As a youngster, Comox artist Monica Meyer Huisamen used to draw on road trips in South Africa, as did her older brother. Their parents would typically give them a book to read and one for drawing.
Her brother, Walter Meyer, went on to become one of the country’s most famous artists until he was murdered in 2017.
“He was one of South Africa’s best landscape artists,” she says.
Walter’s second wife and another man are facing charges in connection with his death, a case that made headlines across the country.
Her brother had always been a mentor to her, but after his death, he served as an inspiration.
“He was my biggest supporter,” she says.
Sometimes, in the middle of the night, her ideas for paintings will pop into her head.
Though she’d painted for years, she feels her work and her approach to painting have changed since his death. It’s become more of a calling than a hobby or job since his death. Painting is also more of an emotional outlet, especially when she painted a portrait of him.
“That was like therapy for me,” she adds. “To paint him, to me it was absolutely therapy.”
Her brother wasn’t the only other artist in the family tree, as she had grandmothers who were painters.
“I grew up in a very artistic house,” she says.
Unlike her brother, she was not formally trained as a painter, though she sought his advice regularly. More recently, she also had artist Saskia King as her mentor for several years to help her refine her craft.
Now, she is holding her first exhibition, with paintings hanging on the walls of Milano in Comox for the next couple of months.
Until now, she really has painted in response to commissions, so she had to get some more work ready for the opening. As the brochure for the exhibition states, she generally works in oils or charcoal sketches. On the walls is work that covers many of her favourite motifs, including people, animals and landscapes she knows.
“I love doing faces,” she says.
Already, she’s had a great response, selling a dozen paintings in the days immediately following the opening. She’s now working on others to put up as the exhibition continues. While she poses for a photo for the newspaper, a bystander inside Milano compliments her on the paintings.
Along with her commissioned work, she made the choice to focus on subjects from her home country. For example, there’s a painting of Table Mountain, one of South Africa’s landmarks, which she did from a photo she had another brother send to her.
Meyer Huisamen has lived in Canada for 23 years, first in Regina, then moving to B.C. about 16 years ago. She makes trips back to South Africa to visit her parents and other siblings, but she also uses it as a chance to reconnect and snap photographs of images she plans to paint, and with a revitalized passion for her art, she will no doubt need even more subjects from which to draw inspiration.
“It’s amazing to live your passion,” she says. “This is not a job to me at all…. Every day, I’m living my passion.”
Her work will be up through March 30. Milano Coffee is located at 2016B Comox Ave. in Comox.