Sam Maduna

Sam Maduna was born in Alexandra. His parents moved to Soweto in 1958. He now lives and works in his studio in Ennerdale, south of Johannesburg. He was encouraged by his mother from early age when he began to scribble and draw, and later when he attended Luyolo Primary School, where he met a teacher, Mrs. Sishuba, who encouraged his talent by giving him extra drawing for homework. There was no formal art lessons at school.


 Maduna put aside early artistic efforts, which included doing illustrations for his school, because he felt obligated to  associate himself  with the prevailing social situation. An illness in 1981 turned his thoughts again towards drawing. Since then has taken every opportunity to attend art workshops developing his skills wherever possible.  Pursuing art as a hobby he received guidance from Steven Sack and Matsemela Manaka at The Institute of Art at Funda Centre, Soweto.  For Sam the best indication that he was on the right track came in 1987 when David Koloane selected his work for an exhibition with Mpolokeng and Alfie Barnett at the Federated Union of Black Arts Gallery in Newtown JHB in the mid-eighties.


 In 1988 he enrolled for a commercial art course at the Design College in Johannesburg and he is continually looking for ways to sharpen his craft.  Between 1988 and 2000 he worked as a commercial artist before deciding to become a full-time artist and he has exhibited widely and his work is found in several significant collections. He has been commissioned to provide work for book publishers, the film industry and corporate clients. Maduna’s interest lies in portraiture and he draws on his life experience to create his art. His probing eye transforms his portraits into intimate insights of character and personality. His acute understanding of colour relationships is manipulated to full effect to enhance the shared emotional reaction between the artist and his subject.




My interest lies in portraiture. I use line, texture, form and colour to accentuate the resilience, survival and ultimate triumph of the human spirit. For years I have tried to paint the emotion and stillness of portraits and figures of people, particularly my mother. My earlier work reflects the explosion of colour in an attempt to convey the energy, movement and inner spiritual content of my subject matter, especially professional jazz musicians skillfully playing wind instruments like trumpet and saxophone.

In 1988 I did a commercial art course at a design college. Thereafter I went on to work as a commercial artist for 10 years before deciding to become a full-time artist.

I work with high-quality soft pastels like Sennelier and Schmincke together with Golden Fluid Acrylics. The painting surface for pastels is important. With all the other factors being equal, the longevity of works of art on paper depends on the quality of the paper. It is for that reason I use 100% cotton, acid free Fabriano or Saunders Waterford paper. I begin by laying down the underpainting with fluid acrylics and hard pastels and then move on to softer pastels for the progressive layers of colour. For the final layer it has to be Schmincke or Sennelier which are very soft, thick, butter-like and they give that layer of rich, luminous colour.

I prefer to work with a life model but also rely on photographs and memory for compositions. Working from life teaches me to see those subtle tones and colour nuances which you cannot capture with a camera. The memory provides the feelings and emotions which becomes evident in the painting. I rely on the camera to capture the poses that are difficult for a model to hold for a long time.

When preparing particularly for big work, sometimes work on a scale measured in metres, I begin with small sketches, first solve the problem on the smaller paper and then enlarge it using a grid technique. Preparatory drawings are done in a day or two depending on the size, then the painting starts which might take a week or over a month to finish. I will work on a painting, stop, put it away for a while and come back to it at a later stage. I work on several paintings at a time, some of them never see the light of day. Sometimes I will take a painting out of its frame and rework it. I am continually looking for ways to sharpen my craft and have spent several years experimenting with various materials and techniques. In 2018 new content has emerged in my work where I try to incorporate all myprevious experience whilst introducing a new vision. Shapes, diagrams, alphabets, words are beginning to appear in my artworks and form a new visual language. Therefore, the medium is gradually changing from working strictly with pastels to mixed media and it has changed my outlook in terms creativity.

I have always been drawn to the human form and one of my favourite portrait models is my mother who is the subject of more than twenty paintings. I enjoy painting her and will do so for as long as I can. Painting portraits gets one thinking about the complexities of life and the different paths we all follow. As they say, eyes are one the gateways to one's spirit...I seek to convey the inner spirituality of a person through technical prowess and colour explosions, emphasizing detail, enabling personality and character to be expressed.

My mother was born on a farm in Free State, in 1924, and is one of the nine children. As a young woman she moved to Jo'burg to find work. There she met my father and started a family. She was widowed in 1977 and has never remarried, living what I think must be a lonely life. It is these emotions and stories that influence my work. `