Heidi Shedlock is a Durban based artist and educator who paints from her studio in Durban North. She spent many years involved in education before deciding to give up full time teaching and put all her energy and focus back into producing her own work.
She seeks beauty without apology, not in a superficial way, but in the aesthetic sense of experiencing something that connects with the soul and uplifts the spirit.
"My work concentrates unashamedly on all that I find beautiful! We all need a little ‘beautiful’ in our lives to soothe the soul…whatever your beautiful may be. I have a deep connection with flowers; I love the variety of colour and shape - and flowers have a way of communicating for me what is sometimes hard to put into words.
Flowers have a deep-rooted history. They are used to celebrate important occasions, to express love, sympathy, moments of nostalgia and give thanks or merely please our senses. The function of flowers in nature is crucial to us in their roles of food production, spices, medicines and perfumes.
My work always begins with my interaction and inspiration from real blooms and foliage in my studio. This initial inspiration then develops into a choreography of colour, shape, pattern, texture and form…like flower arranging but with paint and always paying homage to my deep love of the blooms. Flowers and people depend on one another and I try to capture the beauty of this connection we have with flowers, especially in a way of communicating something that speaks to the soul."
We were delighted to visit Heidi in her studio and capture her process of painting a bouquet to share with you in this short film:
We asked her some questions about her process, inspirations and studio life. View her works available online here>>>
Introduce yourself and tell us a bit of your background.
I live (and was born) in Durban on the East coast of South Africa. I am married with two teenage children and I work from my home studio in Durban North. I lived for a while in London before returning back to South Africa. I spent many years involved in education but eventually took a leap of faith to concentrate full time on my own art making practice. I love spending time in my home so if I’m not painting, I will be cooking, reading or rearranging furniture, painting walls or pottering around my home which is very much a colourful reflection of all that I love!
Favourite material and tools to work with?
Without a doubt I am absolutely passionate about oil paint, its texture and creaminess and even the smell! There is a richness to oil paint that I find hard to put into words! I do love the thrill of exploring and experimenting with all sorts of tools, materials, fabric, ink and anything that I can create/make with, but I will always return to my first love, oil paint!
What themes do you pursue?
I have always focused on the things that surround us and that tell our story. Most recently I have concentrated on my love for all things floral and my desire to capture and share beauty unashamedly. The painted flower most certainly has a historical significance, however painting flowers is a rather daring avenue for a contemporary painter as ‘beauty’ and especially flowers is often deemed kitsch or seen to not have enough intellectual value in a world where there seems so much to say. It is often regarded as superficial, stereotypical subject matter. Yet we are all inherently attracted to that which we interpret as beautiful, so I choose to embrace this and hopefully allow others to relish in a moment of spontaneous joy brought on by a fusion of colour, texture, pattern and the form of beautiful flowers.
For me there is also a sense of nostalgia with flowers, they are our storytellers. No momentous life occasion ever happens without flowers be it a birth, a marriage, a celebration or even a death. Flowers tell our stories and we in turn tell our stories through flowers. No two stories are ever the same and I love a good story! I want the viewers to bring their own beautiful stories to my images.
I see my painted blossoms as a beautifully choreographed narrative embellished with marks of paint, colour and texture.
How many years an artist?
I have always painted even when I was teaching but I gave up full time teaching in 2007 to pursue my art making practice full time. Does that mean I then became an artist…? I guess it means I have been a full time professional artist for about 10 years, but I like to think that I have always been an evolving (and still evolving) artist. I have created and made since the day I can remember. My world has always been full of colour, crayons, paint, fabric and anything that I could ‘make’ with.
What is your favourite flower to paint?
Choosing a favourite flower would be like choosing a favourite child, impossible! But I think for me painting flowers is less about the actual representation of the bloom and more about the feelings or memories they evoke. For this reason I hardly ever focus on the vessel or container that holds the flowers, I want to focus on the forms, the textures, the colour, the patterns and my spontaneous response to them. I want the viewers to also experience more than just looking at a pretty vase of flowers. (not to knock the painted vase of flowers, many paintings I love are just that). So I don’t have a favourite flower to paint, sometimes what appears to be a flower when viewed closer is really not a flower at all but a reaction of paint and mark making.
Which living or dead artist would you most like to meet?
That is SO hard! There are so many living and dead artists I would love to have a conversation with and all for different reasons. If I had to choose just one though, it would have to be Matisse. His amazing sense of design, and understanding of colour and pattern to create simple but stunning images has always been a huge inspiration for me. I love pattern and especially colour!
Tell us about your studio. Location, clean, cluttered, big, small, etc?
I am fortunate to have been able to convert what was an additional living space attached to our house into my home office and studio. It has meant that I have a large open plan area where I paint and a separate office area, bathroom and little kitchen space that is used for washing up and storing paint, brushes, packaging materials, canvas etc. I really am blessed and grateful for this abundant space. I like to paint with my paintings up on the wall and be able to step back and look at therm. I have created a little area with my favourite comfy chair where I often sit with a cup of tea or coffee and observe the images emerging on the paintings while trying to decide my next move. I always paint a few paintings at the same time and I like to switch between them. I know that I am a very visual person so it is important for me to keep my surroundings inspiring and aesthetically pleasing. My studio is full of all sorts of things that inspire me and tell my story. The space gets messy with paint, paint splatters, painting rags, dirty brushes and paper all over but every so often I have to sort it all out and reorganise my space…I guess it is part of my creative process, its more than just what happens on the canvas. And of course my space is always full of flowers, foliage and cuttings from the garden!
If you couldn't be an artist, what would you do?
I think I would be a curator, decorator or stylist. I love arranging and organising spaces whether it’s on or off of my canvases.
What do you collect?
I am a natural hunter-gatherer type when it comes to my home so I love to spend time hunting for treasure in flea markets, car boot sales and vintage shops, or anywhere that promises treasure of the old and used kind. I love something that has a story and can be re-loved, re-purposed or given a second chance to be part of my story in my home. So I collect anything that speaks to my soul and appeals to my sense of aesthetics. I love a good vintage find and love to mix it up with the odd piece that is new or modern. And books! I could never live without books!
What was the best advice given to you as an artist?
Paint or draw every day, ESPECIALLY when you don’t feel like it!
What got you interested in art in the first place?
I come from a family of creative people although none of them are artists, they all make or craft in some way, with thread, fabric, tools etc. I have grown up amongst creative makers and do-ers. It was my fortuitous encounter however with two amazing teachers (one at primary school and one at high school) that had the most influence on planting the seed which germinated into a huge love for Art, Art History and the need to express myself through art practices. Perhaps that’s why I too dedicated so many years to teaching. I hope I gave back and in turn inspired someone along the way. I am so fortunate to still call both of these teachers my friends and I will forever be grateful to them. One is an amazing Durban photographer now and the other while still teaching part-time paints the most incredible wall murals. These two ladies still continue to inspire me.
How do you overcome fear, insecurities or artist's block?
I make a conscious effort to do things that full my ‘soul tank’ like time with my family, reading, cooking or spending time outdoors. I love a little adventure even if it’s just a little road trip. I feel refreshed and rejuvenated when back in the studio. A simple walk can also help! I try to be intuitive about knowing when I need to full my soul tank and this helps to prevent artist block or burn out. I also try to embrace fear as part of the process. Anyone who says they are never fearful is not human so I try to embrace and recognise fear as being part of what I do each time I paint. There is always an element of fear present. I never know how a painting will end up as I rely a lot on the process and sudden decision making, There is a huge dose of fear in that so I embrace it like a studio visitor …but as long as it stays sitting in the corner of the studio! If it doesn’t and it starts to tap me on the shoulder, I’ve gained the confidence to tell fear to bugger off and carry on painting anyway. But fear is always present. Elizabeth Gilbert writes beautifully about fear. The only way to deal with fear, artist block or insecurity is to just carry on painting…even if its rubbish…paint anyway! In my experience my biggest mistakes are often my biggest blessings!
Do you have any advice for aspiring artists wanting to sell their work?
Paint (or make) every day. Run your art practice like a business. Get up and go to work in a regular routine but don’t get so caught up in trying to sell that you compromise the time you spend painting or working or improving. Stay authentic to yourself and make work that speaks to you, not what you think others want to see. Do what you love and you will find those that love what you do too. You can’t please everyone, be okay with that. Get yourself onto social media and connect with others. Be brave about looking for opportunities that are right for you and your journey. Don’t worry too much about what others are doing…comparison really is the thief of joy!
“Inspiration exists, but you have to find it working!” - Pablo Picasso
Could you recommend an artist to follow on Instagram?
At the moment I am absolutely crushing over the work of British painter Jake Wood-Evans (@jakewoodevens
) I have a deep love of Art history and his ethereal paintings which are full of incredible light, just transport me back to standing in front of masters like Turner and Rembrandt in the Art galleries. He blurs the distinction between past and present and there is a sense of past history and nostalgia that appeals to me. His paintings are luminous with bold drips and scratches of rich oil paint and rich colour, layered with intricate detail too. I want to get closer to look more…a painting should make you want to do that.
Follow Heidi on Instagram here: @heidishedlock