Pretoria-born artist and art teacher Celeste Higgs cannot imagine her life without art
and the joy it brings, both to her and to her students.
Celeste holds a BAEd degree in art as well as a BA (Hons) in art history from the University of Pretoria. Thirty-five years later and she is still just as enthusiastic about art history and philosophy as she was as a keen young student.
Celeste’s deeply embedded passion for art is one of the reasons why she loves to share her knowledge and experience. “The inquisitive nature of young people and their absolute
enthusiasm for life is close to my heart – it is a life-giving experience communicating with young minds,” she smiles. “And the adults I teach at my studio give me tremendous fulfilment. I admire these people who discover their hidden talent (no matter their age) and are willing to spend time engaged in art after a long workday. This just shows how good it is for the soul!”
Currently the head of department for visual arts at Curro Nelspruit, Celeste has managed to establish and expand the art departments of various schools in the Lowveld. In addition, she is the division head for art, photography and design for the Nelspruit Eisteddfod. “I’ve taught at Lowveld High and Penryn College, and enjoyed the challenges that new environments offer. At the eisteddfod, the quality of work we had received this year was of a very high standard. The Lowveld is definitely becoming one of the ‘hotspots’ for the arts,” she boasts, “and I am very excited about this.”
Celeste encourages her students who want to enter the field of art as a career to work relentlessly. “Getting an early start to your dreams and career is paramount. Keeping a good record of your work in a portfolio and documenting all work according to an organised system for future clients is of utmost importance,” she advises. “Start a website and join art clubs, organisations, associations and galleries where you could exhibit your work. I have always exhibited where- and whenever possible.” It is a myth that good artists are disorganised. Producing art requires focus, organisation and dedication.
This busy, creative woman dabbles in a number of disciplines. Not only is she a graphic printmaker, specialising in etching, she also loves painting and drawing. Celeste explains
that in the discipline of graphic printmaking, she finds that the manual, technical aspects of the creation and manipulation of the medium, followed by producing an image by means of transferring it onto paper, very gratifying. The artist has to plan well and go through various stages in order to create the final print. This process is not always applied in other mediums. “I especially love intaglio (etching), linocut, monoprint and dry point,” she says. “The chance elements of printmaking often provide me with immensely exciting and gratifying results.”
The lockdown has taken its toll on everyone, the art industry included, but it also meant that Celeste could make more time for her passions. “I learnt to appreciate early-morning
walks, and absolutely love the Lowveld summer and earlier sunrises that allow quality time in nature.” She is obsessed with clouds, and always has a camera on hand, keeping an eye open for inspiring shapes and messages in the sky. For her, clouds contain messages and inspiration for understanding life. She publishes her photographs on her blog “Celestial Liminality”, where she finds creative motivation in the photographs for her writing. “The clouds become inspiration for understanding cathartic experiences in life,” she muses.
During the lockdown, Celeste adapted her teaching to include new avenues by learning to use the internet and online platforms. “I taught online during the lockdown in 2020,” she
explains, “and still do so as part of my job at Curro Nelspruit.” Celeste aims to inspire her pupils by always being inspired, and in that vein hopes to have a one-woman exhibition in the next few years. “We are driven to expand the arts at Curro Nelspruit. The Curro Art Centre will offer sculpture, pottery, printmaking and painting to all ages, and it plans to be a benchmark for the arts in future.”
When not indulging in paint and printing ink, Celeste loves to potter in her garden. Besides the obvious links to creativity, such as colour, design and form, she finds endless inspiration in the perfect imperfections of the organic nature of plants. “And I keep a sustainable, organic herb and vegetable garden, which helps me to maintain a cleaner, healthier lifestyle.
“I also love travelling,” she adds, “and my trips provide me with opportunities to gather inspiration for artworks. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, ‘Life is a journey, not a destination,’ and so literal travel leads to figurative travel and growth.”
Celeste’s aim is to improve her immediate environment as far as possible, be it visually or otherwise. She exudes peace and has an aura of calm about her while managing to achieve
an extraordinary amount of work. Her will to succeed will, no doubt, see her attain her goals. She feels that the quality in all spheres of life is a constant pursuit. “Oh yes, and I love a home-brewed cup of coffee; it offers me the ideal escape at the beginning and end of a busy day,” she adds with an enigmatic Mona Lisa smile.