Creative SA: Artist Miche Watkins

Creative SA: Miche Watkins

Last year we introduced a new blog series, Creative SA. In this series we will regularly feature South African makers.

by Rose McClement

In the spirit of moving forward with this series, I would like to introduce you to another South African artist, Miche Watkins.  Miche and I met online – how that came about I just simply can’t remember.  But you know the story, if you knock around a few online portals long and often enough, you find one another.

Creative SA: Artist Miche Watkins

Since that first time a few years ago we have kept pace with each other via Facebook largely, until Miche visited Cape Town last year, when we had the opportunity of catching up eyeball to eyeball. Although Miche relocated to the UK a few years ago to be close to her family, she lived in Cape Town for a long time. That I think was the glue that formed the bond early in our friendship, the fact that I used to post images of beautiful Mother City and she would respond with great yearning.

I’m not much of an art “knower” or a “knower of art”, but this I do know about myself… I know what art appeals to me. Over the past few years I have exposed myself to more and more artists and in doing so I have come to understand that which appeals to me and that which just goes over my head.

The question then is what is it that appeals to me about the body of work that Miche brings to the world?  It is her particular style of Pop Art-ish line drawings – she only introduces a hint of red or colour that I am simply taken with.  They are funky, contemporary, youthful and more often than not, faceless images.

Creative SA: Artist Miche Watkins

As a decorator finding something that is appealing yet not specific in terms of its image, is a very big draw. Her art can be installed into offices, hotels and residences alike – any space that can indulge a bit of contemporary funk. I see Miche’s art hanging on the walls of some trendy millennial’s apartment or in the room of an edgy teen.

She has recently introduced another element into these clean lined paintings – that of Street Art.  It’s the combination of the street art and line drawings that work for me. Take a look for yourself and you decide if this art appeals to you or not.

Creative SA: Artist Miche Watkins

In closing let me add that I have great admiration for artists who put out their work for the public to scrutinise – possibly appreciate, or possibly criticise.  They are such a brave crowd of creatives. Plus having to market their work in an already overcrowded arena and run it like a business – that takes extra commitment to the cause.

Futher, I know that Miche puts her heart and soul into her paintings as well as her business.  Hats off to her!

Creative SA: Artist Miche Watkins

Her work can be seen and purchased on the online art portal, State of the Art, as well as the bricks and mortar State of The Art Gallery in Bree Street, Cape Town – the heart of our buzzing city.

You can also follow Miche on FacebookInstagramTwitter.

Q&A With Artist Miche Watkins

Miche WatkinsQ: To kick off, tell us a little about yourself and your family:

I am a figurative artist painting in oils with an emphasis on portraiture. I lived in Cape Town for five years but have recently relocated back to Bristol, UK where my family is based. I have three grown up children, Megan, Tom and Joe who all live in England. None of them an artist!

On coming to Cape Town 6 years ago I struggled to start again artistically as of course no one knew my work. I had a very supportive partner, but did not know many people to bounce ideas off for my portraiture. For this reason, I developed my “Line Art” acrylic paintings which were the complete opposite of figurative oil paintings – no facial features at all! These paintings were fun, contemporary and affordable and struck a chord with South Africans who seemed to like this work.

Q: How long have you been painting?  What was the process and the tipping point that took you to the place of being a professional artist?

I have drawn and painted all my life. When I was a child I was forever drawing princesses (never princes for some reason).  I began my formal art training after my youngest child started school but owing to personal reasons had to give up my art degree and find paid employment to pay my bills.  I remember my solicitor’s words very clearly: “I see your future Miche, and it is very dreary…” However, this never stopped me painting. I started painting portraits and through word of mouth got commissions.

Q: How would you best describe your art style/genre and what is your preferred medium?

My art style is figurative as always. I am veering away from straight portraiture towards figurative paintings that have a narrative theme and there nearly always seems to be an element of isolation and loneliness in these paintings. I began with charcoal, progressed to pastels and now my real love is oil painting – I love the smell of turps!

Q: How or where are you likely to find inspiration?

I am inspired by artists like Aldo Balding, who I met at the Christopher Moller Gallery last year, such an unassuming and all round good bloke! Edward Hopper is certainly an influence and I am drawn to artists such as Jack Vettriano and Caravaggio because of the light and dark shadows they use in their work.  I find exaggerating the lights and darks in my paintings makes for a far more interesting piece of work at the end of the day.

Q: You are living and working in Bristol currently. What is your take and experience as an artist of that city?

I am extremely happy in Bristol which is a young and vibrant city with so many artists actually making a living – something I found difficult in Cape Town, being an unknown English incomer.

I am also now teaching life drawing here in Bristol (something I have done in the past) and with the city’s lively and buzzy artistic community this class goes from strength to strength. I am hoping to organise an exhibition of the students’ work in May because I want them to gain confidence in their work, and seeing someone buy your work is the best way to improve self-confidence!

Q: Where do you exhibit / sell your work?

When in Cape Town I sold work through the Lisa King Gallery, Art on The Bay in Camps Bay and of course through StateoftheART.co.za (Jennifer has always been a big support to me).  Here in England I exhibit with the SBA, The Southbank Bristol Arts Trail in May, and am now part of Colin Neville Contemporary Art. I am also exhibiting with Art Extra in Devon at the end of June which is supporting HospiceCare and 25 artists have been invited to exhibit – exciting times for me.

I sell prints of my work through Fine Art America and workART.  I also do a lot of marketing (which I absolutely hate, loathe and despise doing having an artist’s brain) through social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn – and of course my website. I have to say, however, that this side of marketing does work! The rest is word of mouth.

Q: Do you see yourself returning to Cape Town or SA for that matter on a permanent basis?

I don’t see myself returning permanently to Cape Town as my home is here with my family nearby. But I do miss the warmth of that lovely city and my many friends there. I would hope to revisit many times though, and the world is indeed a smaller place with the Internet, and Skype.

Q: If you found yourself stranded on that proverbial desert island, who and what would you like to have there with you?

Ah, the desert island… I would like to have my Bible there please. I found God finally when I came to South Africa and I would need that daily connection with Him to keep me grounded. I know now my artistic talent comes from Him, so I would ask Him to please direct me to some paintbrushes and paints in the jungle. AND I would want my nearest and dearest with me…

{Images via Miche Watkins}