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Growing forward

Radiating positivity, Julie Groenewald shares with us how multiple losses, heartbreak and other life challenges have taught her to laugh in the face of adversity and welcome each new season with poise and grace.

Julie Groenewald has never been one to back down from a challenge. From selling houses, insurance, and timeshares to owning a food factory and a guest house, as well as giving sewing courses and trekking the Bundaberg … she’s always been motivated to keep her momentum, whether it’s in the mountains of Malawi or the Fish River Canyon of Namibia. All while maintaining her fervent love of art.

“I have always set goals for myself, whether it’s on a business or personal level. And come hell or high water, I’ll achieve them!

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“However, everything changed when my first husband, Johan Claassens, passed away. Our three beautiful children – four-year-old Maryna, eight-year-old Chris and 11-year-old Ellen – and I then faced the task of rebuilding our lives as we dealt with the pain and grief of his loss.”

The setback put Julie in survival mode as she had no other choice but to run their food factory by herself to provide for her family. As a single young mom, she remembers this period as one of the toughest – having to make big business decisions, manage staff and maintain fresh high-quality produce for major clients.

After a year Julie was desperate for a fresh start, and so she bought a rather average house in the picturesque Viljoen Street in Krugersdorp.

Here she raised her three children while working as an estate agent, and later made her way into the insurance industry.

“During this time, I met my lovely second husband, Cas Groenewald. After a long and happy marriage, he sadly passed away. Once again, my world was crumbling. I realised there was no other way through than to keep on praying and keep looking forward.

“At this stage, I only had the house. No pension, or provision for the future – nothing! I even wanted to sell it at some point, but no one was interested. After some time and virtually no other way out, I decided to transform the premises into a guest house.”

She then attended a few days’ management courses to learn the A, B and Cs of running such a business. As time progressed, and with the help of her dear children, she built it up from scratch – renovating the premises and transforming it into the well-known and stunning De Villa Rosa Guesthouse.

For more than a decade Julie welcomed international guests, built relationships with people from all walks of life, prepared the most delish meals and even managed the finances. Pouring her heart and soul into every aspect of the business.

“I refused to believe that I’ll never get over the death of a husband. Because if you don’t get over it, you might as well dig your own grave. It’s good to mourn – but it’s imperative to get back up again.”

As she was navigating through each of life’s devastating challenges, she never stopped developing her true passion – making art. Which, in turn, served to help her work through all of life’s setbacks.

And so, when the time came to retire, Julie gracefully stepped down, leaving behind some of her most beautiful and sentimental belongings to contribute to the successful continuation of the guest house. She vowed to close the chapter and never look back – a strategy that’s helped her with each end and every new beginning.

“Where ever I was and whatever I did in life, I continued to attend art classes – especially those from local artists such as Rhona Zwarts. I experimented with almost every medium there is. My love for art eventually urged me to become one of six founding members of an art club called Edelkeur Fine Art Association.

“The get-togethers, event organising and exhibitions are still a highlight in my life. I am also fortunate to be giving various workshops and courses in drawing, collage, mixed media and intuitive journaling.”

When she’s not in front of a canvas, exhibiting her work or teaching Julie can be found caring for her plant children, or simply spending time and most importantly, laughing with friends and family.

Although she’s retired, Julie still devotes full-time hours to her art and personal development. Getting up at 5am because “You have to know at what times you function best,” aiming to finish at least four works of art a week and effectively managing her time between painting, hosting workshops and selling her art.

“You have to remain disciplined throughout your life, plan ahead and look after yourself. And don’t think you’re only going to do just one thing – you have to try everything. This will only make you a stronger individual with more confidence, enabling yourself to overcome all your insecurities.

“Being caught up in such a busy and high-stress life, it’s as if your creativity gets blocked, and you have to work hard to keep it flowing. And, only now that I’m slowing down, I can feel the creativity really coming out without too much effort.

“As Rhona Zwarts puts it – ‘Colour is my love language, art is the medium and God is the focus’. The message I would like to convey through my art is to emphasise the beauty of creation as it was given to us by the greatest creator and artist of all times. With this, I hope to show the power of love and peace in my portraiture because I am just so infinitely grateful for my journey and talent that I’m able to share with the world.”

In essence, Julie conveys the message that there’s no use in crying over the past because it’s gone. Don’t stress over the future – it hasn’t arrived. Just live in the present – it’s beautiful!

Details: Follow Begin Jewels Art on Facebook.

How to break through a creative block
Blank page syndrome. We’ve all been there before. While a creative block can seem like an impossible hurdle to overcome, Julie shares a few tips on how you break through it.
• Find inspiration in your life. Artists get inspiration from a variety of sources including nature, media, people, other artists’ artwork, and personal experiences.
• Make a list of activities, people and things you are passionate about. These are the things that make you feel alive. Start doing them and spending time on them!
• Dream it. Dream BIG. Be fearlessly you!
• Say no to things that are not in alignment with your life and art.
• Make time to develop the practice. The value is in the process.
• Embrace uncertainty and feeling vulnerable. It indicates that you are involved in something worthwhile.

Painting tips for beginners:
• Grab paint and paper and start painting now!
• Remember, art is for everyone.
• Painting is a source of joy.
• Creativity is vital for your well-being.
• Learn and acknowledge how much joy you can find in the painting process.
• Fit art into your life by starting with intuitive journaling.
• Start with no rules, use mark-making in your paintings. It can be loose and gestural or controlled and neat.


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