We Chat to Artist Andrea Fedder about Life in MiniNature
In 2019, Hout Bay-based artist, Andrea Fedder, completed a 365-project on Instagram entitled ‘miniNature’. For those of you not familiar with the 365 concept, it is a commitment to post content once a day for a full year. Sounds simple enough? Well, if you are familiar with posting content on Instagram, you’ll know immediately that this is a huge undertaking. Andrea took it up a notch by not only committing to posting daily but to actually painting these pieces of content on mini canvases. Yup. That’s huge.
So why painting, why nature and why the mini format? As an activist for the earth, nature is what connects most to Andrea’s soul, so the idea of painting these moments was an inevitable way to express herself. But, like with all artistic endeavours, it’s a winding path to get there.
We catch up with Andrea to find out more about the project. UPDATE May 2021: You can view Andrea’s 365-project at an exhibition entitled Small Miracles: A Look at the Small Ways Artists Cope During Big Pandemics, which is running at the Montebello Design Centre in Newlands until 6 June 2021.
Can you tell us a little bit about you, your background, career, etc…
Andrea Fedder: I’ve struggled to really sink into an obvious vocation for most of my life. Being creative isn’t something you do well, it’s something you are, so it’s hard to find where to be that but I’ve tried to let that be my compass most of my life.
I studied Art Direction and Production Design for Film and Theatre in Cape Town. I loved the diverse creativity of telling a story but wasn’t a fan of the film industry (the hours, the pay and the lack of environmental consideration – in my personal experience weren’t great lifestyle factors). I then worked as a Prototype Restoration Artist for Carrol Boyes Functional Art for 3 years, in her art department where, aside from working on her designs, she nurtured our own design ranges and my understanding of art having functionality as well.
I decided to jump industries when the recession hit and pursued my passion for the written word, first by self-learning through blogging for various travel and events companies and later in the content and newsletter side of e-commerce industries under Yuppiechef and then Faithful To Nature.
How did you find your way back to art and what inspired MiniNature?
Andrea Fedder: I just couldn’t shake the feeling that I was meant to be tapping into my own expression of the world the way I saw it and it became harder and harder to ignore the bubbling desire inside me to figure out my own brand of creativity. I also realised, working on the content management side of e-commerce, that I had it in me to work damn hard under a tight structure – so if I was able to give it to someone else’s dream why not my own?
miniNature is a manifestation of my tendency to marvel at tiny things in nature, ladybugs, leaf patterns.
I’m drawn to Nature and her extreme detail and find it unlocks clarity to much bigger questions for me – that’s where the reflective writing comes in.
After Instagram became so trendy I began noticing how people were posting these incredibly beautiful vast nature experiences in this tiny square format. And I had all these tiny square canvases….
So the journey of miniNature became about my desire to capture the duality – the big moments in nature that were getting lost in the digital image streams. It’s also very much about holding onto what I believe truly matters, nature, and creating tangibility around that. If you can touch and feel something real and solid that fits into your palm, it’s hard not to feel compassion for it (and no – iPhones don’t have the same effect before you ask).
Why such small canvases….
Andrea Fedder: Haha – the tiny canvas. So, on a trip to the USA and Canada in my early twenties, I was still working for Carrol, I discovered this marvellous art shop in Chicago called Blick and they were selling these 3-inch canvas packs. I thought they were just so darn flipping cute and, being travel size friendly, I bought a couple.
Then throughout my twenties, I would pick one up and try my hand at painting a beautiful landscape that had moved me. I mainly gave them away as gifts and people seemed to really be charmed by them. My aunt came to visit when I was 26 and she had literally packed the whole top layer of her suitcase full of these mini canvas packs at my request. So my desk was piled high with about 40 of these miniature canvases. When the above ‘be your own creative’ thoughts started ticking in my brain I had enough of these small canvases and one thing led to another…
The small canvases also suit me because I liked that I could start and finish one in a day (or a few days in the beginning). I’m fairly quick in my compulsions and like to transition through things quite fluidly (not the work on a mural for many months type of gal). And I hope to one day be able to travel and maybe even do the tiny bus life thing and then the tiny size is ideal.
It also makes owning original art a bit more affordable and is inexpensive to ship. However, to date, my commissions travel with travelling custodians to that country. I love it – they’re like little stowaways or international creative high fives.
Andrea Fedder: Nature is it. It’s the beginning and the end of us. She’s our greatest teacher. A silent and all-knowing one at that, who waits for us to find her.
I want more people to discover this about her, to find this total reverence for her, not only in that nature is fun to spend downtime in and that she provides us with necessities like food and water.
But that if we go to her with our heavy hearts and rattled thoughts, but also with openness, acceptance and awareness to really see her, how things grow and decay and intertwine, then she can profoundly heal and guide us from some still beautiful place within.
In 2019 you completed a full 365 project on Instagram; can you tell us a bit about what that entails exactly and what inspired you to do this?
Andrea Fedder: Yes, so I decided to paint one miniNature painting a day for a year as my way of fully throwing myself into an artist’s life. I was curious to see what would come if I dedicated myself fully to the things I believed in as a daily repetitive practise – being an artist, writing and nature.
After I ran out of those tiny canvases from the US, my boyfriend, hearing my conflict of not wanting to import them off Amazon, decided we could make the canvas frames ourselves. It was also less expensive to DIY it. Luckily, he and I are fairly adept at that sort of thing and were able to borrow my stepdad’s tools.
How did you find material to paint?
Andrea Fedder: So the challenge entailed finding inspiration images for each day in the beginning, before I had the confidence to paint from my heart or mind’s eye. I would reach out to nature and wildlife photographers on IG to ask if I could paint their photography, as well as other accounts, especially tiny bus life accounts (a future dream). In the beginning, it was about 9 hours of painting a day for 3 months. That was rough. It was like art psychology and a meditation retreat rolled into one.
Gradually I got better and faster and then it became 5 hours a day and then some days 3. I’d spend about another 2 hours photographing, editing for Instagram and then writing my captions. Because virtually every one opened up some sort of insight for me. The regular writing work just had to fit in and around the project. So I’d try to work on a few at a time.
Can you tell us some of the highs and lows of the project?
Andrea Fedder: Hmmm, highs – well every day was a high when I would finish that day’s painting. It was literally like “Yass, phew!” I developed a really lovely supportive community on Instagram – that platform – especially for creatives definitely has its merits. It’s a bit of an ironic realisation for me.
Other highs included developing a strong work ethic and perseverance and tapping into a really fun place of fluid painting that I didn’t know existed within me.
The obvious high of actually getting to do the thing I love and connecting with such awesome people through it. Having a sense of momentum and purpose was really powerfully focusing. Having an outlet for my writing – it was like the painting tap was connected to the writing tap and I loved observing it flow through me.
Lows – the midpoint of the challenge, so from about June to end of August, was really tough to get through. Emotionally, there was a bit of a mud pond to wade through. Todd Henry, author of ‘Louder than Words’ says “every creative project has a U-shape – that place somewhere in the bottom where you feel totally confused, directionless, uninspired and without steam in the middle of the slog” That was a hard patch to get through.
And then in about month ten I really did a number on my back from the many hours of sitting and far less yoga than my body was used to and I injured a disc in my lumbar spine. I ended up having to paint lying on my back for about 10 days. Those 10 days were tough on my psyche. I felt like I lived a blink of a moment in the life of Frida Kahlo. It was super strange. I had to face a lot of demons because I couldn’t busybody my way away from them, haha.
But as they say – no mud no lotus. So even the lows become highs if you’re accepting of what is.
What are some of the personal growths that have come out of a project like that?
Andrea Fedder: I feel like my highs and lows were my personal growth modules for sure.
But on top of that I can add, a self-belief in what you can accomplish if you do it mindfully and by choosing to focus on the positive aspects or by constantly looking for the learning curve – that’s been invaluable.
Carrol Boyes always said to me, when I would take a new design into her office “Andrea, you must always have the courage of your convictions.” I had that hanging on my pin board throughout the challenge.
That and, the people in your life who love and care for you, really do want to support you. They want to help you achieve your thing. I wasted so much time being a stubborn ox only child with ‘I can do it on my own syndrome’ when I could have just welcomed all this love and support.
As a human, what is most important to you and how is your medium a way to convey that?
Andrea Fedder: Developing a relationship to nature and the interconnectedness of life. Everything is far richer and more effortless to create and sustain if we cultivate a symbiosis and that includes our relationship to nature.
I hope the integration of my writing to my painting reveals a symbiosis that allows each medium to breathe stronger than were they isolated from each other.
I hope the two mediums will still enmesh more deeply into each other in the future too.
Painting involves a lot of solitude; do you ever find it lonely?
Andrea Fedder: I grew up an only child in a tiny family, so solitude has never been a challenge for me. I also don’t feel alone or lonely when I’m painting because there is so much self-processing happening within me, so much silent connection with how things are, that no, I don’t get that “this is so lonely” thing.
I sometimes feel lonely when the painting stops and I re-emerge out of my creative pupa and there’s no one to share the insights with. Haha. But my partner works nights though so we spend maaaany lovely days in the studio together, him making frames and me painting. Those are my best.
Is it hard to part with your work?
Andrea Fedder: Hmm, sometimes. But the excitement of knowing where and whom it’s going to and why (often there’s a really beautiful story there) makes releasing it a bittersweet thing. Life is lighter when we find joy in letting things go.
Art is subjective and you need to be quite tough to put it out there in the world, how do you deal with the days where you have self-doubt?
Andrea Fedder: Exactly that. Art is subjective. What I do won’t resonate with everyone. But I’m not creating for everyone. I’m creating for me and for people who believe or want to believe what I have found to be worthwhile. That’s why there are so many wonderful artists on this planet. There are literally different strokes for different folks.
Yes, it will be tough, making it as an artist but I would rather climb this mountain than sit behind a desk never having even tried. I have to believe that my hiking boots are made of the right stuff to climb my own mountains. If we have innate talents, then we also have the innate strengths to see those into fruition. I believe that.
I also make sure to include as much yoga, meditation and icy ocean swims or cold showers as possible. It keeps shit real.
How do you know when a painting is done? Do you ever have to stop yourself from editing and changing things?
Andrea Fedder: Haha, no. I just know. I know the painting is done when it’s looking back at me. It reaches a place when it suddenly has a little life of its own – some sort of otherness. That’s when it’s done. Changing anything then would be like trying to stick pine cones alongside a flower’s petals.
Your 365 project has led to an upcoming exhibition; can you tell us about that?
Andrea Fedder: Yes, I’m going to be exhibiting my full 365 challenge, the paintings and the journey that surrounded it in Franschhoek at the Franschhoek Huguenot Memorial Annex.
This exhibit will also include one extra painting to include this year’s leap day. 🙂
The paintings will be on display for a month from Human Rights Day, 21 March until to Earth Day, 22 April. I believe the 21st will be a media launch and it will be open to the public from then on.
Have you got a favourite piece from the project?
Andrea Fedder: That’s really hard to say – it’s a little like asking me to pick a favourite child. My dandelion seed triptych stands out as a breakthrough for me – when I painted that I also understood on an intrinsic level that the seeds to success are by definition sucky. I called the triptych Suck-seeds.
Earth, De Hel, Crossing the Bridge – my interpretation of Monet’s Waterlilies, all for their intensity of both love and pain I felt while painting them.
I love Sad Sea Thistle, Ploppies and Call From The Deep for the freedom in painting I had arrived at.
And I love One-of-a-Kindness, Facing Everest and Rebirth in Death for their rich stories of how they came to be.
Where to from here?
Andrea Fedder: Haha, anyone who knows the answer to that question must please give me a call!
I read a great quote once “Every time I find the meaning of life, they change it.” So I’ve stopped plotting my route and just go with the flow now. Everything becomes a magical adventure.
I’m focusing on my blog, my newsletter and developing a few paintings into something more this year. That’s all I can say for sure.
Do you take commissions?
Andrea Fedder: Yes, I do, of all things nature. I adore sentimental commissions with beautiful stories. People can get in touch with me via Instagram DM or my website for queries about commissions.
Last book you read…Everything is Figuroutable – Marie Forleo (this book is bombshell magic for anyone wanting to do something they think is just a weird dream).
Advice you would give your 12-year old self… Don’t stop playing the piano. Practice makes perfect (or closer to at least).
Whisky or wine… Beer.
Late-night petrol station go-to snack… Blue Doritos and a serving of next day regretsies.
Artist you would most like to share a meal with… Leonardo Da Vinci.
See the Exhibition
An exhibition entitled Small Miracles: A Look at the Small Ways Artists Cope During Big Pandemics is now open at the Montebello Design Centre in Newlands. Catch Andrea’s 365-project on display, as well as ceramics by Jon Bauer and watercolour monotype printing by Joubert Stander. On display until 6th June. Shop 20, Montebello Design Centre, Newlands.
To own your own piece of nature or to have a favourite moment of yours captured on canvas, get in touch with Andrea, 083-774-6544 | Email
Photographs by Ashly Newell Photography
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