Sam Maduna was born in 1956 in Alexandra Township. His parents moved to Soweto in 1958, where he now lives and works in his home studio. He began to scribble and draw at an early age, and later when he attended Luyolo Primary School, he met a teacher, Mrs Sishuba, who encouraged his talent by giving him extra drawing for homework. There was no formal art lessons at school.

“My interest lies in portraiture. I use line, texture, form and colour to accentuate the resilience, survival and ultimate triumph of the human spirit. For years I have tried to paint the emotion and stillness of portraits and figures of people, particularly my mother. My earlier work reflects the explosion of colour in an attempt to convey the energy, movement and inner spiritual content of my subject matter, especially professional jazz musicians skillfully playing wind instruments like trumpet and saxophone. In 1988 I did a commercial art course at a design college. Thereafter I went on to work as a commercial artist for 10 years before deciding to become a full-time artist. I work with high-quality soft pastels like Sennelier and Schmincke together with Golden Fluid Acrylics. The painting surface for pastels is important. With all the other factors being equal, the longevity of works of art on paper depends on the quality of the paper. It is for that reason I use 100% cotton, acid-free Fabriano or Saunders Waterford paper. I begin by laying down the underpainting with fluid acrylics and hard pastels and then move on to softer pastels for the progressive layers of colour.

For the final layer, it has to be Schmincke or Sennelier which are very soft, thick, butter-like and they give that layer of rich, luminous colour. I prefer to work with a life model but also rely on photographs and memory for compositions. Working from life teaches me to see those subtle tones and colour nuances which you cannot capture with a camera. The memory provides the feelings and emotions which becomes evident in the painting. I rely on the camera to capture the poses that are difficult for a model to hold for a long time. When preparing particularly for big work, sometimes work on a scale measured in metres, I begin with small sketches, first solve the problem on the smaller paper and then enlarge it. Preparatory drawings are done in a day or two depending on the size, then the painting starts which might take a week or over a month to finish. I will work on a painting, stop, put it away for a while and come back to it at a later stage. I work on several paintings at a time, some of them never see the light of day. Sometimes I will take a painting out of its frame and rework it.

I am continually looking for ways to sharpen my craft and have spent several years experimenting with various materials and techniques. Therefore the medium is gradually changing from working strictly with pastels to mixed media and it has changed my outlook in terms of creativity. I have always been drawn to the human form and one of my favourite portrait models is my mother who is the subject of more than twenty paintings. I enjoy painting her and will do so for as long as I can. Painting portraits gets one thinking about the complexities of life and the different paths we all follow. As they say, eyes are the gateways to one’s spirit…I seek to convey the inner spirituality of a person through technical prowess and colour explosions, emphasizing detail, enabling personality and character to be expressed.

My mother was born on a farm in Free State, in 1924, and is one of the nine children. As a young woman, she moved to Jo’burg to find work. There she met my father and started a family. She was widowed in 1977 and has never remarried, living what I think must be a “lonely” but fruitful life. It is these emotions and stories that influence my work.”