Rand Aid’s great artists

Five Rand Aid residents have art on the heart.  A diverse community of people live in the four retirement villages run by the 114-year-old NPO. What was not known until recently, however, is that among the residents are five artists whose work can be found across the world.

When Inyoni Creek resident Harry Voerman turned 90 recently, a chat with him revealed that he is well known in art circles. Then someone recalled that fellow Inyoni Creek resident Vernon Schultz has also made a name for himself as a painter. A little bit of digging uncovered another three Rand Aid artists: Ethelwynne van Eck, who lives at the Elphin Lodge complex, Joseph Capelle of Thornhill Manor and June Branthwaite, also of Elphin Lodge.

Only June and Ethelwynne, who are both involved in the village’s art group, knew each other; the others were not aware that they had art contemporaries in their midst. Interestingly enough, Vernon and Joseph sit a pew apart in church each Sunday but neither one knew that the other was a fellow artist or a member of the Rand Aid community.

At a tea organised on November 10 to bring the five together, they shared art stories and viewed each others’ works.

The baby of the group is 78-year-old Joseph Capelle. He was a commercial artist – working in advertising agencies and doing paintings that he knew would sell – until a life-changing experience made him take stock of what he really wanted to do.

“I was hijacked and kidnapped,” he says, explaining that the trauma prompted him to follow his heart and create art that is true to himself. Today, Joseph is well-known for his religious-themed paintings, including a series of modern depictions of the Stations of the Cross. He has 153 paintings in churches across the country. In addition, many of his works have found their way into private collections. Some of the more prominent places where his work can be seen are the Merchant bank, Sun City, Oracle and Sugar Beach Hotel in Mauritius.

Joseph received good reviews and sold many paintings after a solo exhibition at the Karen McKerron Fine Art Gallery. He also participated in a group exhibition at the Visual Arts Gallery and showed his work alongside that of Rina Bakis at the Little Louvre.

One of his most recent bodies of work, called ‘Journeys’, examines the internal, private and mysterious workings of the movement of times in the lives of individuals.

He remains a passionate and active artist.

Another Rand Aid artist whose life was changed in a heartbeat is June, 83. After losing loved ones in a tragedy in 1982, she found solace in art.

Although she enjoys pastels, mixed media, silk and Chinese painting, her first love is watercolours. She is a proud Associate of the Watercolour Society of South Africa and has participated in many exhibitions. Her painting ‘Shapes Interwoven’ won first prize in the 1999 Watercolour Society of South Africa Branch Signature Awards and in 2001, Touchwood Gallery submitted three of her paintings to the Grahamstown Arts Studio.

Vernon, 92, also only started painting late in life. When he was a youngster working on the mines, he borrowed a bicycle and pedalled off to the CNA where he bought a set of paints and executed six paintings. However, he did not pick up a paintbrush again for a number of decades, until a hernia at age 74 forced him to find a pursuit gentler than the furniture making and house building he had for years been doing for loved ones.

A Probus club pioneer, he cajoled a fellow member into giving him a few art lessons and the rest, as they say, is history. Vernon has been a prolific painter. Most of his work has been commissioned by friends and associates through word of mouth and his home has been his gallery.

“I remember once someone walked in and took five paintings off the walls, and then returned five months later and took another five,” he says.

He remembers taking one of his first paintings to be framed, and this leading to a commission of a painting depicting animals around a waterhole. “It was my first decent sale.”

He was subsequently commissioned to do a series of bird paintings and then asked to paint ancient cycads, which in turn led to the sale of another 25 of his paintings by the same person.

Vernon held a number of exhibitions in Edenvale over the years.

Ethelwynne did a BScience degree at the University of Natal, majoring in Botany and Zoology, before earning a University Education Diploma and going on to teach high school biology for many years.

Her soul sheltered an artist, though, and in her 40s, she did an Arts degree at UNISA and attended the School of Art in Johannesburg. “I took up painting with a passion and sold hundreds of my works – mainly still life and flowers,” she says.

In 2015, Ethelwynne had a stroke which affected her right hand and leg. She thought it was the end of her art journey but she recently joined the art group at Elphin Lodge, where she is not only teaching herself how to sketch using her left hand but also tutoring the members where needed.

After two years, she has reconnected with the world of art and proved that where there’s a will – and a passion – there’s a way!

It seems that many an artist has had to suppress their creativity in order to secure a stable income. Dutch-born Harry studied in Rotterdam before becoming an engineer.

In 1959 he emigrated to South Africa and continued his engineering career. However, in 1969, at the age of 42, he could no longer subdue his artistic side and tackled his first serious painting – a still life.

Harry participated in workshops with Machiel Hopman, Richard Rennie and George Boys and held many exhibitions in Holland and South Africa over the course of his painting career.

The many vibrant canvases he has created over the ensuring years are a reflection of the man himself.