Willem Pretorius's nostalgic paintings celebrate SA's platteland

We chat to the Free State artist about his work, his studio and his incredibly large family

13 August 2017 - 00:00 By Roberta Thatcher

Where is your studio?
My studio, which is also my gallery, is in Rosendal, in the Eastern Free State, on the corner of two dirt roads. I love the fact that it's on the same property as our home, so it's open for visits any time.
So your studio is open to the public?
Yes, anyone can come and visit and buy from the gallery.
Can you describe a typical day in the studio?
Mornings are spent helping with the kids. We have eight children, aged three months to 14 years. We home-school them all, so it gets quite busy.
In the afternoon, I build and stretch canvases. I love being in the studio then, and seeing the natural light coming in through the reclaimed Victorian sash windows. I paint in the evenings when all the kids are in bed.Your paintings are hyper real. Do you work from photos?
I work from photos we take on our various road trips. I prefer this to painting plein air, as most of my work focuses around the light quality in the scene, and this changes very quickly. I also hate the bugs that get stuck to the paint if I work outside.You seem to be drawn to nature in your work?
Yes, I love how the changing light in the same scene can evoke so many different moods, depending on the time of day or the season - for example a misty winter's morning or the warmth of a late summer afternoon.
Much of your work shows small towns or houses. How do you find your subject matter?
I paint what I am familiar with. I come from a small town called Stella. Old houses, dirt roads, garages at night, all these scenes remind me of my childhood. It is also a type of visual documentation as some of these buildings don't exist anymore. I am intrigued by the way nature reclaims these structures and always wonder: Who lived here? What was their story?
• Follow Willem Pretorius on Instagram: @skoppelmaai

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