Local artist shines in the international art world
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Sabrina Rupprecht is proof that being brave and taking risks can pay off.
In 2017, Rupprecht made the decision to quit her job in a call centre to pursue her true passion, art.
The Capetonian flew to the US to try to crack the market there and as a result secured her first big break when her paintings were exhibited at America's largest art week in Miami.
Today her distinct wildlife artwork is known worldwide ,
The Saturday Star caught up with Rupprecht to chat about her career in art as well as about the challenges she faced to get her work recognised.
Can you tell us a little bit about why you decided to use pink as the colour for your wildlife art?
I want to connect people to our environment through my art, so that they understand its irreplaceable value and feel responsible to protect it. Pink is the colour of sensitivity and compassion. It’s the passion of red mixed with the purity of white. In psychology it is used to trigger a sense of protection or a need to help.
It symbolises vulnerability and the need for protection. So I decided to paint endangered wildlife in a way never done before: intimately close, yet powerful and uniquely in pink to call out for compassion. I hope to bring across the magic that I felt from my encounters with these beautiful animals by showing Africa through my paintbrush.
But of course, pink is also just an awesome colour.
Why did you decide on wildlife art in the first place?
In 2008, I traveled through 11 countries in Africa and visited over 50 game parks and nature reserves during this time. The nature and especially the wildlife absolutely blew me off my feet and left a lasting impression on me. I simply fell in love with the wild and realized how important it is to make people aware of the devastating impact poaching and environmental changes have on our beautiful planet.
Years later, after I had started my art business mainly with commissioned portraits I decided to create a line of paintings in my own pink style and dedicate them to my personal experiences of my time in Africa’s wild and to raise awareness for the need of wildlife conservation.
What would you say has been the toughest piece of wildlife art you have had to do? And why?
The first large scale Pink Safari painting was the Pink Leopard which I started in 2016 and finished in 2017. It measures 150 cm by 150 cm and took over 200 hours spread over 10 months to make, because at the time, I was still working an office job besides running my art business. I had nearly no experience with acrylic paint and was also not used to the large dimensions of the canvas. It was a long and seemingly never ending process which I learned a lot from.
You did an entire entire 'Big Five' collection which you ended up selling to a single private collector in the United States. Can you tell us a little bit about how long it took you to do the entire Big Five collection and did it sell for good money?
I painted the first two pieces of the series (Pink Leopard and Pink Buffalo) in Cape Town, while I was still working an office job, so naturally it took longer to finish them. I painted the Pink Rhino in Miami, the first Pink Lion and the Pink Elephant in Germany and then a second Pink Lion when I was back in Cape Town again. So there is a 2 year time span between the start of the first piece to the finishing of the sixth piece. The series of 6 paintings was sold for a good price considering that I am a newcomer in the art industry, however, if you take into account the cost of living, especially short term accommodation in the different cities I stayed in, the travel expenses, the cost of participating in two major art shows in San Diego and Miami, the shipping of the artworks from and to all the places before they reached their final home etc., it is not actually a lot of money.
To date what is your favourite piece of wildlife art that you have done and why?
I really don’t have a favourite Pink Safari painting. They’re all different and unique in their own way and each one challenged me differently in the making. Just as all of these animals equally fascinate me in nature, there is no favourite one for me on canvas either.
How challenging has it been to get your work recognised?
I think not only for myself, but for most artists a big challenge lies in finding a balance between producing your artwork and marketing your artwork. One can easily get caught up in locking yourself into your studio and painting every day. At least for me, it is a place of peace and happiness that I don’t often feel like leaving. It can be quite a challenge to get yourself out of that comfort zone and actively reach out to people, galleries, organisations etc. who can help promote your art and get the word out. It can be very uncomfortable asking people for help and risking to be rejected or judged. But it’s a crucial part of this business, unless you have an agent doing all the uncomfortable work for you.
In order to get your name out there, I believe that it’s very important to utilize as many channels of marketing as possible: Social Media is very powerful, but also personally meeting people at art events and art shows is crucial. Often, when you just reach out to galleries via email, you hardly get any response, whereas if you meet people in person, they’re more likely to remember you and even if they can’t be of help in the long run, oftentimes a simple conversation can give you valuable knowledge about the industry.
Can you tell us a little bit about your upcoming limited edition print series of the collection that aims to raise awareness of endangered wildlife?
My limited print edition of my Pink Safari paintings launched last year in July. Since then, a portion of every limited edition art sale is being donated towards wildlife conservation projects in South Africa. I have teamed up with the Global Conservation Corps, a non-profit organization that provides wildlife ranger programs in the communities around the Kruger National Park area, where poaching has left reserves in a devastating state. The donated money goes directly into these educational programs and helps to train rangers and future rangers how to effectively protect these areas from poachers and invaders.
How rewarding is the work that you do?
My work rewards me in so many ways! I receive so many wonderful messages from my followers on Instagram who’ve been supporting my art journey. I feel so lucky to have such an incredible fan base who not only motivate and reward me with their kind words, but have also stuck around through times where I had to focus on other aspects of this business besides painting.
Through my exhibitions I’ve been rewarded with many amazing fellow artist friends whom I stay in contact with and whom share their knowledge with me. They’re irreplaceable to me.
Through my art sales I’ve met the most wonderful customers that share my passion for wildlife and art and have made me cry tears of joy by supporting my cause.
And lastly, through my collaborations within wildlife conservation I have had the amazing opportunity to travel into the African outback again and visit the projects I contribute to. Being back in ‘the bush’ after all these years really closes the circle and makes me feel that I truly have made one of my dreams come true. I am a very lucky girl that I had the opportunity to work really hard and be seen at the right time by the right people.
You'll be heading off to Miami soon. Can you tell us a little bit about what you have planned in Miami?
My favourite part about Miami is the Wynwood Art District. So when I’m in Miami I usually try to spend as much time as possible connecting to fellow artists and going to art related events.
I will also be painting some more canvases while I’m around. I think I’ll be working on a giraffe as it is one of the endangered African animals I haven’t yet painted.
You recently featured in Vogue UK. What was that like?
The feature in the UK Vogue was totally unexpected. At first, when they contacted me through my website, I thought it was just a phishing mail or someone trying to fool me. Only after they called me and I was sure that it really was the British Vogue I got so overwhelmed with excitement. I actually studied Fashion Design after I graduated and I remember that buying UK Vogue used to be my favourite thing every month. I’d literally rather buy the ‘fashion bible’ than groceries if I had to choose. So being featured in it with my art is an incredible feeling and I couldn’t be more honoured.
Have you received any interest from people who read the Vogue UK article?
The Vogue feature included my website link and I’ve since received a few emails from people through my website referring to the magazine feature.
What inspires you when it comes to art?
Apart from the obvious inspiration I found in my past travels through the African continent which inspired my paintings, I have found so much inspiration through my social media platform on Instagram. My followers and especially my younger fellow artists who show me their love and their admiration for what I do inspire me to thrive and do better and to keep going. I know that without them I’d be nowhere and I will do my utmost to keep pushing forward and in return hopefully can inspire them to follow their dreams, too!
What other plans do you have for 2019?
I’ve been travelling a lot in the last two years. Since the beginning of 2017 I’ve had a different home in a different city every two to three months and have painted in 8 different apartments on 3 continents. It has helped me to promote my art globally and reach a wide network of people. However, one of my goals for 2019 is to settle in one city and set up a studio space again. I miss having a stable base and I’m excited to have a home again somewhere.