Ad agencies cannot spoil a true artist Print E-mail
News - Ons Mense
Wednesday, 20 February 2008 02:00

The word ?artist? evokes images of bare attics, breadcrumbs for lunch, the poverty that artistic integrity so often brings with it. Today, however, many a true artist lurk behind the commercial work that allows them to bring home the bacon. Still, how easy is it to go from grinding out graphics to having one?s own fine art exhibition?

Marica with some of her more abstract work

Marica Sutherland is an artist whose soul survived the shark-infested waters of the advertising agency industry. And that?s not said entirely tongue-incheek. Actually she not only survived it, she picked up the skills necessary to keep her head above water as an artist exhibiting sans gallery.

?Finally, I?m ready to show,? Marica said last year. She had her first Pretoria solo exhibition in her Wapadrand garden on the weekend of 6 and 7 October. Of course it started raining and Marica had to rush to cram all her paintings inside.

Marica?s versatility ranges from Gauguin-like settings to romantic impressions and an almost cartoon-like dream world

?But I managed to sell seven paintings on a rainy day,? she smiled. Marica studied graphic design at the Johannesburg School of Art, although her lecturers told her hat she should rather do fine art. In her early twenties she started working for advertising agencies as graphic designer and illustrator and eventually moved on to freelance work. She freelanced for ad agencies for 14 years, starting with the time when mock-ups still had to be done by hand, and later taught herself the computer programmes specialising in design, layout and illustrations.

But, it has always been Marica?s dream to paint, even as a little girl. Actually, she said, her first dream was to become a vet one day, but seeing that the funds were lacking, she settled for graphic design. Marica painted as a hobby and eventually realised that she could not keep all the paintings she did ? she had to start selling at least some of them. As often happens to artists, people started coming up to her, saying that they liked a certain painting, but how about doing it in another colour ? something that would match their curtains. Instead of exploding with righteous indignation, Marica started entertaining the thought of moving into an interior design direction. After all, the ad agency work taught her how to meet clients? needs. She studied interior decorating under Maggie Malan, but haven?t really started pursuing this direction. Marica said it is her commercial background which has taught her to be truly versatile, to do a variety of work ranging from very realistic to abstract, more decorative and mixed media. She works in oil, acrylic and water colour.

Marica with Dixie on her lap and Jessie, the longhaired Dachshund, in front of a painting from her African tribal series

?I suppose it?s yet again the ad agency background, but I cannot stand working in one style or on the same subject all the time,? she said. ?I?d rather do a series and while I?m doing it break away to do odd bits of something else.? Marica is working on a series of African tribal portraits aimed at the overseas market. Each painting has a story behind it and will be accompanied by a leaflet, giving more background about the specific tribe, their jewellery, dwellings and history.

And no, she doesn?t plan on taking this series to an art galery. She plans on starting her own website where she will market the series herself. Actually she?s not all that crazy about the idea of a gallery prescribing to her and taking a huge commission.

Marica showing her different styles of painting

She plans on continuing with her own garden exhibitions in Kingbolt Crescent, Wapadrand. The next one will be in May, when Marica can be sure that the rainy season is over.

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