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Artist’s determination revives her passion

Having a stroke which paralysed the right side of her body didn’t stop Rand Aid Ron Smith Care Centre resident Ethelwynne van Eck from painting, she simply taught herself to paint with her left hand instead.

Ethelwynne has always been a passionate painter and art lover and has sold many oil paintings, mainly still lifes and flowers.

In 2015, she had a stroke which affected the right side of her body. “I was very upset because I thought I would never paint again,” says Ethelwynne.

She moved to RSCC in 2016 and decorated her walls with her favourite paintings. When Rand Aid’s recreation manager Debbie Christen saw them and discovered she was an artist, she spoke to Rand Aid Elphin Lodge retirement village’s art group, which invited Ethelwynne to join them as an art tutor and advisor.

“Although initially reluctant, I went along and met the people. They welcomed me so graciously.

“However, I didn’t just want to tutor other people. I wanted to belong to the group as an artist and be one of them,” says Ethelwynne.

She attended the group every week and was inspired by the other members’ drawings and paintings.

“I took pencils and a sketchbook and started training myself to draw with my left hand. I began by sketching simple shapes and, within weeks, found that I could draw again!  Encouraged by my drawing success, I decided to try painting in acrylics and watercolours,” says Ethelwynne.

She turned a corner of her room into her art studio and soon began painting with oils – her favourite medium.

“I started to notice the nursing and domestic staff around me and what struck me was their love of colour. This inspired me to paint figures based on their physical features and wearing the bright colours they love,” says Ethelwynne, who recently donated some of these paintings to RSCC’s Woodlands wing. “I have already decided where they should be displayed.”

Jennifer Sigida, Ethelwynne van Eck and Ronewa Tshingadzo holding three of the paintings that Ethelwynne donated to RSCC’s Woodlands wing.

When Ethelwynne was looking through her art history book, she came across cave art pictures which intrigued her. “I decided to start my ‘Animal and Cave Art’ series, which portrays cattle, horses, rhinos and buffaloes.”

Pictures of Egypt’s history captured her interest next. “This inspired my Egyptian series of paintings, with King Tut, Queen Nefertiti and the Queen of Sheba being my subjects,” says Ethelwynne.  

She was also inspired by the unique beauty of Nguni cattle and has completed several paintings of Nguni cows and bulls. Her children and grandchildren love these paintings, so she is adding to this collection. She also recently completed her ‘Ladies with Fruit’ series.

“After seven years at RSCC, I have mastered the art of painting with my left hand and am so grateful that my love of and talent for creating works of art has been revitalised. I can confidently pursue my passion once again. I feel I have developed and grown as an artist and it is wonderful to be fully involved again, with the one thing that has been my lifelong passion,” says Ethelwynne.

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