Artist thrives in country setting

Barbara Hollands

FORMER East London artist Sandy Thomas is living the dream held by many part-time artists. She has ditched her bread-and-butter earnings in the city and escaped to the country to pursue her passion full time.

As the owner of Creative Visual Design for 20 years, her framing business in Vincent was a mecca for artists needing supplies as well as customers wanting quality framing.

Then, three years ago, Thomas and husband Brian, who ran the business with her, packed up city life and headed for the hills.

“We didn’t plan to leave,” said Thomas. “We were on a road trip and weren’t even intending to visit Lady Grey, but when we got here we saw it was full of crazy locals and then we came across a broken old house – the perfect site to live and have a studio. It had no roof or floors, just walls and an old bath the colour of baby poo.”

They spent nine months fixing the rundown property.

“We did it ourselves. I was glazing windows and plastering and plumbing and now we are living and working in the studio, so my bed is in the workshop next to my printing press. Our next project is to build a cottage to live in. The bricks have just arrived!”

But fixing up a derelict house and living in “very cramped” quarters have done nothing to stem Thomas’ creative flow and the artist, who cites oils and drawing as her medium of choice but is also a ceramicist, sculptor, photographer and printmaker, has created 60 pieces in the last six months.

Known for her Eastern Cape landscapes, particularly those featuring aloes, cows, sheep and goats, Thomas is relishing the new environment she finds herself in.

“I have been focusing on water – this property is surrounded by a sloot and has two bridges leading onto it. There are also lovely crystal clear rivers and beautiful sandstone rock formations.

“I have also been doing figure studies of the locals we come across on our daily walks. They wear bright clothes and love to walk around carrying umbrellas.”

“So I am working like crazy. The only interruptions are a cow outside my window or an escaped goat!”

Thomas’s art exhibition will be up at the Ann Bryant Art Galley’s Coach House from today until January 4.

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