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Drawing human faces – an extraordinary art

Updated on April 18, 2016

Drawing by Coelien Coetser


Is drawing an art?

There was a time in the history of mankind when drawing, painting and sculpturing were not regarded as ‘art’, but as ordinary manual labor. Painters and sculptors were held in low regard, somewhere between freemen and slaves. The entire concept of the word 'artist' was not the same as it is today. An 'artist' was merely a skilled worker, able to do a specific work better than others.

In Greek culture, before Christianity, the nine daughters of the god Zeus, called muses, were seen as the instigators of what was considered to be art.

Names of the Greek muses and what was considered as 'art' -

"beauty of speech"
was the chief of the muses and inspired people to create epic poetry.
"glorious one"
inspired people to proclaim, glorify and celebrate history and especially the great deeds and accomplishments of leaders and heroes.
"amorous one"
inspired erotic poetry and lyrics, including love songs and marriage songs.
inspired music and lyric poetry.
"chanting one"
inspired melodious singing, specifically about human suffering that invokes pleasure in audiences. (I presume that kind of pleasure one gets when he realizes that his own suffering is not as bad as that of some others).
"singer of many hymns"
inspired sacred song, oratory, lyric, singing, and rhetoric.
"one who delights in dance"
inspired choral song and dance.
"blossoming one"
inspired comedy and bucolic poetry.
"celestial one"
inspired the study of astronomy.

Not a word about drawing, painting and sculpturing!

It is hard to comprehend the fact that drawing, painting and sculpturing were not recognized as art! Today we appreciate all buildings and structures that reveal any form of artistic talent.

The present day concept of art and artists -

During the Renaissance (from the 14th to the 17th century) artists such as painters succeeded in raising their status.

Today an artist is -

  1. A person who creates art;
  2. A person who makes and creates art as an occupation;
  3. A person who is skilled at some activity;
  4. A person whose trade or profession requires knowledge of design, drawing, painting, etc.

Today we call someone an artist when they -

  • Engage in an activity deemed to be an art.
  • Express themselves in a creative way through a “medium" – the stage/television/films (singing, acting, dancing, story-telling), books (fiction writers, poets, illustrators), public platforms (sculpturing, painting, drawing);
  • Have the ability to shoot or draw pictures and scenes with technical equipment in such a way that it provokes astonishment;
  • Create or innovative, something with an aesthetic value;
  • Adept an artistic practice within a context of the fine arts or 'high culture'.

We can add a lot more to this list, contemplating the talents of home creators, chefs, tailors, dressmakers and designers of all sorts.

However, art historians define artists as those who produce art within a recognized or recognizable discipline.

Three types of art activities -

To make it less complicated, one can be an artist by -

  1. Creating art,
  2. Practicing art,
  3. Demonstrating art,
  4. And yes, there is a forth activity - selling art, which requires a special interest in art.

Being able to create art is surely the most desirable talent, and, sadly, we cannot borrow, buy or obtain it in any way. The ability is in our genes; we are born with it. We can only develop it, ignore it, or come to terms with the fact that we never had the opportunity to explore and use it.

A true artist, however, will never be able to ignore or hide their talent, as a talent is a powerful spirit with a will of its own. It may even harm the one who tries to hide it.

Drawing human faces – an extraordinary art

Who doesn’t want the talent to draw a human face, or for that matter anything that delights our senses. Not having this precious talent often frustrates me, as I would be able to tell a story of a thousand words with a single drawing. Like this one, when I try to explain the struggle being a Coetser and not a Coetzer.

©CoelienCoetser | Source

Updating a family's genealogical tree is not an art -

Or is it? Another look at the Greek muse Clio, the glorious one, whose job it was to inspire people to proclaim, glorify and celebrate history and especially the great deeds and accomplishments of leaders and heroes, makes me wonder.

For the past couple of months I am burdening myself with a task that seems to be a symptom of plain madness: The compilation of the Coetzer/Coetser family-tree in South Africa. Until now only some of the branches have been researched and published. My intention is to get the entire register of about 3500 names online where it can be a valuable resource for all Coetzers/Coetsers and related families who need to know where they had come from and how many adversaries their ancestors had survived along the way. Although I have given myself and our official genealogist, Letty Coetzer Riding, a tall order, I regard the history of our forefathers as a blade of grass to hold on to during our current troubled political milieu. Just knowing that our family is still around, keeps me positive.

My best reward, however, is the discovering of a talented relative.

Recently I met Coelien Coetser, who happens to be quite close to me in our family tree - my grandfather and her great-grandfather were brothers.

Coelien's talent to draw human faces took my breath away -

Drawing by Coelien Coetser


Coelien Coetser

Coelien Coetser is at present a 17-year old member of the Coetzer/Coetser family in South Africa - The very same family of South Africa's former President F.W. de Klerk's mother, Hendrina Cornelia Coetzer, and of the renown painter, Willem Hermanus (W.H.) Coetzer, and of several other great achievers in the world of artists, writers, actors, sport, politics, etc.

Her ability to follow in the footsteps of W.H. Coetzer encouraged me to interview her.


Interviewing Coelien Coetser

Coelien, after seeing your drawings of human faces, animals, sunsets, and all kinds of everything – the one more fascinating than the other - many questions came to my mind. Thank you for providing all the answers!

Question. How old were you when you realized that you have an above-average talent to draw human faces?

Answer. I was 14. People's faces always fascinated me, especially the unique way they express their emotions.

Q. Tell us more about the beginning. When, where, and why did you draw the first, second and third face, and what was the result?

A. One day I was so bored, I took a pencil and paper and draw what I saw in my mind. The first drawing was a face of a man wearing a hat and sunglasses. The result was amazing. I felt relaxed, happy, and quite impressed with myself. Also my second drawing was a face, also of a man - a Chinese man. Then I realized that I want to improve myself in order to draw more than only faces.

Q. What do you enjoy drawing the most?

A. Human faces, and especially the expression of emotions.

Q. We all know that a talent has to be developed under the guidance of a teacher, or at least of a mentor who has already achieved what we are still striving to achieve. Who are your teacher/mentor and role models, and how do you experience their guidance and influence?

A. My role model is most certainly Mrs M van Rensburg of High School Gerrit Maritz. Her drawings are always perfect. Her opinions and advice encourage me to finish even the most challenging drawings. Her mere willingness to teach me inspires me to do my best.

Q. Coelien, how do you feel about competitive artists? Do they encourage you, or do they dampen your eagerness to draw?

A. It is wonderful and exiting to compete with other artists. Competition encourages me to improve my talent. I am, however, my biggest competitor. It is quite a challenge to meet my own expectations and goals.

Q. I don’t know a single rule in the Law Book for Artists. A drawing simply amazes me or not. But I know there are rules to be followed in each and every art. How do you feel about the rules you have to follow while drawing, and what mark would you give yourself between 1 and 10 for 'obedience'?

A. Rules give sense and meaning to a drawing, and to all art. Everything we see around us can be turned into art by simply following specific rules. If it wasn't for rules, most drawings would be out of proportion. Following the rules is a challenge I love to meet. I give myself an 8 for obedience.

Q. How will you react on a ridiculous law that forbids you to draw?

Coelien Coetser
Coelien Coetser

A. Forbidding an artist to draw will be a shame. Nobody has the right to forbid people to develop and practice the talents God has given them. Nobody and nothing will stop me from living out my talent.

Q. What are you plans for the future? If it has nothing to do with drawing, how do you plan to practice drawing as a hobby?

A. I want to be an Astronomer at NASA in America. I plan to study in London. I will practice drawing as a hobby. Matthew 19:26 is my motto: "With God everything is possible"

Thanks again, Coelien, for answering all my questions, and a special thank-you for making your family proud.

Drawing by Coelien Coetser


Paintings of the renown artist, W.H. Coetzer


A very short video about W.H. Coetzer

Do you think Coelien has the potential to become just as famous as W.H. Coetzer?

See results

If you happened to be a Coetser or a Coetzer

© 2016 Martie Coetser


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