Meet Ian Visser by Bekiwe Hlongwane

Art is more than something we see. The textures are more than what we touch with our fingertips. Art, though taken in with the eyes, is felt with the heart and itself comes from the heart of its creator. Every sculpture tells a story of deep emotion. Every painting transports us into a world far from our own where all the senses come alive and the soul dances with the colours and brushstrokes on the canvas. In the ordinary and mundane routines of life, it is a sheer pleasure to meet Ian Visser, a sculptor and painter from Emalahleni of all places.    

As I walk up the stairs to his home studio, I catch glimpses of the works that Ian Visser has created amidst being a marketer, entrepreneur, husband and father. When I ask where he gets the time, he simply says, ‘If you are productive in using the time, you will find that there is enough time.’ 

Ian has been creative from an early age. ‘I drew my first picture in my mother’s womb,’ he says. The talent probably passed down from his artistic grandfather.  

As a lover of art and all things creative, Ian is a painter and a sculptor. When I ask which he prefers, ‘It depends on the mood,’ is his amused response. Though he enjoys both, he does enjoy three dimensional creating more than painting on a flat canvas.  

When creating his artworks, Ian first takes an image with his camera or finds an image which stands out to him. He then makes a pencil sketch of the image on the canvas. He then begins adding layer upon layer of colour starting with the base colour.  

Ian enjoys working with acrylic paint. Using acrylic allows him to complete paintings within a day while inspired and enthused. ‘When I get into it,’ he says, ‘I tend to forget about time.’ He also likes working with a monochrome palette where shades of colours enhance the work. When sculpting, Ian uses wax to create the cast in clay, then uses metals to create the final piece. His artworks are rugged with defined features and most alluring. In the ‘Faces and Places’ themed artworks, Ian does a remarkable job of bringing both the people and the places to life with painstaking detail and proportion.  

Motivated by the brevity of life, Ian has an internal drive to have achieved something by the end of each day.  

Ian admires Frans Bokooi particularly for his ability to create beautiful sculptures. Ian had the opportunity to visit Frans’ studio in Nieu Bethesda in the Eastern Cape and drew inspiration from Frans’ work. ‘I admire people who make a living from art because they work their passion,’ says Ian as he considers artists who have been an inspiration to him.   

Though Ian says he does not have a favourite artwork he remembers the process behind the ‘Gypsy Girl’ most fondly. It took a long time to paint this iconic painting based on Koos van der Merwe’s song ‘Gypsy Vrou’ Other highlights of his career include a painting of singer Coenie de Villiers which the musician has on display at his home in Oudshoorn. A picture of Kingsley Holgate a South African adventurer which is still in Ian’s possession and will be auctioned off soon to contribute towards the Kingsley Holgate Foundation. (Providing Malaria nets and LifeStraw filters for clean drinking water.) 

To aspiring artists of all natures, Ian would say, ‘Just because you’ve got the talent doesn’t mean that you’ll be good from the first try. It’s only if you carry on that you will get better.’ Ian believes that spontaneity is what makes art good, and we lose that when we do not apply ourselves to our craft as often as possible. ‘If you’re a good runner and you don’t run, you’ll become unfit. It is when I neglect my art, that I frustrate myself the most.’  

Though his studio is full of paintings, Ian is not particularly attached to them (“I am still practising”). ‘I have sold some especially for welfare,’ he says. ‘That I enjoy.’ Ian has used his paintings to raise thousands of rands for welfare organisations such as children’s homes and a cancer patient. He also featured twice as an “Angel” on Jacaranda FM’s  “Good Morning Angels” segment. 

Ian is quite an inspirational man. His humility regarding his craft inspires greater awe in his work. His talent is clear in his artworks and the way he speaks about life and art shows a deep respect and appreciation for both. He is one who would interweave the two and make them inseparable.  

Fans of Ian Visser’s artwork can be guaranteed of more magnificent pieces in the months and years to come. With regard to the future, Ian hopes to keep creating artworks that stir something within him. In so doing, he will invariably stir our hearts too. Whether an old friend of Ian or a new follower, keep up to date with his work on the following platforms: