A Strong Beginning

Interview with Naseema Barday, winner of Beginner category in International Watermedia Competition.

An interview with Naseema Barday by Christopher Reid

Naseema Barday, won the Beginner category in the Expression Of Hope International Watermedia Competition with her painting “The Tattered Flag, A Dream of Time.” She took some time out from her hectic schedule to chat with us about her art and how she has come so far with her painting in such a short time. Naseema was born in Cape Town, matric from Herschel, qualified at University of Cape Town, has a post-grad in Infectious Diseases from Wits, and a post-grad in reproductive medicine from Stellenbosch. She is a GP and a head doctor at Kenilworth Medicross.

“I always loved art and did it as a subject in standard 8, but dropped out because it interfered with my other studies. My father was a doctor and I already knew I wanted to be a doctor too. I always wanted to get back into art at a later stage in life.”

With 4 kids and a demanding medical career, art had to wait. In 2001 she tried her hand at oil painting for a doctors’ art exhibit in Joburg, but didn’t have the time to paint again until 2018, when, time allowed with her kids growing up and started moving out, she began dabbling in watercolor. Her drawing skills helped her but she had no training and no idea about watercolor techniques.

A still life study from 2020 as part of a class

In 2019 she took part in a doctors’ exhibit in Cape Town. Then the Covid pandemic struck. Socialising became social distancing. With more time at home, Naseema decided to set up an area in her house to finally pursue art seriously. Her husband loves photography and understands her passion for art. She began taking classes with Cape Town artist and WASA member Inge Semple at the start of 2020 and has put in an average of 20 hours a week practicing outside of class, despite a hectic work schedule.

“With a highly stressful job, art has been a stress coping mechanism for me. It was either art or medication. Painting has been a reprieve and an oasis.”

Naseema’s area in her home dedicated to art

Naseema used Covid as an opportunity. Putting in lots of dedicated painting time outside of class began to result in leaps forward in her art. When WASA announced the Expressions of Hope competition, Naseema decided to enter.

“ I thought long and hard about an image that would philosophically encapsulate an expression of hope to me first, and then I searched for the reference material. I found an image online that I could use and bought the rights to it. I am inspired by nature usually, and and this subject was not what I customarily paint. I loved the texture in this scene and enjoyed painting it. The emotion evoked by viewing a painting inspires me.”

She spent 50-60 hours on her painting for the competition. Many hours were spent working on a detailed drawing. Her lessons with Inge taught her lots of techniques and helped her develop her skills. Some of the same qualities that make her a successful doctor have helped her in learning art.

“I am very good at analysis and comfortable with drawing, so I am very careful to get the drawing right. I am extremely patient when working on art. I have learned lots from Inge. A big eye opener for me was to learn how much you can remove watercolor from page with lifting. I almost never use opaque gouache or masking fluid and prefer to paint meticulously around light shapes.”

one of Naseema’s paintings from 2019

“All paintings have stages, stages where you hate them and stages where you love them. For me you have a relationship with your paintings. There is a stage where I fall in love with a painting when it is turning out well.”

It has been difficult to attain supplies during pandemic. Naseema’s favourite papers are currently Arches and Fabriano. She started out with Cotman student watercolor paints and has upgraded to Daniel Smith and Winsor & Newton artist grade paints. She plans to buy nicer brushes with some of the prize money.

Lahore Fort, done in Inge’s class in 2021, shows Naseema’s growth

What does Naseema love about watercolor painting?

“I love the translucency of the colour and the challenge of getting it right. Watercolor to me is a much more challenging medium than something like acrylic. I like a challenge and learning to master new things. I love the light in watercolor.”

Naseema’s winning painting shows what can be achieved in a relatively short time by someone with a passion for art who is willing to put in lots of time painting. At age 49 she is finally getting to explore her passion for art and we look forward to seeing where it leads her.

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