South African artist Deodanda Pretorius (Brown) was born in 1974 in Bloemfontein and grew up on a farm in the Free State. Since childhood her passion for drawing and art was evident but she only pursued painting much later in her life.  Her interest in nature and agriculture led her to formally study plant and animal sciences at the University of the Free State.  After obtaining her Honours and Masters degrees in science (M.Sc) she continued to work for the university as a forensic, medical and veterinary entomologist and academic researcher, whereafter she started her career as scientific writer in the pharmaceutical industry.  

The year Pretorius turned 31 she relocated to Cape Town and it was during this period that she also decided to take up oil painting as a hobby for the first time. But working full time and with no opportunity for formal training or an art mentor she developed her painting skills during the evenings by studying the teachings and works of master painters from around the world. The after-hours hobby soon became a much more serious pursuit and her continued efforts to study the language of painting led her to the painting methods of many acclaimed international masters such as Sherrie McGraw, Stephanie Birdsall, Daniel J. Keys, and Kevin MacPherson to name a few.   

With an interest in the classical paintings of the Dutch and Italian masters of the 15th century she studied for the better part of 4 years the online teachings of contemporary master David A. Leffel.  Most of her still life work from that period was strongly influenced by the use of chiaroscuro as a design concept.  But she also fell in love with the expressive naturalism approach and superior draughtmanship in the floral and still life works of Michael Klein and Richard Schmid whom she considers her art teachers alongside Leffel.   During this time she took a clean break from landscape painting and returned to this genre 4 years later, revealing a strong post-impressionistic influence in her landscape work as she continues to study one of Britain's greatest landscape masters from this period, Edward Seago and also South African late master Errol Boyley, two master painters whose methods and paintings continue to remain a strong inspiration for her landscape painting as well as her painting program in which she teaches people with no artistic background to become fine art painters themselves.  Pretorius is also a vegetarian who uses her cattle works to celebrate the lives of these majestic yet often overlooked animals and to oppose the slaughtering of cattle and other farm animals.     

For a decade Deodanda managed to juggle both painting on a daily basis and her full-time job as medical writer but realized that the time spent on art in the evenings after work was not nearly enough to sustain her artist soul. At the beginning of 2016 she decided to follow her heart's pursuit and exchanged her medical writing career for a full-time career as painter.  She is an accomplished oil and pastel painter who is also passionate about sharing her journey with people.  She gives oil painting classes and workshops to adults at her studio in Durbanville. She continues to rely strongly on her scientific knowledge as background for her artistic processes and exploration of subject matter and enjoys writing about her painting materials and experiences.  Deodanda has published as guest author for well-known US manufacturer and as oil and pastel demonstrator in the South African Artist magazine.     

My Journey As a Career Painter  ~  A few thoughts and reflections:

I consider myself an expressive naturalist painter, not bound by style or contemporary trends; instead I explore introspective, expressive as well as emotional elements in myself and in the subjects that I choose to paint.  After making the switch from scientist to artist I had to work really hard (and still do) to build my artist career. Despite what it looks like being a career painter means lots of personal sacrifice and getting used to failures, frustration and worry that is part of everyday life. But I believe one is born an artist, it is in your blood to create and your curiosity is what fuels your passion to discover the physical world through the use of paint and canvas instead of words.  

But what I have also experienced in my life is that more and more people are turning their lives away from God, losing interest in their marriages, loved ones and in their Creator.  In my personal life and as an artist I choose to serve the living God and His son Jesus Christ and therefore I know that there is a purpose for me no matter how hard it gets.  I also know that nothing could have given me more fulfillment and brought me closer to God than being able to see and experience a tiny fraction of His extraordinary creation through my paint brushes everyday of this incredible journey.   Our days are filled with so many miracles and once you start to live a life of gratefulness you will notice the endless blessings that are given and you will realize that it is not by your own human efforts that you succeed but by the grace of God.