With a background in design, visual art, drama, music and dancing, Willie Schlechter, is an award-winning visual artist and illustrator whose intricate designs are set to take over the local interior and fashion industry.
Hailing from a small town in the Eastern Cape, Willie left his teaching career to pursue a career as a visual artist in 2016. Since then he has secured prestigious awards at various exhibitions that include the Kirstenbosch Botanical biennale and the World Orchid Conference.
Take a look at this quick interview with Willie below about his passion for botanical art, his successes as an artist and plans for the future.
What was it about botanical art that captivated you?
I have always had an appreciation for beauty and detail in art. Botanical art is one of those rare genres which, if executed well, leaves a viewer speechless at the surreal beauty of nature.
I still get excited every time I start a new painting because it never ceases to amaze me how incredibly intricate and absolutely divine the world around us is.
Furthermore, the almost hypnotic act of painstakingly capturing these intricacies on paper is the best therapy in a world where we are constantly rushed and agitated.
Was your 2016 decision to resign and pursue your art career a tough call to make?
Leaving a steady income, great colleagues and, mostly, wonderful students made me quite anxious. However, my need to create and participate more in the art world grew more and more incessant until I could not fight against it any longer.
The first day that I stepped into my "self-employed office", I immediately knew I made the right decision, it just felt good.
Which of your career moments do you consider to be your most successful?
Success is very difficult to measure because one doesn't necessarily recognise if or when you achieve it. As an artist, I am quite critical about my work, and am almost never satisfied with what I produce.
I do however have a few proud moments in my career. I am very proud of receiving bronze medals for my botanical paintings at the 2010 and 2013 Kirstenbosch biennale consecutively, as well as a silver medal at Botalia, Lucca, Italy in 2010.
Another very proud moment was in 2017 when my Self-portrait in Mother's Blouse was part of the Top 40 at the Sanlam National Portrait Awards.
Where do you draw inspiration from for your artwork?
Mostly by looking at art. I prefer to look at books and physical artworks, although the internet has done wonders in opening an artist's source of reference and I find myself constantly googling.
I get inspired by Classical art and the old masters' absolute devotion to their work. The techniques they used and intricate application of mediums reflect respect and love for their talent and profession, which is something I strive towards.
What are your three go-to travel destinations, local or international, when you are in need of a creative boost?
I absolutely love to travel, and can get inspired by a trip to the local nursery or a hike up the mountain! I'm just as comfortable indoors and love to go to museums and galleries, which is why I am so fond of Italy, especially Florence. Being an admirer of Classical Art, this home of the Renaissance masters simply gives me goosebumps!
I went to school in Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape, and although I do not go there often, it remains to me one of the most special places in South Africa, my fond school memories might make me a bit biased. Surrounded by the southern Drakensberg mountains, the whole town is covered in snow in the winter, and it is such an idyllic place to just be still and recharge your batteries.
Above anywhere else, my absolute favourite go-to destination is my parents' home in Tergniet, near Mossel Bay. Despite the fact that this choice is probably greatly influenced by the sentimentality of family and childhood memories, outside the busy holiday season the beauty and tranquillity of the Garden Route is the best place to get some rest from the busy city, while being creatively inspired by its many natural splendours.
What are your colour trend predictions for fabrics and interiors in 2019? Summer and Autumn.
In a world that is increasingly dominated by social and political unrest, urban expansion and technological advances, people will continue their longing for safety and comfort in their homes.
Designs and materials that celebrate nature and the outdoors will reflect this desire, such as floral prints and natural materials like wood and 100% linen fabrics.
The search for calmness will manifest itself in soft pastel colours, like mints and corals, and warm earthy tones will replace neutral greys that have been popular for the past few years.
Modern styles, like Scandinavian design, will continue to be trendy and replace eclectic clutter with simple sophistication.
Willie is currently working on a solo exhibition for the Woordfees, Verplant/Uproot which will run from 1 - 10 March in Stellenbosch.
‘This project is one that I especially enjoy, and found myself getting more and more drawn into the many layers of Cape Town's rich history.’
‘I am very excited to take part in my first Decorex, Cape Town in May and look forward to meeting some potential retailers and interior decorators,’ he said.
For more information and to take a look at Willie’s product range, check out his website at willieschlechter.wixsite.com.