Capturing the community through a love for art

Artist Mervyn Williams.

For more than 40 years, Mervyn Williams, has drawn inspiration for his art from Ocean View, his community.

His love for art started in primary school when he drew a picture of a castle with crayons and his mom and aunt “raved” about it.

After that, they encouraged him to continue drawing and he started sketching and writing poems and then tried his hand at wood carvings. He later carved a face on a wooden wardrobe in his mother’s room.

“That is where it all started for me,” he says.

He was born in Dido Valley 52 years ago and moved to Ocean View as a baby during the Group Areas Act.

He worked at the navy as a chef for 27 years but is now unemployed.

His grandmother and the late artist Peter Clarke’s mother are sisters, and he recalls how he and Peter often visited each other and talked about art and everyday life.

Peter encouraged him to look into himself and his community for inspiration and that is exactly what he did.

“Although my style was different to Peter’s, I would ask him for advice, and he would look at my work and critique it.”

Peter died in 2014 at the age of 84 and was well known for his art depicting scenes from his community.

Although Mervyn’s art has always been a hobby, he realised he was a natural at carving and started experimenting with different methods of carvings.

Except for his surroundings in his community, he also uses TV and newspapers as inspiration to help build scenes for his paintings and adds elements from his community to it.

“If I see an element of TV I will take a picture of it and use it as an example.”

He works from a small studio at his Ocean View home and most of his paintings start off as a sketch which he then transfers to canvas. He uses acrylic paint and pastels and has dabbled with watercolours but prefers acrylic paint.

Sometimes he will down tools for a while and when he is inspired, he will sketch a painting and “save” it for later to be transferred to canvas.

His wife, also a chef, encourages him to paint but “it’s an expensive hobby,” he says.

It’s difficult to keep painting and to stay positive when you can’t afford the materials to keep going and it is pointless painting one painting after the other without selling any, he says.

He exhibited his work at the South Peninsula Community Art Gallery at the old post office in Kommetjie and made a few sales, but when it closed down last year, he had nowhere to exhibit. However, he continued drawing, painting and writing poems.

“God has blessed my hands, and I am thankful for that.”

He says his entire family is very supportive of him and his 8-year-old granddaughter, Rileigh, has taken an interest in painting.

“When I work in my studio, I give her a canvas and some paint and she loves to paint.”

If you are able to assist Mervyn to exhibit his work or would like more information about his art, call him at 078 786 3237.