Friday, June 13, 2008


Most of us have had teachers or mentors who have influenced us and the direction our lives have taken. Sometimes we know them personally or we follow their teachings in books etc.

Cecil Skotnes has been my mentor since my early teens. In fact he is the reason my wood carving hobby turned into a passion. When I first saw his work in a magazine I was entranced, and scoured libraries and newspaper archives for more examples of his carved wood panels. (No such thing as the internet or Google here in South Africa, way back then).

Skotnes started out doing woodcuts but suddenly had the bright idea of turning the used block into a picture once he had finished taking prints off it. He began adding colour and was so absorbed by this new artform that the prints were no longer important.

I met Cecil Skotnes at his Retrospective exhibition many years ago and what a gracious gentleman he is. I was completely in awe of him and all the questions I had ready to ask him went flying out the window. Instead I just stood there gawping but he took it in his stride and pretended I was the most eloquent young lady he had ever met.
To see more go here and scroll down to Skotnes. There are quite a few interesting snippets about South African art including a few pieces by William Kentridge.

Other mentors I have found in books which is where I find at least half of my inspiration. "The 12 Secrets of Highly Creative Women" by Gail McMeekin is a portable mentor featuring interviews with many well known writers and artists (including Shakti Gawain, Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Sarah Ban Breathnach and Michelle Cassou). I have read it 4 times and still dip into it fairly regularly. If you havn't read it you are in for a treat.

And then there is SARK! Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy. That name says it all. I love her because she is humorous and persuades you to take yourself lightly especially when you are battling to break out of a creative funk. You get the feeling she knows exactly where you're at. She gives you hope and encouragement without being pushy.......and if you feel like napping yet again instead of doing some serious art making, then thats absolutely fine too!

Update: On 7 April 2009, after being hospitalised for a fall, Cecil Skotnes died of pneumonia in Cape Town.

South African artist, Cecil Skotnes "pioneered a way of producing art that used earth pigments and indigenous wood to construct visual stories about the African past. " - Mathew Krouse.


  1. LOVE SARK! She's a Bay are girl too!
    SARK'S new book coming soon! I just pre-ordered it: 'Juicy Pens, Thirsty Paper: Gifting the World with Your Words and Stories, and Creating the Time and Energy to Actually Do It'

    Also, LK Ludwig's new book ships next week. She read portions of it to us during our class at ArtFest...I can't wait for this one!!

    Sure would like to see one coming from you! I think you'd have a lot to each us 'carving novices'!

  2. Robyn, THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH for visiting my humble blog! I truly appreciate your kind comments, such thoughtful words to make me smile.

    Your post on teachers and mentors is wonderful. Where would we be without all these lights of inspiration in our lives.

    Please do come and visit again. I so enjoy the friendship made here!

    warmest wishes,
    Tracie Lyn

  3. Wonderful and interesting tribute to your mentors, Robyn!

  4. A very inspiring post! - thank you for prompting me to think about my mentors.


  5. Oh can I say the book "Eat Mangoes Naked"! is the best title ever!

  6. I can recommend "Creative Visualisation" by Shakti Gawain, if you have not come across it.