2. The Smell Of Life

Dear Sade,

When I was seven years old my parents sent me to an after-school art centre. It was housed in an unattractive red-brick building on a street strewn with jacaranda blossoms. To me it was more than the Pretoria Art Centre, it was the Centre of my Universe. The thing I remember most vividly about the place was the smell. I loved the smell, created by a combination of art materials: wax crayons, powder paints, pastels, inks, watercolours, paper, plasticine and raw clay. This Smell of Art became to me the Smell of Life and it instilled in me a feeling of unbridled pleasure. For the first time in my life I had an opportunity to lose myself in colour, and I was initiated into the Brotherhood of the Brush with great glee. The pictures I painted were so garish they would have done justice to a poster advertising the Greatest Fireworks Display ever witnessed. At the time I could have taught the Abstract Expressionists a thing or two. Ah, this was the Season of Discovery and I learned that with art you can transform the ordinary into the extraordinary - not with logic or moderation but with passion. In the words of Freddie Mercury: "It's a kind of magic." As I sit here in my studio writing this I see you in my peripheral vision huddled over your giant sketch pad, your tongue working as busily as your drawing hand - a habit that has run in our family for generations - and I chuckle quietly to myself. We work together in a studio that exudes the smell of life that I remember so well, and I know that you will recall it in later life too with a mixture of wistfulness and nostalgia. May it remind you to nurture and cultivate your inner-child. For the ability to perceive as a child is the very essence of creativity and this truth will give you wings.

Love Gramps
October 1998