How I had started creating Art

Julian Venter, Tsoxa 5, Alimos, 17455, Greece


Explore my Artworks here

Me as a very shy young boy

I was very lucky to have been raised in a home full of wonderful examples of modern art plus plenty of art books.

Two water colour drawings that were in our dining room by Christo Coetzee


 I graduated from high school in 1976, the year the revolution broke out into the open in South Africa.

Kliptown township

It was a frustrating time for me as I was acutely aware of the fact that whether I liked it or not I belonged to the group of oppressors, and being born with a white skin had entitled me to huge benefits while my fellow countrymen were struggling on a subsistence level.

 And yet there was very little that I could do as an individual to make things better. And doing something about it was pretty much illegal. Also being a Afrikaner, I was considered a traitor to my people for supporting a democratic state.

 I took it upon myself to at least through debate with my school mates, to show them what was really happening. And so each day I would read the liberal English news paper in order to arm myself with facts.

But the South African propaganda machine was far more cunning than a 18 year old school boy and so

I found myself feeling more and more alienated rebellious and angry.

I had started reading at a very young age and at some point I started writing poetry in order to express my sense of frustration and remain sane.

My great Grandfather was a giant of a man

who had joined the circus.

My granddad was a what they called ‘Sunday Painter’.

From Left to right - my dad Nicol, my granddad Nikolaas and my uncle Andrew

Uncle Andrew Venter is a well known sculptor working

and living in New Zealand.

My dad had amazing drawing skills. He had started drawing at a very young age and was a rather accomplished Artist who had stopped creating art works when he had met and married my mom who had been a widow with two children.

My late father Nicol Venter as a young Artist

A pastel Portrait of my Mom created by my Dad

Being part of a big family meant that many of our activities were somehow communal. At times we would sit together and draw or colour in pictures. And as the second youngest  child, my efforts were comparatively decimal. There is always an element of sibling rivalry in a big family no matter how loving. Somehow I had gotten the impression that being able to draw was a talent that you were simply born with, and a gift that was withheld from me as I had more scientific talents.

A Stanley Pinker oil painting that was hanging in our hallway

 As a child my dad would sometimes do art lessons with us which for me were rather disastrous at the time. I wanted to learn to draw like Leonardo da Vinci but he wanted to teach me the discoveries of Matisse and Picasso in Modern Art which were the great art discoveries for him.

As a child I thought I could draw like Picasso

I wanted to be able to draw like Leonardo da Vinci

But I had thought, please just not that because it seemed so easy to draw like them. Although now that I think about it, it had probably influenced my work tremendously, especially the hours we spent looking at Art books.

 In fact even as a child I used to love looking at my dad’s art book collection, sometimes though for the wrong reasons. South Africa had very strict archaic censorship laws and the only place that one could see naked women were in art reproductions. I especially remember enjoying the Audrey Beardsley drawings.

Aubrey Beardsley

My mom said she once caught me showing one of my little girl friends pictures from a collection of art magazines from the Baroque and Rococo periods and Romantic periods in art. And she had thought to herself ‘please let there not be trouble’ from the little girl’s parents. But luckily there was not.

Venus, Cupid, Bacchus and Ceres - Peter Paul Reubens


As a child I had two fantasy friends. The one was called ‘That little Boy’ and his dad was fabulously wealthy and he could give me all the toys I could possibly imagine, which I apparently utilized as leverage in order to get my brothers and sisters to give me their things.

The other was called ‘Tom’ and his dad was Tarzan

and we spent endless nights swinging in the

trees playing with animals and eating fruit.

My dad was an excellent story teller and he would put us (me and my two brothers) to sleep every night with a story. Because of this I think I had developed a rather vivid imagination, and to this day when someone tells me a story or when reading a book I can get completely lost in the images in my head.

A Walter Battiss silkscreen that hung above the telephone in the passage way

My desire to create art works had started as a impish game. The school I attended issued us with a diary each year in which we could jot down reminders to ourselves. High school was exceptionally boring to me as I had a huge stack of books next to my bedside which I was reading until the wee hours of the morning. In one of the classrooms I sat next to a friend Conrad Louw, and we would steal each other’s diaries and write absurd witty comments and make cartoon like drawings in order to annoy each other.

For some reason I found this fulfilling to a degree

I had never felt before.

And then it struck me, I was finishing school and I had no idea what I really wanted to do with my life. Plus I would soon be conscripted into the military that was the oppressor’s right hand. As I could not rationally deal with this I got very ill. And for a week or two I experienced a high fever that was accompanied by bizarre visions. I cannot remember exactly what I had dreamt.

But when I resurfaced I knew with a conviction and determination I had never felt before that what I really wanted in my life was to create works of art.

I got up from my sick bed and simply ignoring everything else started making drawings, art objects, sculptures and paintings and I have never stopped since.

An oil painting by Zakkie Eloff

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