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by Mignon van Zyl

Painter, Ian Yallop has lived in the lowveld on and off for years. When he's not there you will find him traveling in Australia, Singapore America, Bolivia, New Zealand and many places in between. He has led a varied, eclectic life and his fitted in a large number of adventures and callings into it - playing a chef: he studied French cooking at Le Cordon Bleu in the US and worked as a sous-chef at you Ulusaba in the Kruger Park, playing a painter: he has had a number of exhibitions in the lowveld,  playing a celeb: he participated in an art show with Blackie Dammet, father of Antony Kiedis – Red Hot Chili Peppers lead singer, playing a teacher: he made a living teaching art to high school students, playing Romeo:  he has been married and divorced four times needless to say, he has been busy.

But adventures aside, I'm here to talk about art and it's his paintings and approach to art that truly inspire.  Ian was one of the lucky few who knew, from an early age, what his life’s pursuit would be.  His father, a former Hell's Angel and electrical engineer, did not approve of his career choice, saying that he'd never make a living as an artist.  “Being an artist is not about money grabbing, it's about the love of life really”.  Ian explains.  “Living is art, so you should be able to wake up in the morning and feel that your whole life is an art piece.  If you love it and if you can keep it your lifestyle, whether it's painting drawing sculpting or whatever it is, then that's your art, isn't it?”

He shares this with me at his farmhouse in Kiepersol, an area abundant with avocado and macadamia plantations.  this is where Ian paints, parties, cooks, dreams, opens his doors to foreign couch-surfers, converses about the ways of the world and what he can do to make a difference through art.  Here, the rusty tools on the wall and tie-dye throws in yellow and green are not only decor accessories but also symbols of a path he has chosen to follow.  It what you might call a typical artist home:  chaotic but somehow organized, colourful yet covert, homely yet a little lonely.

Ian's lucky break as an artist occurred as a teenager creating promotional chalkboard drawings and Nelspruit.  Before he knew it orders just started flying in.  This encouraged him to become more serious about art shifting his focus to wildlife paintings.  

“My inspiration was Paul Bosman.  He was my biggest hero and an incredible wildlife artist and I was lucky enough to spend six months with him in America before he died.” says Ian.  Bosman grew up in South Africa and lived in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) before emigrating to the United States with his family.  The dexterity with which he portrayed African wildlife clearly influenced Ian, his own paintings reflect African Life - especially in his paintings of children.  But Bosman was not only the figure to shape Ian’s technique, the works of Rembrandt and Jackson Pollock have their place in his paintings too.

Although Ian’s work comprises mostly of commissioned realistic paintings, it is the abstract work that seems to get him the most excited.  His process is simple - he begins with one colour usually mustard or ochre and then wait for the features of the colour to inspire him.  These paintings are often non-representational and capture a moment in time, a thought or feeling which would be only truly understood by the artist who painted it.


Amidst our discussion on art, Ian steps way to cook lunch - chicken scallopini with oven-baked leek and a side salad – a refreshing meal that shows off the cooking skills he acquired at chef’s school.  It's not just the flavours of the meal that I remember, it's the fervour that's put into everything he does.  

“For me success is being happy.  Being absolutely happy with what you do and not feeling like you have to follow the steps laid out for you by society.  Everyone looks at us and says we have to be doing certain things by now but I could never be that person that lives a normal life and I've never felt better in my life and I do now”, concludes Ian.

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