Charming watercolours by South African-born artist Linda Nissen Samuels are now on display at the London Jewish Cultural Centre, writes Maya Rubinstein.
Samuels, who divides her time between London and the South of France, was inspired by Kruger National Park and published a book for children based on her experiences, Elly’s Adventure in the Animal Park.
The award-winning artist’s previously published books include Easy Alef Bet and Draw Water and Other Things.
Linda Nissen Samuels: I did a BA in fine art at university in South Africa and wrote my first book, aged 20, in 1968, but didn’t publish it. I always wanted to draw and paint and found when I was younger I couldn’t really draw, but could draw really well if someone showed me how. That is one of my aims of my book, Draw Water and Other Things, for children who feel they can’t draw and who want to get more confident.
JN: Tell me about Elly’s Adventure in the Animal Park?
LNS: The message is ecological and about the importance of insects and is completely different from my other works. I wanted to promote the fact that the little things are really important for us, such as bees for pollination. I had originally written that book many years ago for my children and last year decided to redo all the painting and create a simple story out of the original poem.
JN: Does your appreciation for the natural world come from your upbringing in South Africa?
LNS: I think so. We spent a lot of time out of doors and I was very aware of animals and insects and living in a city like London one doesn’t appreciate all these areas. My school journey was going to the National Kruger national park and seeing all the animals.
JN: Are their particular scenes and moments you like to capture?
LNS: Coming from Africa I really appreciate bright light and colours and the South of France has wonderful light too. I love painting seascapes, palm trees and French villages.
JN: How has your Jewish faith inspired you?
LNS: I belong to New North London Synagogue and we have a very ecological outlook. Our rabbi is very interested in ecology and I’ve been going to Talmud with him for 27 years, so there’s a lot of input in that sense. I think it’s important that Jewish people have an interest in ecology.
JN: What other projects do you have coming up?
LNS: My next book is about protection of coral reefs. These are dying from pollution in the sea and I liked the idea of painting underwater scenes.
Elly’s Adventure in the Animal Park by Linda Nissen Samuels runs until 18 July (and during August by appointment only) at the London Jewish Cultural Centre, Ivy House,North End Road, London. Details:www.ljcc.org.uk or call 020 8457 5000