a journey that offers nothing but the empty and short lived riches and fleeting promises of the man-made world.
In my personal life as artist I choose to serve the living God and His son Jesus Christ and therefore I know that there is a purpose for my life no matter how hard it gets. I also know that nothing could have given me more fulfillment and brought me closer to God than being able to see and experience a tiny fraction of His extraordinary creation through my paint brushes everyday of this incredible journey. Our days are filled with so many miracles and once you start to live a life of gratefulness you will notice the endless blessings that are given and you will realize that it is not by your own human efforts that you succeed but by the grace of God.
Much of my inspiration comes from the natural world around me. Flowers and plants are one of my favourte topics along with landscapes, usually devoid of human presence. My bonsai trees are my children (along with my cats and dog). As living organisms trees, grass, flowers and fruit represent our internal battle against time, the bitter-sweet struggle of our own mortality and they remind us how precious time is. ~ Deodanda Pretorius