John Simpson sets aside the microphone, turns his hand to watercolour and gets hooked!

Well-known from his impressive career as a radio actor ("Men from the Ministry", "The Navy Lark", etc. from Springbok Radio in South Africa) John Simpson has set aside the microphone for a completely different past-time.

From years of scribbling on scripts in the radio studios to while away the time between appearances, he built up strong drawing skills. These are now very evident in his delightful LittleCards, small cards of a gift tag nature which carry simple and charming images in a Japanese style. LittleCards feature swans, ducks, bamboo, fish and vases of flowers, all executed with joy and a sense of relaxation.

Having been busy fulfilling orders from friends and colleagues, John is has been building up a stock of LittleCards for Bonisa Private Gallery's Open Day held on 3rd March 2002 from 10h00 to 16h00. The other guest artist of the day was well-known cartoonist Napier Dunn.

John Simpson at work

John first started painting while house-sitting in the UK in June 2001. As he didn't have much to do, he bought a small paint set and one lunch time saw a programme on BBC called "Water-colour Challenge". He followed the programme for a few days but soon found he wasn't very good at painting, because he was too impatient to let washes dry.

He decided to try his hand at the minimilistic Japanese and Chinese style of painting and found he was much better at that.

"They say, don't waste time painting a complex water scene, don't try to paint water, draw a little boat on the scene and the viewer will put in the water." John said.

The charming Bonisa Private Gallery is situated at 47 Ronalds Road in Kloof, South Africa, and is housed in a striking wooden house on stilts with an imposing thatched roof. An indigenous garden with a large pond gives it a special ambience.

   
John's art
John's art
.  
John's "LittleCards" - fish

LittleCards are very usefull as tags or labels. John has themes for these, like fish, ladybirds and bamboo.

"The fish," says John, "are quick, and there must be an even number of them. I draw four flat coloured fish, with one stripey one swimming the other way. Sometimes I do four fishes swimming together and one tiny one who's far away, trying to catch up with his tribe."

According to John the ladybird almost falls out of the category of being an insect because it's a beautiful little creature.

"I like ladybirds. First I did one on a leaf then I felt a bit gimikey and painted a queue of ladybirds getting smaller and smaller. Then I left a gap at the end and put in a tiny ladybird as if it's leading the tribe." said John.

John's "Littlecards" - ladybirds
   
John's art
John's art
   


John at work
(Pic - Caroline Smart)

John's art

Text by Caroline Smart and Robin Davis
Pics by Robin Davis

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John Simpson died in Durban on Wednesday, 2 April, 2008 at the age of 84, after suffering a severe stroke the morning before.

He started working for radio at least 55 years ago and was much in demand for radio plays and serials such as the long-running From Crystal, With Love and in plays in which he played hundreds of different roles over the years. John was much in demand for many Springbok Radio comedies but he will always be remembered best for his part as Roland Lennox-Brown (No.1), appearing with Roger Service as the bungling duo from the General Assistance Department in the long-running series, “The Men from the Ministry”.

John Simpson is survived by his three children, three grandchildren and one great grandchild.

See article published by Caroline Smart in ArtSmart.


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Published to the Internet in January 2002
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