Renate Engelbrecht
Content producer
5 minute read
26 May 2022
10:15 pm

Artist’s trauma drives her to success

Renate Engelbrecht

Driekie van Wyk only allowed art to find her after a traumatic life experience. She has been painting ever since.

Art by Driekie van Wyk. Image: Supplied

Driekie van Wyk’s father was the very first guitar maker in South Africa. Her creativity therefore runs deep. Her father built the tools he needed to craft these instruments with the utmost care and she loved playing with the wood shavings in his workshop. She says being so close to the creation process fuelled her own desire to create.

Driekie van Wyk art
Driekie Art. Image: Supplied

While she climbed the corporate ladder, her talent for creating was put on hold. But, her life was turned upside down when she lost her baby boy, Selah. A friend, Sylvia Ralph encouraged her to find a creative outlet during the grieving process and gave her a large canvas and basic colours to paint with. That is where it all started.

“It helped me pause and think about what happened (Selah) and not rush through the experience,” she wrote in an Instagram post on 18 December 2019.

“I could take my time in this fast-paced world to allow myself to feel. I found healing in a supernatural gift I never thought I had.”

She said that Sylvia’s simple kindness changed the direction of her life in such an amazing way. “And my boy, Selah. Although you’ve been in this life for just a few seconds, you came to help me find direction. I honour the two of you today,” she wrote.

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On the canvas that Sylvia gave her, Driekie van Wyk painted the face of an African woman with a large afro and hung it on her wall. It wasn’t too long before someone saw a photo of the painting and wanted to buy it.

“The gentleman asked me to name my price as I had explained that it wasn’t for sale. He was very persistent, and I eventually gave in. He actually ended up paying even more than he had offered when he finally saw the painting in front of him.”

So people started buying paintings off of her wall. “That got my attention,” she says. “I knew I wasn’t looking for something, but it found me, and it was worth pursuing. Looking back, one of the worst things that happened in my life changed the course of my whole existence, my whole being, my whole life, in a good way.”

It has now been seven years since tragedy struck and today Driekie van Wyk – a completely self-taught artist – has a solid following of art-lovers. “I never learnt to mix colours or follow a method, which keeps it fun and interesting.”

Driekie art
Driekie Art. Image: Supplied

Faces are Driekie van Wyk’s trademark. “I’ve always been fascinated by human behaviour and psychology. A group of people can stand in front of one painting and each person will have their own opinion about what the face is expressing. What I like about it is the mystery, because only the person in the picture truly knows the emotion that lies behind it.”

Driekie is also an artist who proudly supports local. All her canvasses are purchased from a local family business, and she uses frames made from spruce, a sustainably managed timber with a low carbon footprint. The frames are covered with a cotton duck which is woven in South Africa and covered with an acrylic primer manufactured to exact specifications in Cape Town.

“I hope that people can come to their own place of serenity through my process, that the piece makes them linger for a moment, to pause and be present. But above all, my wish is that my work also gives them a sense of hope, because as much as my process may be intense, it is also about celebrating and loving life, looking for the joy in every moment.”

Faces are her main focus
Faces are Driekie’s main focus. Image: Supplied

In January this year, Driekie posted a photo of herself in front of two of her paintings, quoting Paulo Coelho: “She would consider each day a miracle – which indeed it is, if you consider the number of unexpected things that could happen in each second of our fragile existences.” She said she was grateful for “those moments around an open fire, a chill ride in an ‘ouboet’ and home-made safaris where mosquitoes have midnight feasts around human bodies… last-minute beach walks before the page of the day is turned over for a new one to be written, the little ‘I love yous’ when you least expect it…the little things in life.”

Driekie van Wyk’s journey brought her to a point where she could tell her story and inspire others through her art, currently being featured at Absolut Art in Stellenbosch. You can also see Driekie Art at the Winelands Art Gallery in Durbanville, Anon Pop-Up Art Show in Observatory, Eye for Art in Umhlanga and even at the Hadani Gallery in Tel Aviv, Israel.