My Life As an Artist

By René Hale

The King

My journey as an artist is an interesting one. At school, I only paid attention in English class and in Sport. I simply wasn’t interested in anything else. Without ‘O’ Level Art I decided to put my name down for ‘A’ Level art just to get an ‘A’ Level. I was blown away when I received the Cambridge ‘A’ result, wondering how on earth I managed that not having done many lessons in the subject! In all honesty, I didn’t set out to be an artist or to create artwork relating to social commentary, but as my portfolio developed and people started to gain interest in my work, descriptions of my work started to emerge and I began to notice a pattern I hadn’t intended but am now pleased with. None of it was intentional – it all developed and evolved over time. People always ask for my artist’s statement, so I knew I would need to do one but I’ve never liked to explain a certain piece of work. My philosophy is simple. If you’ve made a picture just how you wanted it to be hopefully it can speak for itself. Whatever it says to the viewer is the right message because there isn’t a wrong and a right message. Each person takes something a little different from the same picture and I find that fascinating.

I work in an organic way, never setting out to produce art about one subject or another. I always have a sketchbook with me and am constantly drawing. Sometimes the drawings are left in the sketchbook, and other times they develop into more in-depth ideas and detailed images. My preference is the medium of charcoal with an aggressive approach on my paper and I often use a machine tool to lift a single portion of the paper where I might enhance the texture of a rhino horn. I enjoy this technique and it gives my pictures a unique style. I occasionally dabble in oil painting and have increasing demand from Chinese customers who have expressed a love for our country’s colours and textures. At first, I wasn’t keen on oil painting because, having worked with oil paints before, I knew the consequence of having one of my four beautiful children stick a finger in the paint, or walk too close to the work, and then take off around the house touching all my furniture and walls! Taking so long to dry, my animals and possessions, as well as my children, ended up looking like some colourful form of unicorn fairytale!

Night Watch

My work tends to focus on wildlife and the psychological connection between man and beast through the eyes of the beast. Having a keen love for psychology, the evolution of my drawings and choice of subject matter is mainly dependent on how I connect through the subjects eyes and the fear, love or communication that happens within me at that moment. The development of the size of my final pieces is becoming bigger and bigger; bigger eyes, more “tangible” type fur, and it seems to have consequences on the final connection between the human and what the animal is trying to say through its eyes. While drawing I often keep in mind the persistence of nature in recapturing what once belonged to the earth.  

My influences are first everything I see, feel and experience. I did, however, meet a very special person called Fraser Mackay who was an artist himself as well as an iconic singer in our country and around the globe. Having joined a band with him in 2006 and writing songs, one morning he encouraged me, out of the blue, to dabble again in Art. I told him of my very limited abilities and his words to me were “Bugs, if you can sing, you can draw!”.  Since his words of encouragement, I embarked on this creative adventure and have never regretted it or looked back. The artists I most admire are all our Zimbabwean artists, who in my mind, are greater than the ancient greats! Most of these artists grew up in humble environments, many grew up farming and riding motorbikes and getting up to all kinds of mischief in our beautiful bush. Just goes to show, in my experience, that art is not something that you need to go through intensive training to achieve, it comes from a place of experience and love. Something psychologically profound and deriving from deep parts of our human existence. It makes me happy!

I got your back

Images provided by René Hale

Ndeipi Magazine, Issue 113

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