Monday, November 5, 2012

You did WHAT for Madonna?

Interview with Local South African Durban based artist: THE Bron Stofberg

When I discover a new product or service that I love, I want to know the person behind the product.  Who doesn't want to discover the source of inspiration or creativity?  I recently heard a lovely phrase about "the importance of investing in people."  People matter! So when I meet a coffee guy who roasts his own coffee beans - I want to know more about him.  When an artist produces work that touches my soul - I want to find out more about who she is.

I had the privilege of interviewing Bron Stofberg and finding out more about this very talented artist.  
Q:  As someone who has very little experience with art - how would you describe it?  What would you call your type of art?
A: If you had to put me into an artistic category, then I would be considered a contemporary artist, but art is in the eye of the beholder so if my works make you think or feel, then I have done my job! I create movements and reactions, steering the paints in certain directions to get the best possible outcome in each piece. As I don’t use a paint brush, I am a professional paint pourer! I think this gives my work an edge, something different to other artists out there! This also makes each piece unique as I cannot duplicate a piece – even though I must admit, I HAVE tried!

Q:   Was art something you did at school?  Did you always want to be an artist?  I remember being advised against taking art at school because there is no future in it - and yet I look at what you have created and I think - THERE IS!
A:  Thank you!
No, I didn’t take art at school and only actually started painting 7 years ago. I am glad I never did as I don’t think I would have been so open to trying new things and creating my own style if I had been taught what was acceptable and what was not. We are sometimes told “ the way it is”, stifling our natural urge to experiment. I have always been creative and love hobbies, but never dreamed of becoming an artist! At school I excelled in subjects that were more practical and had a creative element to them. Unfortunately, there weren’t many of those subjects!

Q:  Explain how you paint or create - how long does it take to conceptualize a piece until finished product?
A:  I think the conceptualizing part takes the longest. I plan my paintings very well. My paint is incredibly expensive so mistakes burn my back pocket! When I have an idea there is no better way than trying. I have made many mistakes and have had many canvases re-strapped ( much to my husbands dismay as he makes all my canvases!!!), but I have never let that stop me from trying again. The mixing of the paints does take the longest time as I only receive my paints in the very basic colours – black, white, brown, red, yellow and blue, every colour in between and more, I mix myself! My studio is filled with mini bottles of mixed paint, but unfortunately, my paint only lasts a few days after I have mixed the chemicals inside them, so there is a very fine line when I mix... Too much or too little! Extra is always good as colour matching is very hard and almost never exact!

I use anything from toothpicks and syringes to palette knives and a hair dryer! My best tools are certainly my hands and fingers hence the reason why I am always covered in paint!

Even the weather plays a very big part in when I can paint. If its too hot, then the paints move quickly and they merge too much creating a hot mess! If its too cold, then the paints don’t move enough! Durban’s humidity certainly helps!

Q:   What mediums do you work with when creating?
A:  7 years ago, while living in Hluhluwe ( managing several Bush Lodges on a property that my Dad developed), I got a call from my brother who needed an artwork for his home in Durban... Why he called me, I have NO idea! But, I played ( on a piece of board as painting on a canvas was very daunting!) and came up with something that he eventually hung in his home. That was the beginning... Not long after, I mixed the wrong ingredients and now have a chemist to makes up my paints for me! They are an oil-based paint to which I add numerous chemicals to get different reactions. They are exclusive and very expensive, but make my works easily distinguishable and something special.

Q:  What has been your favourite piece so far? 
A:  There have been a few! But if I had to pick one, I would choose this one. I called it the “Golden Orchid” even though I don’t normally give titles or names to my artworks! The reason for this is that my art is about movement and what it makes YOU feel and what YOU see, so if I give it a name, then its all about what I feel and see. My art can be anything!

Back to the “Golden Orchid” - this painting for me just worked so well, The choice of colours: from the soft gold to the rich, dark brown worked perfectly, the colours merged in the places where I wanted lots of movement, the circular shapes that I created worked so well on the square canvas – I’m sorry that I ever sold it!
Q:   I see you are now experimenting with buttons?
A: Well, this “new” button idea was me making a plan! The truck strike even affected one little artist in Durban, so while I waited for my paints to be mixed, I thought why not try something new! The pressure of a Christmas fair only 2 weeks away and NO stock to sell, was also a BIG motivation to have something on my stand! I am very happy with the final product and love the little artworks! I will let you know how it goes as the fair starts this Wednesday night and should I sell-out, then maybe buttons will stay!!
Q:  What's the best thing about being an artist?
A: That’s easy – Its FUN! I get to wear paint covered clothes and slippers to work, I get to paint and play everyday that I enter my studio, I make people smile and giddy like kids when I deliver their OWN masterpiece! I wouldn’t change it for the world!

Q:   What's the worst thing?
A:  It can get quite lonely, just me... My paint... And a white canvas! I do have my Mum around the corner which is the best as she is my sounding board and gets me out of those “blank wall” fazes!

Q:  How do you feel when people interpret your work differently?
A: The fact that I can get people to stop and absorb the movements and colour in a piece is very rewarding. I always get lots interpretations at my shows, some really interesting and imaginative explanations, but some see the oddest things! Either way, You cant take it to heart, not everyone is going to love your art, but there is that gem at every show that is blown away!!! It makes it all worth it!

Q:   Where do you get your inspiration?
A: Hard question! Its not something or someone that inspires me. I just have a feeling and am inspired to create. My best pieces have come about when I am left to do my own thing and push myself to try something new. I am not one of those artists who has music blaring in the background and incense sticks wafting through my studio, I like a calm and quite setting letting my mind wander as I do my thing!  
Q:  How did Madonna end up being one of your clients?
A:  I wish that I could take credit for the commission, but I was asked to paint by a South African Interior Design company that was employed to design and decorate a Post Production company that she co-owns in London. They only told me after I had completed the art who the client was! Better that way as I don’t think I could have put any paint on canvas had I known!

Q:   Any other famous people worth mentioning?  
A: Yes, a few!!! I have done lots of work for South African celebrities, Sport stars, Big companies and their private homes. One of my all time favourite commissions was being commissioned by Stephen Falcke (award winning international interior ddecorator and architect) to paint the inside panels of all of the lifts and artworks for the penthouse suites at the very prestigious Hotel in Sandton, The Da Vinci Hotel.  I was flown up, stayed in the Hotel and painted on site - with people watching me from the outside!!! It was truly a highlight in my career! I even took my Mum along!!!

Q:  Are you planning an any art shows in the near future?  Or where can we find you?
A: I have a Christmas Fair this week at the Green with Envy Nursery in Durban – this is an amazing little show as most of the items on sale are handmade and totally unique. Nothing else planned for this year as my commissions are keeping me busy - everyone wants their pieces before Christmas!
I have an extensive website which showcases lots of my works and collections, a Facebook page and you can follow me on Twitter.

Q:  Can we buy your art online? 
A: Yes, I am affiliated with many online galleries, but I like the personal, one-on-one relationship that I have will almost all of my clients. This is because I try as much as possible to represent myself and handle all commissions personally. I don’t normally carry very much stock as I paint for my shows and then in between, I paint for commissions. Most of my sales are when people contact me and have been on the website, found a piece they love and if possible, I visit their homes to give advise on size, colour and what style would work best for the space.

Q: Any other projects that you are currently working on?
A:  Yes, I have joined forces with my sister, Lisa Raleigh, in a new concept called “Health Box”. This is a box filled with her pick of healthy all sorts that’s delivered to your home on a monthly basis. My role is the Creative part – I am responsible for making the box look amazing!!!
Q:  Describe your family.
A: I must be the luckiest girl out there to have such a supportive and incredible family! From my folks who allow me to paint in their granny cottage and offer love, support, guidance and advise IF and WHEN needed! My brother and sister and their families for always being at my exhibitions, sharing my pics on Facebook, re-tweeting my “pick of the week” artwork! But mostly my wonderful husband, Nico for being there through all the ups and downs, hearing my rants and praising my accomplishments. He is MY gem. Lastly, my kiddies – their smiles and laughs, nightly massages, chats on the kitchen counter and for everything in between. I am truly blessed Y

Q:   You are a mom and artist - how do you find the capacity to do both?
A: I think all working mums have a juggling act on any given day. My life is no different. I don’t paint in the afternoons so that I can be with my kids for homework, studies, sport commitments etc. If I need to paint over the weekend or have shows, they are very understanding and I have a SUPER hubby that is very hands-on with the kids and supports me all the way! I guess it’s just about finding a happy balance.

Q:  What is the biggest challenge of the mother/artist combination
A: I would say being away from home during shows. Its hard, it never is really at the right time, but when is the right time? I can be away for up to 10 days and I try to make sure that life at home continues as per normal. Again, Nico my husband is amazing – he takes it all in his stride!
Q:  Have your children shown an interest in art?
A: Both my kids, Tegan and Matt, are very creative. We have more of their paintings and drawings in the house than mine!

Q:   What are you hoping for the future, what are your dreams and aspirations.
A:  I hope to be able to do what I do for years to come and still love it as much as I do now! I would love to exhibit in New York. I would love people to talk about and be inspired by my work. I would love to have a 6 month waiting list!!! I would love to teach kids how to “play and experiment” and not conform. I would love to travel and paint abroad. I would love that “one call” that turns me from Bron Stofberg to THE Bron Stofberg!!! Dreams....!

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