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Hewett’s physical discomfort leads to sensational new art

Written by Mickey Mentz

Barrydale oil-painter Nigel Hewett started developing Parkinson’s disease a few years ago and this has changed everything. He now needs more time to complete his work, but despite the frustration, his dedication to his work has not changed.

The multi-skilled craftsman has subsequently become far more critical about his creations than he used to be and he is admittedly no longer as invested in his vegetable patch as he would like to be.

But despite these vicissitudes, the multi dimensional artist that is Nigel Hewett occasionally still enjoys sleepless nights caused by the sheer excitement of his latest work.

“I sometimes take my work to the bedroom so that it is the first thing I see when I wake up,” he explains.

Much to his surprise, the changes and challenges he has had to deal with in recent times have resulted in some exciting new work by the 79-year-old creative who gets rather bemused when he is told that his latest paintings are better than some of the work he produced when he was in pristine health.

“I’m not so sure about that, but I guess there I have been painting with more detail of late,” Hewett said.

One of Nigel Hewett's' latest colourful oil paintings
One of the latest Nigel Hewett works

He admits that while some days are better than others, he still greets every day in Barrydale with great excitement. The sheer natural beauty of his surroundings is not lost on him and he insists that moving to the Klein Karoo two decades ago was one of the best life decisions he had made.

  • Nigel Hewett is said to be one the first Barrydale residents to use the leiklip to build walls around his properties. Today this is common practice in town. He decided to purchase the property after visiting a relative who lived on a farm outside of town. The relative was recovering from Tuberculosis. He saw an opportunity in town and has never looked back.

As master builder who has been a full-time artist since he retired, Hewett says that he has drawn great inspiration from his vast travels and that he enjoys nothing more than showcasing those special memories, or points in time, that are engrained in his mind.

“I have learned to live for the moment and if I reflect on my life, I have absolutely no regrets. It is so important to always follow your heart.”

“I have made many things. I have sold many things and in all I have lived a wonderful fulfilling life,” said the artist who was married to no less than six lovely women.

A glimpse into Nigel's Barrydale abode. This is a mural he painted on his bathroom wall
A glimpse into Nigel’s Barrydale abode

Still in love

At his studio at the El House in Milner Street, Nigel enjoys nothing more than a cup of tea and relaxing music while he lets his imagination run wild on canvas.

Due to the Parkinson’s it does take longer for some of his works to come to life, but in that discomfort he is exploring new parts of his artist mind that is versed in various fields.

Nigel is not only a prolific painter, he is also an incredibly gifted sculptor and carpenter.

A vintage Jukebox and some of his CD collection
Van Morrison as inspiration

In his previous life in construction – when he still called Cape Town home – he was commissioned to design the interiors of the first 20 Spur restaurants in South Africa and much to his delight he achieved a life long dream of building five homes that represent five different environments.

He has built many bars, restaurants and houses across the country and although his passion lies in Barrydale, he would never say no to another trip to the Greek Islands.

Nigel and his wife Ruth had two children, Catharine and James, and to this day he is so proud of what they have become.

When he is not painting or creating something with his hands, he enjoys longs walks through the village which, thanks to its amazing characters, have been another great source of inspiration for him.

At his studio at the El House in Milner Street, Barrydale
In studio with Nigel

Many of Nigel Hewett’s greatest works, old and new, will be listed online for the first time this month. We will keep our readers informed as these works of art will almost certainly become collectors items.

About the author

Mickey Mentz

From my Barrydale base, my goal is to tell the stories of people and places on the picturesque R62. Ek het oor die jare 'n cappuccino verslawing ontwikkel en my hond se naam is Karoolus.

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