SPLAT ‘N THAT: AN ART EXPERIENCE
WORDS AND PICTURES: KELLY JONES
Mural artist, Vanessa Ypenburg, tells the story of her most memorable mural. It takes her back to Kaapschehoop in Mpumalanga where she completed her creation standing in a pond whilst wearing her Wellingtons. She recalls that it was a rather spiritual moment as the mist surrounded her whilst she was painting horses – and she could hear their faint neighing coming from behind her.
Vanessa spent 16 years as a full time mural artist, painting anything from walls in children’s rooms, to the interior and exteriors of a plethora of different buildings.
Now painting murals is no longer a full time occupation. Instead, she spends much of her time doing commissioned pieces and teaching art in her rather novelly named art studio, Splat n That, which is tucked away in the hills of Berario, Northcliff in Johannesburg.
Vanessa has always had a passion for teaching and people, thus the creation of her art studio six years ago.
But she was teaching art and connecting with people long before that.
During her days as a full time mural artist, she also taught part time, helping artists to improve their style and techniques. She worked with everyone from high school students to up and coming artists. Not being a qualified teacher has brought its challenges to her, however. But she has refused to let this get in her way because of the connection she has with people on a spiritual and emotional level.
Today, students come for art lessons and art therapy sessions where they are free to be themselves and to express themselves through art.
Each artist in our studio is an artist in their own right. We try to help them find their own style and improve on it. The most rewarding part of it all is watching people grow. Some of our students have physical or mental disabilities and, to see them become more confident in themselves and come out of what they’re going through is, to me, so rewarding.”
Other services which the studio offers include the buying and selling of art supplies at a reasonable price as well as framing services – making it convenient for students to purchase art supplies as well as frame their pieces of art.
Vanessa’s art career has been a very varied one. Along with doing mural artworks, she also did paint techniques that included everything from hand lettering to repainting furniture.
When it comes to doing artworks – whether it be on commission or for herself – Vanessa has no preferred medium. But her favourites include oil, water colour and graphite pencils.
Vanessa prefers not to be limited to one medium as she feels that, by using an array of mediums, you aren’t limiting your skills or techniques but are rather giving yourself a sense of freedom to explore your feelings and emotions.
Vanessa also describes herself as more of a self-taught artist who has learnt things through studying techniques as well as working under some other artists.
I like free style, I like to be more free with my art. The best part about being an artist is to take a canvas and to just start. I mean, the finishing is rewarding but being able to start something and to express yourself freely is what makes being an artist amazing.”
The Impressionist movement has had a huge impact on her work.
However, her earliest influence and inspiration as an artist was actually far less formal and somewhat unexpected. At the age of just 10 years old, she remembers watching Rolf Harris on television, telling jokes and painting on huge boards. He would take paint brushes to make strokes and splatter paint until it turned into something striking.
In grade 10, her art teacher took a long leave of absence which left her and her fellow students without someone to teach them. Vanessa believed that she wasn’t great at art – but, then, students started coming to her for help with their own art. Her parents then sent her to the Johannesburg School of Arts from grade 10 up to matric.
She started her career in art working for her father in Johannesburg. However, a move to KwaZulu-Natal took her into painting murals. She quickly became recognized as an accomplished mural artist and paint techniqueist.
That meant that she got to work with top designers in some of the most elite homes in South Africa and even travelled to Germany and Prague to paint murals.
During her 20 years as an artist, Vanessa has not only created a number of memorable pieces but has taught and inspired many artists to grow to the point where many exhibit and sell their works both locally and abroad – and that is a legacy of which she is particularly proud.