Jane digby contemporary south african artist - loving life

South Africa’s art scene continues to blossom with artists making a permanent mark in the world, celebrating our country’s rich culture, landscapes and most importantly its beautiful people.
More often than not our artists, musicians and performers are able to capture and translate the essence of our reality, our daily lives and our beauty into a work of art that speaks volumes on the talent we have to offer.

One such artist is Jane Digby, a contemporary artist who lives on the beautiful KZN’s East in bustling Ballito.
After graduating at the Durban University of Technology in 1988, Jane freelanced in London, before travelling the world and honing her craft and her distinctive signature painting style.
Driven by the inspiration of the moment, Jane takes full advantage of the fleeting instant by painting Alla Prima.

With her memory still fresh and her focus on the experience, she brings to life a moment in time from her consciousness to canvas while using a minimal colour palette and relying on simplicity.
The result is an astounding painting, complex and emotive.
The use of colour and texture is creates depth and effectively translates the artist’s feeling and experience of the moment.

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, having a double mastectomy and undergoing chemo therapy in 2018, Jane found solace in creating from a more personal perspective, painting portraits of herself during the days of her recovery, providing her own catharsis and simultaneously doing the same for many others who had the privilege to experience the “Hymn To Her” art installation that accompanied her “If Not Now, When” exhibition in

Jane has done solo and collaborative exhibitions in the UK, Switzerland, Italy and of course nationwide South Africa.  Hosting regular oil painting workshops she shares her broad expertise with other artists.

Isaac Lediga chats with Jane about her experiences and what’s to come from the prolific contemporary artist.
Isaac: Where do you draw inspiration from before starting a new piece?
Jane: I draw inspiration from my life, from my experiences, my surrounds and the people I meet.

Isaac: What influenced your preference for painting alla prima as opposed to multiple sessions for a single piece?
Jane:  I am an imperfect, impatient individual.
My style is an expression of who I am, of how I respond to my source of inspiration on that day, at that time. What and how I paint also depends very much on my mood, the weather, the music I am listening to and an intuitive response to my paints, my reference and my canvas – at the time I begin playing with paint.

Isaac: How long is that process typically?
Jane: The whole process can take many hours.
Although I paint in alla prima, I activate my canvas prior to the painting session, so I don’t start on a white/clinical canvas – there is movement and random colour and mark making on the canvas before I begin.  I activate my white canvas with inks or acrylic – with little thought – just feeling – destroying the clinical cold perfection, making way for my liberated, expressive marks.
White is the coldest colour of all, so by activating it, I am warming up the canvas – preparing it for a creation of depth.  
My process cannot be timed, it depends on each painting, the painting is finished when it is finished with me – sometimes after a few hours and sometimes it’ll draw me back for extra tweaks over days seeing it in different lighting and in different spaces in my home.

Isaac: You’ve managed to create great depth, texture and gorgeous colour using a very minimal palette, creating something expansive and broad with very limited resources.
Has this always been your approach to creating?
Jane: Yes, I like to keep it as simple as possible, allowing for more freedom of expression, to make marks more intuitively, rather from feelings than too much thought.
However, I have a process – which I share with my workshop participants – which is simple yet works for me.
I work with a very limited colour palette for each painting – a red, a blue and a yellow – which reds, blues and yellows depends on the subject as well as my mood.
I work from dark to light, transparent to opaque and from far to close – these are some basic rules of oil painting.
My ongoing series called “A Palette of Possibilities” is about the parallels of life and painting for me.
 Life is a palette of possibilities and so is each and every one of my paintings.

Isaac: Who have been your biggest influences throughout your career?
Jane: My family’s interest in art, particularly my mother’s passion for oil painting was a catalyst. South Africa is my biggest influence, it’s a magical land, with so much environmental and cultural diversity, and oh, so much soul!
My husband has always supported my passion for painting, always encouraging me, knowing how important it is for my wellbeing.

Isaac: What has been your biggest highlight throughout your career so far?
Jane: in 2018 I received an invitation to participate at the XIIth Florence Biennale – which I attended in October 2019.
I received the invitation while in hospital recovering my double mastectomy (Breast Cancer). This invitation gave me the validation I needed at the time – I am an Artist!  
It gave me the boost I so needed, at that most poignant of times, to validate just how important painting is in my life.  
It was just what I needed to ensure that I had the right frame of mind to recover from Breast Cancer and chemotherapy, so that I could participate.
But more than that, it gave me the freedom to believe in my authentic, creative self. My 2019 exhibitions were so well received that again it was the validation that I needed to explore my creativity and career – finally putting “my imposter syndrome” to bed.

Isaac: In 2019, your “Hymn To Her” installation featured deeply personal portraits depicting your journey with cancer and recovery, How did the process of creating those paintings affect you and your healing overall?
Jane: I didn’t start paintings these paintings for an exhibition, they were purely part of my healing process, a time of realigning, trying to find my centre/my core.
The paintings, drawings as well as the prose/poetry were part of the cathartic process of healing.
When I started planning my exhibition “If Not Now, When?” – I realized I had a series of work that needed its own platform.
Fortunately, I found a venue that suited both exhibitions perfectly – allowing my true and raw feelings to be expressed.  A “Hymn to Her” was titled such because one of the key songs that helped me get through tough times – titled “A Hymn to Her” by The Pretenders (Chrissie Hynd).
It was totally appropriate, I was letting everyone into my “room” my personal, most vulnerable space.  I knew that by being honest about my journey with BC, it would help others who have gone through it, are currently and who inevitably will.
The exhibition has a profound effect on many that visited, including family members and patients of the cancer journey.

Isaac: As a survivor of breast cancer, what have you taken from making it through that experience? and how would you advise someone going through a similar experience?
Jane: Gratitude for every day, for the now!
It’s the smallest, simplest things in life that give it so much depth. Just as in oil painting, it’s the simplest process that makes magic on canvas.
I have learnt to realign to circumstances, I aim to revive quickly and I “rejoice” – voice my gratitude – whether to my nearest and dearest or to the ocean, the trees, the fields/veld or to my morning coffee/tea.

Isaac: This year’s “Contagious Creativity” exhibition at The Gallery in Ballito’s lifestyle centre featured a fun interactive wall for art lovers, what prompted that being added to the exhibition?
Jane: The opportunity to open The Gallery at Ballito Lifestyle Centre, entrusted in me by Bruce Renkin (owner of the centre), also had a huge influential impact on my career and on my own psyche. The Gallery has been the most amazing catalyst for so many projects, it has had a huge impact on the appreciation for arts in KZN, particularly on the North Coast.
I feel honoured that I have been able to be part of this – I wanted to give back and through this most incredible platform, I feel I am able to do so.
The Interactive Walls project was an idea I had to encourage the public of all ages to participate in expressing their feelings about our current situation (Covid-19) and other pertinent topics such as “Say No to Gender Based Violence”, ” Our Planet”, “Human Rights and “Love”.
They encouraged conversation, thought as well as becoming an outlet to voice emotions through creative expression.
We have exciting plans for the boards, as these shall become historical artworks reflecting the sign of the times on the North Coast during 2020.

Isaac: You’ve also been running oil painting workshops for beginner and experienced painters, please tell us more about that.
Jane: Ah yes, my workshops are close to my heart.
I have always been passionate about sharing what I have learnt and continue to learn.
Bottom line is you’ve “gotta love the process”, if you love the process, you’ll love the outcome.
That’s why the KISS rule (keep it simple silly) allows everyone to play with their own styles following a simple process that ensures joyful times creating.
I get to meet the most amazing people, I gain friends at every workshop. Actually I gain so much more than I give. They are always a highlight in my month.

Isaac:: Should we be expecting more exhibitions in 2022?
Jane: Oh yes! The Gallery at Lifestyle Centre Ballito as well as The Ink Box gallery in Kalk Bay, Cape Town will be exhibiting my artworks, throughout 2022.
I hope to start working on another solo exhibition but right now I am enjoying being involved in our collaborative exhibitions.

Do visit us @thegallerylifestyle   @The_ink.box… but so much better in real life.
You are always welcome, whether barefoot in baggies, bikinis or wrapped up against the CT winter chill.!

You can view the incredible talent of Jane’s and other contemporary South African artists at The Gallery in Ballito Lifestyle Centre, and The Ink Box in Kalk bay!