Holiday from the real world

2010-02-04 00:00

UNTIL she retired, artist Shirley Howells was a “left-brain professional” who worked in conveyancing.

Now her creative works — which are currently on show at the Blue ­Caterpillar Gallery at Butterflies for Africa in Willowton Road, Pieter­maritzburg — can be found in art ­collections both at home and abroad.

She is also the only South African artist to have two paintings ­included in The Unity Canvas, an exhibition commemorating 9/11, which has toured the United States.

Howells, who lives in Pinetown, first began painting in 1985, but only took it up seriously when she retired in 1998.

“In the August of that year I turned 65 ... everyone wanted to know how I was going to live without going to work every day, but I just closed the door and I got ­serious about art,” she said.

It’s a decision Howells has never ­regretted. “Art is the most incredible outlet for your emotions,” she says. “No matter what your problem is, you’re locked into that painting. It’s like a holiday from the real world for a couple of hours.”

Although she works in all media, Howells leans towards the use of ­pastel for her portrait studies, oils for landscapes, still life and florals, and acrylics for her bright and decorative art.

Her latest work, a series of African scenes, is more abstract than any of her previous paintings. Asked what had prompted the new direction, Howells said: “Someone gave me a book on abstract paintings for my birthday, and my first thought was ‘What am I going to do with it?I don’t like abstract art.’

“But, just before Christmas last year, I picked up the book and when I looked at it I realised that the works had a lot to do with colour and shapes. So, I adapted that concept to my ­African studies. And I’m having a lot of fun, a tremendous amount of fun. Where the paint lands is where it stays.”

SHIRLEY Howell’s exhibition can be viewed at the Blue Caterpillar Gallery until ­February 28. The gallery is open Tuesday to Friday from 9 am to 4.30 pm, Saturdays from 9.30 am to 3.30 pm and on Sundays from 10.30 am to 3.30 pm.

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