South African artist Julie Stead conveys character and strength in her compelling portfolio of portraits and figurative paintings. See more of her work by visiting her website.
I am a portrait artist based in Cape Town, South Africa, with a passion for painting the beauty I see in African women and children.
I have always loved drawing and painting faces. My childhood dream was to become an artist, so after school I studied Fine Art at Pietermartizburg University.
After graduating, I was offered a job in the IT sector and got swept up in the corporate world for over ten years, leaving my dream and my art far behind. My position involved a lot of travel and long hours. This environment was stimulating and the money was great, but it came at the expense of my creativity.
It was during this time that I volunteered to teach computer skills to young underprivileged children in both Alexandra and Diepsloot Townships. For those who don’t know about these townships, they house thousands of poor people, often living in crowded conditions in small iron shacks. Many children go hungry, so we used to help feed and teach these children. It was during this time that I was exposed to their beauty and innocence and their positivity in the face of hardship. This experience still influences my choice of subject matter today.
In 2003, after the birth of my second son, I changed careers, moving into graphic design. I set up my own company—Julie Stead Art & Design—and still work with a number of design clients today.
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We moved to Cape Town in 2010, where I joined an art class with a group of artists and so began my unchartered journey back to my love of painting. Sherri Ryan, our art teacher, was an inspiration, encouraging me to experiment and enjoy the process. This took a lot of courage initially, but slowly I got my confidence back and could once again immerse myself in my love of creating art.
Once I had built up a body of work, I joined the South African Artists Association and started exhibiting and selling my work at a number of Cape Town art galleries.
I paint on large canvases and prefer using oils because of their flexibility and transparency. I often start by painting the background with a dark gray then work into it, leaving parts of the original background exposed in the finished work.
To get the thick texture of plaited hair, I squeeze oil paint straight out of the tube onto the canvas. For the patterned clothing and other background elements I create interesting marks and textures by using car mats, old vegetable bags and plastic wrapping as stencils. Although my paintings are quite realistic, I use crazy bits of color and my palette knife to add a contemporary element to my work.
I want those that look at my paintings to not only enjoy what they see, but also feel the compassion, dignity and strength of the women and the joy of the children I paint.
Artist Julie Stead invites you to follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
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