The shops at Christmas time are pits of hell!
I am so relieved that Christmas shopping is over for another year. So many people intent on buying presents, Christmas hams, turkeys, Christmas crackers….Fill the halls with bits of folly, I thought sourly to myself. Right, Mums’ present could now be ticked off my list. I still needed to get presents for my nieces. As I turned the corner in our Mall, I stopped with a gasp. My path was blocked by a tall, towering giraffe. Four warthogs scurried past my feet, literally colliding with a lion padding on it’s way, while an an enormous great white shark swam it’s lethal way overhead. The noise and bustle of the crowds receded as I stood there drinking in the wonder of these creations.
I gazed at these lifelike sculptures in awe. Sculpture seems the wrong word for these intricate creations. A sculpture to me has always been a thing carved in stone or wood that has been whittled away. These animals were created from an inordinate number of pieces of driftwood. They were placed in such a way that these animals had expression. They lived! I could almost see the lion breathe. I could literally see the giraffe’s eyelid and expected him (or was it her?) to blink!
Their creator, Bevan Van Druten, actually never trained as an artist. He was a chef and worked in hotel management. He was good at what he did, but maybe when he lay in bed at night, he sensed that something was missing; that piece that makes the world a place of limitless wonder and opportunity.
Then whilst browsing the Internet, he came across Heather Jansch‘s life-size driftwood horses and his world stood still. As Ms Jansch says: “The driftwood had a power and authentic quality that made it something extraordinary.”
Bevan couldn’t have agreed more. His garden in Wilderness was littered with pieces of driftwood that he had found on the beach or in river estuaries and taken home. He liked their feel, their shape, their colours. He was totally passionate about driftwood! Now Heather Janch’s idea took root. She had created horses but they didn’t play a part in Bevan’s world. He would try and create something he saw often in South Africa – the Blue Crane. He created a pair of Blue Cranes which sold instantly. Bevan had discovered what he was born to do.
Create using driftwood!
How does he go about creating these life-like animals? How does he know where to place each individual piece of driftwood? Where does he start? I was awash with questions. Bevan’s piercing eyes crinkled as he laughed softly.
“I always start with the core.”
I understood the importance of the core. Since my accident, it is something that I have had to strengthen in order for me to walk reasonably. He begins with a solid driftwood core or base. It is the skeleton on which he builds everything. He demonstrated this by showing me a beautiful impala he had made, leaping forewords. So real. One could literally feel it’s muscles bulging as it lunged upwards and out.
He produces work boards which he consults religiously. These consist of photographs and drawings of the animal on which he is working from different perspectives. Bevan studies every aspect of the animal. He seeks to understand how it stands, sits, chews, lies down. How the animal looks while flying? Which wing is tilted which way? Indeed, how the feathers are affected by the wind?
Then he begins to ‘sculpt’. Slowly and meticulously his animals come into being!
Pablo Picasso said: “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up.”
Bevan became an artist in his thirties, when he was already grown up! He is relishing his new life and is producing a host of superlative creatures. One of my favourites is his rhino. Pieces like this take more than a month to complete. It contains the very essence of the animal. Even though it’s static and made of driftwood, one has a sense of the muscles, tendons and sinews astir beneath the skin. Bevan seems to have breathed the spirit of the rhino into the wooden sculpture. One expects a snort and movement to occur at any moment.
Bevan’s artistic journey has made me appreciate that one should never be afraid to stop and change direction, to follow your passion. This is the secret to attaining joy.
I am sure that when Bevan lies in bed at night, his heart is now aflame with all the possibilities that life has to offer.
Follow your passion!