In the studio with Nicole Pletts

Nicole Pletts was born in Durban in 1964, where she still resides and is one of South Africa’s leading impressionist and contemporary artists. With her camera always on hand, Nicole’s art is painted from her own captured images.  Favouring the gentle early morning and late afternoon hues, she is drawn to light and movement when colours are softer. See Nicole's paintings available online here.


Artist Statement: 
"As a middle class white female, I was brought up with the “Woman stayed at home and men worked” mentality. As a result most of my artwork is primarily male dominated starting with a “men at work” theme a few years ago which threads a continuous pattern through my work today. My subdued tonal paintings seem to play havoc with people’s perception of me as a person. They see me as bright and bubbly – and find the work I produce out of character. People seem to enjoy putting a label on artwork or on the artist. I don’t spend time analysing or questioning why I paint what I do, or why I use muted colours (especially brown as it is my singularly most disliked colour in the every respect – and yet it is the colour I use most). I am acutely aware of images around me and constantly keep a camera on hand in order not to miss any opportunities."

Watch our short film with Nicole, giving a glimpse into her Durban studio and painting process:




While making the film, we asked Nicole some questions about her creative process. Here is what she said:

On her goals when painting...
There are many objectives but the main objective is for the viewer to look at the original with new eyes. I like to make the ordinary extraordinary - to highlight mundane everyday things and make them interesting. How can I make something so mundane, interesting. One of the ways I like to do that is with light and dark. I don't really love colour, so my paintings are generally quite subdued. 
How I like to paint is I like to excite myself. So when I look at the painting I go, "Well how did I get there?", you know "how did I make that mark?". And I can only make that mark if I'm playing with paint that moves - with liquid paints - so it actually fluctuates as it goes.  I don't want to see each brushstroke because then it's quite predictable. I have a couple of my paintings that I keep at home, and I even look at them and I go "how did I do that?" 
That is what I try and achieve every time I go into the studio - to have those moments of clarity and those moments of excitement that you can't replicate ever again because you don't know how you got there in the first place. And I think that comes from painting in watercolours - I was originally a watercolour painter and you can't predict how watercolour is going to flow and how the colours are going to mix. That's also why I never mix a pool of paint. On my palette there will always be two or three colours that I'll dip my brush in and then I mix it - or maybe swirl it - on the palette but that's as good as it gets. Then I'll mix it on the canvas so that there's less predictability and more fighting of colours. 
On her daily studio routine and artistic process...
As an artist you don't necessarily always jump out of bed and go 'Oh whoopy! Can't wait to get to the studio!". I start off my day on Instagram and Facebook to just get into the art thing. Most of the people I follow on Instagram are artists, so that gets me in an art head-space before I even get out of bed which is great. Then I do a couple of emails and go down to the studio. My walk down to the studio is a bit like a meditation: it's beautiful, the dogs are with me. I go into the studio, turn off the air-con, turn the radio on first, open all the windows and let the inside out and outside in.  I do all of that slowly and methodically - to just absorb it and enjoy it. By then I'm in the space.