Opportunities taken, a fortunate future
John Mkhwanazi is Middelburg’s own Gerard Sekoto. He started his art career in the veld as a shepherd where he used to draw the landscapes around him.
From humble beginnings, John used to collect scattered cardboard and stoke fires for wood embers to draw his charcoal landscapes.
His departed grandma Linah, like any grandma, thought his pictures should be hung in the Louvre.
But money was tight and John became a bricklayer to put food on the table.
Grandma Linah, however, edged him on, buying him his first oil colours to bring life to his landscapes.
John’s interest in art brought him into contact with Rina Vos who was exhibiting her work in a long gone gallery in town.
Rina agreed with grandma Linah that John should cement his heart in art, not walls.
Rina often supplied John with more paint.
His meeting with Rina also brought him in contact with gallery owner Marie Pieterse who helped sell John’s work.
Sold work meant more paint and more paintings to be sold.
One day Rina ordered John into her car.
She drove miles past the landscapes John is so fond of to Hartbeespoort where he was fated to meet with his crown mentor Adriaan Boshoff.
Adriaan refined John’s sketching and also introduced him to a variety of painting techniques which started him off in acrylics.
He honed these techniques with painting still life and portraits from photos.
On whether locals understand art and the importance of investing in it, John says perhaps it is true, perhaps not.
“You have to be professional and use your passion to create self-sustainability and earn money, it’s a job like any other job where the client knows best,” he explains adding that commissioned work always pays.
“If you simply paint what you want to, then you may as well paint for yourself exclusively because then it becomes an issue of whether people like what they see and your work is judged harshly,” John says.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” he reminds us.
Today John spans his own canvas in the blink of an eye, like the canvas he created of a baby girl found dumped in a rubbish bin as pictured on the front page of the Middelburg Observer.
He says art imitates life for him.
And however grim the subject, it is art!