Q&A with Merit Winner: Kelly Crouse | Sasol New Signatures

Q&A with Merit Winner: Kelly Crouse

Downlaod the 2018 catalogue to see Kelly's work.
Where does your passion for art come from?
For as long as I can remember I have always enjoyed art. I have many fond childhood memories of drawing with my mom and dad. My parents actively encouraged me to draw and in our house it was the norm to be drawing and designing. My passion really took off when I got to high school and I took art. I discovered I had a talent for drawing and I held on to that. My passion for art has been growing more and more over the years as I have learnt more techniques and even more about myself when it comes to conceptualising my art.
Briefly describe your artistic journey up until the point of entering Sasol New Signatures.
I am currently completing my final year at Nelson Mandela University (NMU).
I have particularly benefited from spending time with incredible artists in my class
and with my lecturer Professor Binsbergen who is a supportive mentor.
In third year I started writing the document for the concept that deals with my
skin disease, called Perioral Dermatitis. This was quite an eye opener as this
process forced me to expand my knowledge and conceptualise with great
detail allowing me to grow as an artist, build my confidence and develop
a new way of thinking.
What motivated you to enter the Sasol New Signatures art competition?
I believe that one should always do one’s very best! I entered Sasol New Signatures after Professor Binsbergen had given his talk on the competition and I felt there was nothing to lose. I entered last year and I got into the top 100. I was so excited about doing well and knew I wanted to grab the opportunity again this year.
What excites you about the creative process?
I get really excited when I see things come together. As much as I dislike reading and writing, I still thrive by learning something new. This is why I enjoy researching and doing experiments with different mediums and modes. I love how the concept and research relates and helps grow the practical. It is so incredible to have a breakthrough with your research and to implement that into your art making. When it comes to the actual making the best part for me is when I am 80% done with the artwork. I don’t enjoy starting new things and when the artwork is complete my job is done. The final 20% is where I find the most enjoyment.
Tell us about your preferred medium.
I have a number of different mediums each for different reasons. I love working with pen art. I am slow with drawing and the pen really calms me and has a permanent mark. The same can be said for working with the smoke and fire art where I create shapes and then work in the highlights. The flame has a very calming effect as one almost gets lost in creating the artwork upside-down.
Leather is incredible to work with as it relates to my concept so well. Everything from the process of wetting the leather to the stages of stretching it. I found that the leather works well to help the audience relate to my concept without being too literal.
Plaster and clay are both beautiful materials to capture the face and focus on details. Clay has beautiful  characteristics - thin delicate layers and then I fire the moulds with different coatings over them, though I would easily be able to infuse the leather into the clay. The clay allows me to have an open platform to explore different surfaces.
Airbrushing is a big element in my work as it allows me to find textures and forces them to appear with a higher contrast.
Summarise your work in three independent words.
Emotional. Journey. Joyful.
Did this competition teach you anything about yourself?
Yes, it has built my confidence up as an artist and has taught me to trust my gut.
Which local artists do you admire?
I have a few local artists which I admire for various reasons. Jane Alexander for her technical approach on three dimensional artworks and how she can capture the faces that appear to have such raw emotion. The same can be said for Anton van Wouw, his incredible ability to create so much detail with such a small sculpture is truly incredible and inspiring. I also admire Diane Victor for her incredible and expressive approach of smoke portraits. Simon Banister has the ability to take washed up rubbish along the coast and create artworks that speak to the public about the environment through his art. The passion Banister has for the environment is remarkable as you can not only see it in his art, but also when he is interviewed and through the articles he has written.
What is next for you as an artist?
I am currently working on my final year at NMU and I am hoping to qualify, then find a job where I can do what I love.
What impact would winning this competition have on you?
It would be one of the most incredible things to happen to me and would open doors that I can only dream of and elevate me to the next rung on the ladder.
Being thrown in at the deep end would help me grow even more as an artist. It is difficult to say how this would impact my life as I think it would be a lot to comprehend, but this would give me a new perspective and endless possibilities on what I would be able to do.