ART: Charcoals and greys bring colour to nature

Saturday February 22 2020

'Kudu' by Celeste de Vries.

'Kudu' by Celeste de Vries. PHOTO | KARI MUTU 

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South African-born fine artist Celeste de Vries works with a variety of media including oils, watercolour, pencil and acrylic. But her special affinity for charcoal brings out the subtle elements of the natural world, which she likes to portray.

“It is such a beautiful, earthy medium to work with and naturally lends itself to the textures found in nature,” said de Vries.

Her work pays homage to nature, which is the theme of her current collection, part of which is on display in Nairobi’s Karen Country Club. The charcoal drawing Leopard has the spotted animal sprawled on a tree branch looking away with an air of disinterest. A striking grey crowned crane is painted on a white background. A head portrait in acrylic paints called Zebra Head contrasts the vivid stripes of the animal against a cloudy grey background painted in thick brushstrokes.

De Vries is a self-taught artist living in Kenya and has only been painting seriously since 2011.

She says she selects painting media to suit the subject and message she wishes to convey. Looking at her images I can also see how charcoal and monotone colours create intense emotions in an image. “The viewer sees the subject for what it is and as such, doesn't need colour,” said de Vries.

A towering dust devil dissects a deep grey sky over an open woodland in Wild in the Wind. This acrylic painting is heavy with mood and sentiment. Not as dark but equally evocative is the depiction of rainstorm falling on one end of wooded landscape in the charcoal image called Savannah Rain.


De Vries, 55, is a world traveller and has exhibited in Nigeria, New Zealand, Australia and Europe. Her portfolio includes people portraits, nudes and cityscapes. But as a self-described “child of the earth” it is the flora and fauna images created in limited colours where she demonstrates an emotional connection with the timeless subject of nature. “It is humbling to realise that a piece of artwork, masterly or not, has the potential to outlast its owner,” said de Vries.